For many companies in western countries, Chinese business is expected to a growing source for revenue. Understanding Chinese business culture is critical for expanding your business in China market. It also makes sense for western business travelers to learn some proper etiquette before planning your trip to China.
China's business culture and etiquette is very much different from Western business practice. There are some critical factors for Chinese business meeting etiquette you should keep in mind when doing business with Chinese. The Chinese value punctuality, so arrive on time or even slightly early for meetings or other occasions.
The following Chinese business meeting protocol should be kept in mind:
Appointment: Appointments are expected for all business meetings. Check the Chinese calendar. If you are scheduling a meeting, avoid all national holidays, especially National Day and Chinese New Year. To make sure that you are prepared, it's necessary to set up an agenda for your appointment.
Materials in Chinese language: Have Chinese-language materials (e.g. brochures, presentations) about your company to share with your hosts. While your contact in the organization may speak perfect English, the decision makers in the company may not.
Dressing: Dressing in China is not as formal in China as in some countries. Business people at working levels may adopt a more casual style. However, you will be looked upon favorably if you dress well. Dressing conservative cloths is preferred for both women and men. However, if you are dealing business with government officials and top management, be sure to dress formally for the business meeting.
Introductions: Addressing others: Seniority is valued in China. It is important to address your counterparts by their title (Chairman, Director, etc.). Find out who the most senior person in the room is, and address them first.
Self-introduction: Shoot your name clearly, and remember to state both the company you work for and your position. As a point of reference, know that Chinese will refer to their company first, then their title, and then their name when introducing themselves to others.
What have to be mentioned is that the most elderly person in your party should take the lead in introductions and presentations or start discussions and with the eldest Chinese associate.
Addressing Chinese Businessman: First you should keep in mind that, Chinese names are given in a different order than that in the West. First is family name, then given names, following the middle name. For Example: 林萧lin Xiao, 林is the family Name. 萧is the given name. When addressing Chinese associates, always use official titles, for example: 林总，林总监，林经理。If one does not have an official title, address them as Mr. 林。
Trading business cards: Hand out business cards to the most senior official first. Chinese use both hands with a slight bow when giving and receiving anything of value, including gifts and particularly business cards. You should do the same to be respectful. It would be considered to be impolite if you only use one hand. When accepting a card, accept it with your right hand or both. To show your respect, read the card for a moment even you does not know Mandarin at all. NEVER put a business card in your back pocket.
Discussing Business: Meetings usually begin with small conversations to help both sides feel more comfortable. It's a very important Chinese protocol business meeting etiquette. After that should be a short welcoming speech from the host. Then enter the meeting's topic.
During the meeting, it's considered rude to interrupt a Chinese businessperson. Also, Face is a very important factor for Chinese in Chinese culture. So do not directly point out what's inappropriate or explain your opinions against the Chinese speaker. This will make them lost face(丢面子).
Generally, Chinese people do not like to conclude an agreement in the negotiation desk. It's often done in some entertaining situations.
Sending a follow-up e-mail: An e-mail should be sent out within 48 hours after the business meeting, confirming the main positive points agreed and the next steps to move forward.
When meeting Chinese businesspeople, please bear in mind that patience is the key and you should never expect to get any decisions to be made for your first meeting. Chinese businesspeople like to settle business in a hotel, restaurant or KTV.
If you are having a dinner in a Chinese dinner, please learn to use chopsticks first to be sure. Please remember not to put them parallel on top of the bowl or in the bowl. Cross the chopsticks is also very rude. After you finish the meal, put the chopsticks on the desk next to your bowl.
Learn more about Chinese Business Culture and Etiquette.
You might also be interested in learning some Business Chinese vocabularies.
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