Chinese Business Etiquette Tips

Chinese Business Etiquette

China and the Chinese language often play a vital role in modern business transactions. While China has the third largest economy in the world (following the U.S. and Japan), Chinese is spoken by one-fifth of the world's population, making it the most popularly spoken language in the world.

For those looking to significantly grow their businesses in Chinese markets, understanding the ins and outs of Chinese business etiquette is essential. Knowing proper Chinese business etiquette will help you gain new partners and clients abroad, and in turn will boost the overall success of your business.

Chinese Business Meeting Etiquette

Proper business etiquette in China can differ dramatically from that practiced in Western societies. Here are some business meeting etiquette tips to help you interact with your Chinese business colleagues:

  • Address colleagues by title and last name – and never by first name. For example, "Professor Wu" or "Miss Wang" would be acceptable ways to address your Chinese partners.
  • Exchange business cards at the beginning of the meeting. To impress your colleagues, include a Chinese translation of your business card on its flipside. Include gold embossing on some part of the card, because this color represents wealth, status and prestige in Chinese cultures.
  • Read business cards you receive before putting them away. Putting a business card directly into your pocket without reading it is highly insulting to Chinese businesspeople. The way you treat their business cards indicates, in your Chinese colleagues' eyes, the degree to which you value your relationship with them.
  • Shake hands lightly and only for a short amount of time. Overly strong handshakes are considered offensive and inappropriate in Chinese business meetings.
  • Start with small talk and then move on to business matters.

Other important Chinese business etiquette tips include:

  • Avoid direct eye contact
  • Do not offer gifts, as these are considered forms of bribery
  • Do not physically touch your Chinese colleagues
  • When possible, offer "I'll look into that," rather than the closed option of "No."

Values Glorified in Chinese-Speaking Countries

Understanding the guiding values of Chinese speakers will give you a better idea what created the rules of proper Chinese business etiquette. Values that Chinese speakers hold in high esteem include:

  • Collectiveness and team work
  • Industriousness and working hard
  • Loyalty
  • Perseverance
  • Respect for authority

Other Business Etiquette Tips Specific to Different Chinese Countries

Aside from the above aspects of Chinese business etiquette, some countries in this region have their own unique nuances. Here is an outline of proper business etiquette specific to particular Chinese countries:

  • China: Proper business etiquette specific to China involves dressing in conservative, dark, simple attire, as bright colors and/or ornate designs are considered flashy and inappropriate.

    Similarly, it is customary to speak slowly and pause between your sentences when speaking during a business meeting. This is especially important if you need a Chinese interpreter, as the interpreter will need time to relay what you are saying in a clear, slowly paced manner.
  • Hong Kong: Hong Kong business people view business interactions as a process of building a long-term relationship. Consequently, although personal relationships are not vital to the success of business meetings in Hong Kong, they can help you open more doors. This may mean that you will engage in social activities with prospective business partners so they get to know you better and feel more comfortable with you.

    Another unique feature of proper Hong Kong business etiquette is that you should always hand your business card to the recipient so that the typeface is right side up to him (not you). Remember, having a Chinese translation of your business card will impress your colleagues, as it is considered especially thoughtful.
  • Taiwan: In Taiwanese business meetings, having a well-articulated message is key to being persuasive to your Chinese colleagues. While brevity is generally frowned upon, be sure to take care in the words you choose, the gestures you use and the expressions you display – all are valued in the type of communications appropriate for Taiwan business meetings.
  • Do you need Bilingual Chinese Professionals for your Company? Visit Foreign Staffing, Inc Here too, be sure that you have any documents to be used in meetings translated into Chinese.
  • Having Chinese document translations will show your colleagues that you are diligent, respectful and industrious.

About Foreign Translations, Inc.

Foreign Translations, Inc. (www.foreigntranslations.com) is a 13-year old foreign language translation, interpreting and website localization firm headquartered in Greenville, SC. With more than 3,000 native translators located in over 30 countries, we translate documents ranging from 1,000 words to over several million words in all the major languages of the world.

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