CULTURAL ASPECTS OF DOING BUSINESS IN CHINA

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The cultural traits, business etiquettes, and the language are some of the barriers that a businessman faces in China, especially if they come from the western world.

China is the world’s second-largest economy and is not just a country for low-cost manufacturing, but also an attractive destination to do business.

However, China is one of the oldest civilizations with a very rich and vibrant cultural heritage. This cultural aspect is also quite evident in the Business domain as well and should be one of the most important considerations when somebody wants to start sourcing suppliers from China.

Non-Chinese people can impress the local businessman by employing some simple techniques such as knowledge of local customs, reciting some Mandarin words, addressing the people with their designation, and appreciating the food and wine.

Such awareness of cultural nuances develops a mutual respect and sincere trust in each other. We have categorized some of the important aspects of Chinese Business etiquette and culture for the reference below: –

1.    IN CHINESE, YES DOESN’T ALWAYS MEAN YES

In China, and especially in the context of a business ‘Yes’ is not always Yes. A supplier’s lack of expertise, experience or knowledge in a particular product/line will seldom stop them from replying to the inquiries, and even accepting the orders. Don’t assume that any supplier who agrees to manufacture your product is skilled to even do so. This is also sometimes to ‘save the face’, as they don’t want to see themselves as bad hosts. Hence, treat ‘No’ as no, but consider ‘Yes’ as maybe, until you are able to verify the actual ground realities.

2.    ‘FACE’ VALUE

One of the key aspects of Chinese culture is the concept of 面子 (face). A Chinese person always wants to save the face and never lose it. For westerners, it can be considered as ‘respect’, in simple words, but it’s more than that. A person can ‘give face’, by paying attention to rankings/designations, accepting invitations, and showing sensitivity to Chinese culture. While insulting someone in public (or in front of subordinates), refusing invitations, or behaving inappropriately like losing temper, will cause a person to ‘loose face’. Therefore, it’s very important to consider this during your interactions.

3.    EXCHANGING BUSINESS CARDS

Exchanging business cards is one of the important customs as part of the introductions in a business meeting. In Chinese customs business cards are considered as an extension of the person itself, so you need to treat them respectfully. The most appropriate way of exchanging business cards is to accept the card with both hands and look at it carefully before stacking them inside.

4.    GREETINGS

A greeting is the first impression for any business meeting, and the same applies to Chinese customs as well. Even though everybody has now moved to the more casual way of greeting with a handshake, however, the handshake in a Chinese business meeting is better to be initiated by the Chinese counterpart (so give your counterpart the opportunity to do it first)

Chinese people will always appreciate the use of Chinese words in your greetings, such as“你好” (nǐ hǎo – hi, hello) and “很高兴认识你” (hěn gāoxìng rènshí nǐ – Nice to meet you), you can also say “幸会” (xìng huì; I’m charmed to meet you.) or “久仰” (jiǔyǎng; I`ve long been looking forward to meeting you), two proper expressions which will no doubt impress!

5.    TABLE MANNERS

First and foremost, the thing is the order in which people should sit down on a table. The more senior people will always sit down first followed by others, and you should wait for the Chinese people to show your seat. The same applies to the eating order, and you should wait for the seniors to start first, and wait for you to be offered. Lastly, if you invite someone for a dinner or meal, then you are expected to pay for it, and vice versa. ‘Going Dutch’ for the dinner expense is not common in the business environment, whoever invites pays the bill.

6.    PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS ARE IMPORTANT

Chinese people are culturally sensitive to the society and their families. They give a lot of importance to building up good personal relationships, even with their business contacts. Don’t assume that if the supplier is being very friendly, then he wants to take advantage of you. You should also show interest in their personal lives, and introduce to your family as well if they have introduced theirs. This helps you to develop a pleasant business relationship, and may also protect you from intellectual property theft down the line.

Conclusively, having a good understanding of the Chinese Business etiquettes and culture can help you to impress your Chinese counterparts, and help you build a stronger and trustworthy relationship.