Chinese business etiquette: the basis for long-term relationships

Having knowledge of Chinese business etiquette is very important if you want to establish long-term relationships in China, and is therefore a significant part of the preparation for your trip to China.
Below you will find a few Chinese customs, which are good Chinese business etiquette for travelers, or people doing business in China.

Chinese business etiquette: basics and meeting

  • Respect is a very important value in China, especially towards people who are older or more superior than you. This shows for instance already during the first acquaintance: you shake hands – a bit longer than most people are used to – but don’t squeeze to hard! Never touch the head of a person as the head is considered as an almost sacred part of the body. Don’t stare at the other, avoid boisterous, untactful behavior and avoid hurting feelings of others. Losing face is a shame for Chinese people, so do your utmost to avoid this.
  • Chinese business etiquetteBe in time for your meeting, where you will be introduced to the most senior person first. Address someone with his title or surname.
  • Take care that you exchange business cards. Accept a Chinese business card with both hands, and look at it carefully, which is another example of showing respect.
  • As it is appropriate to bring a gift, find here some valuable Chinese business etiquette tips: Its wise to bring a small, not too expensive gift, as your host might give you a present as well, and he will loose face if your present seems to be more expensive. Never give cut flowers, a clock, or white objects as this will be related to death. Sharp objects as knives or scissors should be avoided, as these will ‘cut the relationship’. Better bring a leather wallet, a Parker pen, or a bottle of wine or whiskey. It is a Chinese custom to wrap the gift in red or gold paper. When you receive a gift, do this with both hands, thank for it and place it near you without opening.
  • When doing business in China, it is important that you stay calm and are friendly and gentle during a meeting, as showing irritation is not done.

Dinner invitation etiquette

  • An important part of Chinese business etiquette is dining, as the Chinese customs of doing business in China is mixing business with pleasure, and a banquet is likely to be part of this. You will be wise to accept an invitation for a banquet, as you will meet new, often very senior people, who might be the final persons to decide whether a deal will be made or not. These people are often family or otherwise related to the people you have met during your business meeting, and now they will take the banquet as an occasion to get an impression of you.
  • From the above you will realize that making a good impression will be crucial now, but what do you do when you don’t like what is served to you? Just don’t touch the food, and it will be taken away when the next course is served. But, when possible, try to eat something of each course, and don’t forget to leave some food at your plate, or at the serving dish when you are finished, showing your satisfaction.
  • If you don’t drink alcohol, just express this, as the Chinese will understand this. You can make it easier on yourself by mentioning, even easier, when stating medical reasons.
  • It’s likely that there will be one or more toasts during the dinner. The host will start, after which the guest is expected to react with a short speech. This speech should be positive, complimenting and you can conclude with expressing that you hope for a successful business relationship.
  • Another Chinese business etiquette tip: Don’t put your chopsticks upright in the rice, as this symbolizes death.
  • When you are at a restaurant, the Chinese customs prescribe that the Chinese host pays for the dinner. As a guest you may politely offer to pay, but don’t insist, as this might give the Chinese the feeling of losing face.

Below you will find several etiquette websites about Chinese business etiquette.

Chinese business etiquette with Protocol professionals.
How to use chopsticks and more Chinese customs.

More interesting links about China:

Travel to famous places in China.
Mandarin English translation and English to Mandarin Translation.
Writing a name in Chinese.
Make your life more successful and healthier with feng shui.

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