For those who have never done business in China before, the task can be a daunting one. Even for those who have done business in China in the past, it may be time for a refresher. Here are a few etiquette tips for doing business in China, and with Chinese markets.
Be mindful of your appearance: Appearances, such as attire selection, are very important in Chinese business culture. Being mindful of this from the first impression and on is very important. Dressing conservatively and selecting high quality clothing is both indicative of modesty and status.
Guidelines pertaining to entering a room: Generally, the room is entered in order of seniority. It is wise to show great respect for the leader of the Chinese business you are meeting with. The person who has the highest rank from your team should introduce the rest of the persons in your group.
Shaking hands: A handshake in China is not as firm as it is in the West. Handshakes are typically soft and relatively quick. Eye contact is kept brief as well.
Exchange of business cards: It is best to have business cards printed in English on one side and the other side in Chinese. When the time arrives for a card to be presented, you should present your card with both hands and with the Chinese language side facing up toward the other person. When you receive a card, you should also receive it with two hands, read it and then place it on the table in front of you if you are sitting down for a meeting. If you are not sitting down for a meeting, then possibly place it in a business card holder. It is frowned upon for someone to take a card then quickly put it in a purse or pocket. In China, business cards are treated with respect.
Meeting length: In China, meetings are a time for building relationships and gaining trust. This takes time and it is necessary before any contracts are signed. It is best to be prepared for frequent and lengthy discussions if one is aiming to formulate a business deal with Chinese counterparts. Much of this is often done over long dinners, featuring different types of food you may not be familiar with. It is important to try everything because it is seen as disrespectful if you do not.
Authenticity: An important point to keep in mind when doing business in China is to be your authentic self. The Chinese put a high amount of value on being authentic. There is very low tolerance for pretending and/or posturing. If a person is authentic, respectful, and observant, they are likely to gain trust and help to build a strong business relationship.
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