Today’s post comes courtesy of Asian business expert A. Lau
Manners and customs are very different all over the world, and the last thing you want to do when visiting someone’s home country for business is offend them. Here are nine diplomacy tips to keep in mind when doing business in China.
1. Don’t Use First Names
It is considered rude to address someone by their first name unless they are a long-time friend or family member. In business situations, always use “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” and “Miss,” followed by their family name, which comes first in their name.
2. Don’t Smile at Strangers
If you smile at strangers or are overly friendly with them, it’s considered rude. You should not act so familiar with people who you do not know very well. It’s customary for introductions to be made by a third party, so do not just introduce yourself to everyone.
3. Don’t Initiate Handshakes
The Chinese are not big on touching, especially in business dealings. Many men, however, will shake hands with Westerners, but you should wait until they extend their hand first before trying to shake hands. They may give a more limp, longer handshake than you’re used to, but the lack of firmness is meant to be a sign of respect.
4. Insist on Paying the Bill
When you’re at lunch or dinner, insist on paying the bill, because it’s considered a sign of honor to do so. If someone else offers to pay the bill, you shouldn’t let them do it without protest, so continue to insist on paying at least a little bit longer.
5. Don’t Linger at Goodbye
The Chinese are not fond of long, sentimental goodbyes, and most of the time they’ll say goodbye rather abruptly and quickly leave, such as after a meal is finished. Don’t be offended if this happens. When saying goodbye, don’t spend time lingering or being reminiscent about the visit, just say politely say goodbye and leave.
6. Limit Hand Movements
If you’re a very animated speaker who tends to move your hands around a lot, try to limit that movement while in China. The Chinese consider excessive hand movements to be rude.
7. Keep Conversation Light
When talking to people in China, avoid talking about sensitive issues like politics and sex, and don’t make comments on Chinese customs, because it is often taken as offensive. Don’t be offended, however, if they make comments about yours. The best topics are food and family.
8. Watch Your Gestures
Placing your thumb between your index and middle fingers is considered obscene in China, and so is holding up your fist. Don’t point or beckon to someone with your finger. If you’re trying to get someone’s attention, use eye contact. Winking is also considered to be rude, as in whistling. Don’t be offended, however, if a Chinese person uses their middle finger to gesture.
9. Give a Small Gift
It’s polite to give a small gift in business and social situations. Popular gifts are things like pens, fruit, wine, chocolates, and handkerchiefs. Do not give books, clocks or watches, or umbrellas, and avoid gifts that are green or white.
About the Author
A. Lau has lived in Asia for over twenty years. She loves sharing cultural knowlege and business tips.