How to make a good impression in China
The single most important factor in making a good impression in China is to build relationships and cultivate them carefully, otherwise known as Guanxi. Building the friendship has to come before business is done; trust has to be in place before a deal can be made. Being smartly dressed, serious, punctual and deferential to elders will also win the respect of the Chinese. Furthermore, be careful in conversation not to make a Chinese person lose face by discussing topics such as Taiwan, Tibet, human rights issues or the growing capitalist culture in Chinese cities.
Making Contacts & Scheduling Appointments in China
- Establish relationships before attempting to do business.
- Find an intermediary in China who will make introductions; it will help your case if you come already recommended.
- Schedule your meetings tactically; if you are going to be negotiating a deal, make it early in your visit as several sessions may be necessary.
- Avoid 12pm to 2pm, when everything shuts down for lunch.
- Never be late, which is considered extremely rude.
Forms of Address
- Interpret the hierarchy and introduce people in the correct order, starting with the most senior.
- Only the leader speaks at a meeting.
- Shake hands and offer a slight bow of the head. Then make brief eye contact.
- Do not use first names; this is far too familiar.
- Address your counterpart as Mr, Miss, Madam or by their job title.
- Remember that women maintain their maiden names when they marry.
- Dress to impress but keep it conservative; labels will be noticed but do not appear too flamboyant.
- Stick to a business suit in the big cities and when visiting big companies; it is better to be overdressed than too casual.
- Women should dress modestly; the aim is to blend into the crowd.
- Jeans are appropriate casual wear.
Useful Business Terms
|Jia Ting||Extended family, very close friends|
|Hua Qiao||Overseas Chinese|
|Zhong Guo||The Chinese|
- Keep body language to a minimum; in China they prefer stillness and waving your arms around will distract.
- Do not stare somebody down; holding a gaze for too long is disrespectful.
- The overall communication style of the Chinese can be described as ‘high-context’ – the information, setting and relationships which support the messages are just as important as the actual content.
- Sucking air quickly through lips and teeth is a sign of surprise or dismay.
- Always bear in mind mianxi, or saving face, both your counterpart’s and your own.
- Show strong leadership: Chinese workers need direction if they are to meet deadlines.
- Don’t let time be used as a weapon. The Chinese believe Westerners are always in a hurry and may slow down deliberately as a power play.
- Be on time: punctuality is a sign that you are serious, as well as respectful. Never be late, which is considered extremely rude.
- Understand your team. China does not have the same short term sense of urgency as the West and tight deadlines may be an unfamiliar way of working.
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