The recent awakening of the sleeping Chinese dragon has drawn many foreign corporations to China. These foreign corporations are lead by foreign executives who are ignorant of the more colourful Chinese business culture.The Chinese government has taken considerable action to acquaint the foreign businessman with Chinese business culture. However, there is still some unexplored territory left.
I read many stories of business meetings gone astray due to what appeared to be insignificant gestures. A senior executive was astound to see his efforts to stop by an important meeting on his busy schedule was actually taken as an insult. Another company handed out watches as gift to Chinese executives who where surprised by the reaction. Obviously these are more curiosities to be aware of then actual business but the lighter side of business is nothing to be trifled with.
This article is about the less known aspects of Chinese business culture and environment. I do not presume to be some sort of expert on Chinese culture. These are interesting little bits I picked around here and there. I do not know the reasons and sources for the following customs. I would appreciate your comments and sharing of knowledge very much. These are mainly for general knowledge.
1. Be careful with your sense of humour – Chinese businessmen are apparently cautious to people who tell jokes on preliminary and initial business meetings.
2. “No” will not be used in negotiations – It is uncustomary to directly negate anything in business negotiations. Be prepared to come up with creative ways and creative solutions to saying no.
3. Eating from the far side of the plate will render you greedy – As simple as it sounds.
4. Sticking your chop-sticks into your food is considered rude – Avoid sticking chop-sticks in your food in business meetings (or altogether). Practice eating with chop-sticks regularly.
5. Show happiness but do not display emotions or familiarity with senior executives – Hierarchy is strictly kept and is very important.
6. Calling cards are handed and received with both hands – Respect calling cards handed to you. Stock yourself with a decent amount of calling cards as you will hand them out often.
7. Patience is a virtue – Negotiations and deal closure might take longer then you are used to.
8. Don’t hand out a watch as a gift – In Chinese culture watches relate to death.
9. Answering cellular phones during a meeting is customary – You should not take offence. However, your host will expect you to be attentive at all times.
10. Be wary of Chinese business culture but also be reassured as they are familiar with western business culture – Do not be intimidated or embarrassed. Faux-pas are usually forgiven. Business is business.