April 13th, 2012

Chinese Business Etiquette Tips

by Jacqueline Whitmore

Jacqueline Whitmore was featured on Entrepreneur.com

I was surprised and delighted to learn that I was recently recommended as one of the top five Twitter feeds to follow by Entrepreneur magazine. According to the article, Five To Follow, my twitter feed (@etiquetteexpert) offers invaluable insight for entrepreneurs who want to better understand Chinese business etiquette and want to avoid blunders that could foil a potential deal.

If you’re looking to capitalize on the opportunities available in the growing Asian economy, here are my top five tips for doing business in China.

Eating and Drinking: If you are more senior to the person you are toasting, you should raise your glass slightly higher than the other person’s glass. Don’t stick your chopsticks into your food, and especially not into your rice. This is only done at funerals with rice that is put onto the alter. When not in use, leave your chopsticks side by side, down on the table or on a chopstick stand.

Introductions: Never omit official titles, and never call your Chinese contact by his or her first name unless you are invited to do so. Chinese names are traditionally listed in the opposite order from names in the West. Family names (or surnames) are written first, followed by the first name. To show respect, Chinese are addressed only by their family name and title. For example, Hsin Wu would be addressed as Director Hsin or Chairman Hsin, not as Wu.

Personal Space: Typically, Chinese businesspeople bow slightly when greeting another person. Stand approximately 2 1/2 to 3 feet apart. Give yourself enough space to bow without infringing on your counterpart’s space. When greeting foreigners, the Chinese often follow up their bow with a handshake.

Business Cards: Like most aspects of greetings in China, the exchange of business cards should be treated with respect. The Chinese use two hands to present their card. Receive the card with two hands and acknowledge it before putting it away. Your cards should be printed with Chinese on one side and your language on the other.

Negotiations: Generally the Chinese like to build a trusting relationship first before discussing business. Don’t talk business right away. When a contract or other document is presented to you, never sign your name in red ink. In Buddhist traditions, personal names should never be written in red unless the person is dead.

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