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Business Etiquette in China: What Westerners Need to Know

written by: Sharon Katzman•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 4/1/2011

With the world being a small community, more and more Westerners are doing business over in China. In order to be successful, it is important to learn proper business etiquette in China or else you may offend your hosts.

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    If you are a Westerner doing business in China, you will want to make sure you do some research on business etiquette in China before your trip. Not only do you need to know how to act in a business setting, but you will need to learn how to behave in a social setting, as Wikimedia Commons, Beijing apartment building by Kallgan business quite often includes a meal.

    Introductions

    When you are introduced to someone, pay attention to what name is given, as there are different forms of address used in different areas in China. Be aware that they may be introduced by their title and last name which is quite common. Expect to be called Mr. or Mrs. throughout your trip even if you invite them to use your given name, as the Chinese tend to be more formal.

    Handshakes

    When you first meet someone, you may be tempted to offer your hand in a handshake, but the Chinese custom is a nod or a slight bow. That said, the Chinese are getting more used to Westerners and will offer a hand, but it may be a soft shake with no eye contact. This is simply because they are not used to this Western custom, not because they are timid.

    Giving a Gift

    A gift means that you are interested in building a relationship--but there are some gifts you need to avoid. These gifts are presented at a business meeting or at a social event and should be from where you live or your region. The gift should be wrapped, but not in white or black as these colors represent mourning in China. The gift should be presented with both hands, and you should mention it is a small token of appreciation. The gift likely will not be opened at that time as a sign that the thought counts more than the value of the gift.

    Meal Invitation

    You likely will be invited out to eat with your host where expensive and rare dishes will probably be ordered. This is done to show their respect to you, their guest, and you will need to do your best to eat the food. If you have allergies, it is best to let your host know before ordering so that these items can be avoided. If you think you will not be able to do justice to the food, you can let your host know that you have a sensitive stomach or that it is not used to the food in China and that you need to watch what you eat.

    You may find that you end up at a Karaoke bar or lounge as these are quite popular with the Chinese. Therefore, you may want to practice a few songs before your trip so you will be well prepared when it is your turn to perform.

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    Language

    A good idea when traveling is to learn a bit of the language before your trip. This does not mean being fluent but knowing things such as Hello, Goodbye and the various greetings of your destination can go a long way. Considering your situation will help you to determine what terms will be good for you to learn for your trip.

    Traveling for business can be exciting but it can also be full of traps. Knowing proper business etiquette for China or any country before you go can turn a trip from a good trip to an excellent and successful one.

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    Sources

    Photo:

    Wikimedia Commons, Kallgan

    Sources:

    CRCC Asia Ltd. 10 Tips to Build Business Contacts in China. Retrieved at http://www.crccasia.com/insight/10-tips-build-business-contacts-china

    Mitchell, Filomena. ChinaSuccessStories.com. Business and Travel Etiquette in China. Retrieved at http://www.chinasuccessstories.com/2007/07/18/business-and-travel-etiquette-in-china/