The Latest! Cultural Clues, Do’s and Taboos for China
A Series of Cultural Tips for Countries from A to Z
Cultural Clues & Communication Guidelines for China
It’s easy for business travelers to think that even when they travel, business is going to be done pretty much the same way it is at home. But that’s not always the case. Cultural differences can have a big impact on global business etiquette. That’s why it’s important for business travelers to make sure that they understand the culture of the country that they’re doing business in.
This article on cultural differences in China and cultural travel tips for China is a brief snapshot of conversation guidelines for China, tips for communicating in China and business strategies for China to help with understanding the culture in China. It’s important to keep in mind that as we homogenize as a ‘global culture’, cultural tendencies change and evolve as well. Awareness is the first step when it comes to cultural do’s and taboos for China and tips for intercultural communication!
Cultural Tips for China – including some valuable business travel tips for China
Before your visit, it is a good idea to prepare yourself by studying aspects of Chinese culture, history and geography. Your hosts will appreciate your initiative.
When scheduling your appointments, be sensitive to holidays such as the Chinese New Year, which changes yearly, as many businesses will be closed.
Being late for an appointment is considered an insult in Chinese business culture so make sure you are on time.
You’ll find it beneficial to bring your own interpreter, if possible, to help you understand the subtleties of everything being said during meetings.
Since there is such a strong emphasis on hierarchy in the Chinese culture, ensure that you bring a senior member of your organization to lead the discussions. The Chinese will do the same.
In accordance with Chinese business protocol, people are expected to enter the meeting room in hierarchical order. For example, the Chinese will assume that the first foreigner to enter the room is head of the delegation and will acknowledge the most senior person first. Watch and do the same.
The Chinese will nod or bow slightly as an initial greeting. Handshakes are also popular, however wait for your Chinese counterpart to initiate the gesture.
The Chinese are very keen about exchanging business cards, so be sure to bring a plentiful supply. It’s best to have one side of your business card printed in English and the other in Mandarin or whichever Chinese language is spoken in the area you are travelling to.
If possible, it’s an asset to have your business cards printed in gold ink. In Chinese business culture, gold is the color of prestige and prosperity.
Business cards are very important and treated with great respect in China. Not reading a business card or stuffing it directly into your back pocket will be a breach of protocol.
Present your card with two hands and the Chinese side facing to your Chinese counterparts. When receiving a business card, examine it carefully for a few moments and make a positive comment about the person or their position. You may then carefully place it into your card case or on the table in front of you if at a meeting.
The Chinese do not use many gestures or demonstrative expression when speaking and will become annoyed with someone who does.
Emotion is repressed and humility is a virtue, so avoid displaying emotional or boastful behavior.
The Chinese will not directly say “no” to you. The will offer ambivalent answers such as “Perhaps”, “I’m not sure”, “I’ll think about it”, or “We’ll see” which usually means “No.”
“Small talk” is considered especially important at the beginning of a meeting. The question “Have you eaten?” is the equivalent to “How are you?”. Simply answer, “Yes”, even if you haven’t recently eaten.
Never interrupt during meeting discussions as this is considered impolite. The Chinese will often pause after something has been said to show respect and contemplate a good response.
Never insult, embarrass, or put someone in a bad light or this will cause “loss of face” in the Chinese culture. “Saving face” is an important concept to understand so learn about it.
At the end of a meeting, you will be expected to leave before your Chinese counterparts.
In Chinese business, responsibility for many decisions finally rests with the Communist party and government bureaucrats. Anyone working within the Chinese business network are held accountable for their actions and must adhere to the protocol.
You may have to make several trips to China to achieve your objectives, and negotiations take considerably longer than in some countries.
Chinese business people prefer to establish a strong relationship based on ‘trust’ before closing a deal.
5 Key Conversation or Cultural Gesture Tips
Comment about the ancient and beautiful Chinese scenery and landmarks.
Show you know something about the history, climate, and geography of the area you will be visiting.
Talk about your positive experiences traveling in China and your travels to other countries
It’s fine to make general inquiries about family, especially children, but don’t go into detail or probe.
It’s always appreciated when you know something about and can discuss the Chinese art and culture.
5 Key Conversation or Cultural Gesture Taboos
Avoid using your index finger to point. When you need to point, use your full hand.
Avoid mentioning Taiwan. If the subject comes up, never refer to this country as “The Republic of China” or “Nationalist China.” The correct term is “Taiwan Province”, or just “Taiwan.”
Refrain from using the terms such as “Red China”, “Mainland China,” and “Communist China.”
Avoid any discussion around communism and the government.
Avoid discussing anything that would cause the Chinese to feel inferior in any way.
Join us in the future for Do’s and Taboos for COLOMBIA!
To learn more about the Dos and Taboos for different cultures, and the cultural communication styles for Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East – order Gayle Cotton’s bestselling book ‘SAY Anything to Anyone, Anywhere! 5 Keys to Successful Cross-Cultural Communication’ available on Amazon as a Book, eBook, or Audio Book
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Emmy Award Winner, Gayle Cotton, is the author of this blog and of the bestselling cross-cultural communication book ‘SAY Anything to Anyone, Anywhere! 5 Keys to Successful Cross-Cultural Communication’, which is available on Amazon as a Book, eBook, or Audio Book. She is President of Circles Of Excellence Inc. and a Professional Keynote Speaker. Contact Gayle if you need professional speakers for events, speakers on cultural diversity, conference speakers for events, or keynote speakers that specialize in cross-cultural training. She is a leader in the field of public speakers, motivational speakers, and international keynote speakers. She is among the best of female keynote speakers and women motivational speakers and is a ‘first choice’ request for international audiences!
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