Cultural Clues, Communication Guidelines for CHINA

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 the 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.

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, so wait for your Chinese counterpart to initiate the gesture.

The Chinese are very keen about exchanging business cards. Be sure to bring a plentiful supply. Ensure that one side is in English, and the other is in Chinese.

It’s an asset to have your business cards printed in gold ink. In Chinese business culture, gold is the color of prestige, prosperity. Present your card with two hands and the Chinese side facing the recipient.

When receiving a business card, examine it carefully for a few moments, and then place it into your card case or on the table. Not reading a business card or stuffing it directly into your back pocket will be a breach of protocol.

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. Instead, ambivalent answers such as “Perhaps”, “I’m not sure”, “I’ll think about it”, or “We’ll see” 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 actually eaten.

Never interrupt during meeting discussions. At the end of a meeting, you will be expected to leave before your Chinese counterparts.

In Chinese business, responsibility for many decisions rests with the Communist party and government bureaucrats. Individuals working within this 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. Chinese businesspeople prefer to establish a strong relationship based on ‘trust’ before closing a deal.

Use your whole hand, rather than your index finger, if you ever need to point.

5 Key Conversation or Cultural Gesture Tips

  • The Chinese scenery and landmarks
  • The weather, climate, and geography in China
  • Your positive experiences traveling in China and your travels to other countries
  • Inquiries about family, especially children (but don’t probe)
  • Chinese art and culture

5 Key Conversation or Cultural Gesture Taboos

  • 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.”
  • Don’t say anything that could be considered insulting as it will cause “loss of face” and could damage the relationship. “Saving face” is an important concept to understand.
  • Avoid any discussion around communism and the government.
  • Avoid discussing anything that would cause the Chinese to feel inferior in any way.

Bon Voyage!

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Cultural Tips for China – including some valuable business travel tips for China!

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 available on Amazon as a Book, eBook, or Audio Book

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Cultural Tips for Countries from A to Z

Cultural Tips for China – including some valuable business travel tips for China

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!

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 significant 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.

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!

Circles Of Excellence provides Corporate Training, Leadership Coaching, and Professional Keynote Speakers for companies of all sizes and in all industries, including over 50 Fortune 500 companies. Contact us about our custom training programs for Communication Skills, Cross-Cultural Communication, Cultural Diversity, Customer Service, Leadership Coaching, Presentation Skills, Sales Negotiations, Stress Management, Team building, and Time Management Training.

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