Follow these simple suggestions to make your stay a little less awkward.
Greetings in China differ from an American greeting. Traditionally, the Chinese have a gentler handshake, make a slight bow when shaking hands (but not from the waist like the Japanese), and don’t make eye contact. It is considered aggressive to look somebody in the eyes when you first meet them in China. Additionally, pats on the back or touching during a greeting in any other way except a handshake are considered disrespectful (uschinabiz.com). So, remember, even though us Westerners like a firm handshake and great eye contact, try to tone it down when you go to China.
Many Chinese business transactions, or failures, happen over long dinners and much drinking. Business transactions are not as formal as they are in corporate America. According to Forbes.com, alcohol plays an important role in making or breaking a deal. You must learn how to handle your liquor or designate somebody in your group to be the drinker, it’s also good to bring a few female co-workers along, as they are not expected to drink (forbes.com). Don’t let a hangover ruin an important, early morning deal.
What’s that? In China, you have little personal space, with a population of about 1.4 billion people, it makes sense. With such a high population, property prices make it expensive to live apart from your family, many homes are packed with everybody from the grandparents on down (chinachange.org). The closeness of Chinese families transfers to public spaces, prepare to be bumped, nudged, and cut off when you are in line or waiting for food (fangmartin.com). It is not considered rude if you cut in front of somebody to buy train tickets or a bowl of noodles. So, if you visit China on a business trip, try to stay calm when you get a bump from behind or a car cuts you off at an intersection, it’s the culture.
My advice, no matter what foreign country you’re visiting, is to do your research. Know the culture you will be dealing with, especially when it comes to having a successful business. Be observant, watch what the locals do, and don’t expect everyone else to be adapted to American culture. Fit in where you can and be respectful; I think that will be a good start to doing business in another country.
US China Business Solutions (2006), Top Ten Things to Know About Chinese Communications and Culture, accessed on 8-16-2017. http://www.uschinabiz.com/TopTens/ChinaBusinessCommunication.aspx
Witt, M (2012), The Ten Principles For Doing Business in China, https://www.forbes.com/sites/insead/2012/03/06/the-ten-principles-for-doing-business-in-china/#50dec3c1d82d, accessed on 8-17-2017.
China Change (2011), Personal Space – China doesn’t have it, https://chinachange.org/2011/03/11/personal-space-china-doesnt-have-it/, accessed on 8-18-2017.
Fangmartin (n.d.), China Travel Tips – Personal Space and Lines, http://fangmartin.com/personal-space–lines.html, accessed on 8-18-2017.