As China has such a huge population, and therefore a huge number of consumers, it is vital that Western companies are connected with the Chinese in order to heighten their businesses success.
Unlike Western business etiquette, we must not jump to the conclusion that all formalities will be the same abroad as well. This, in fact, is very untrue. It is vital that when you are interacting with Chinese business people, you are at the top of your game. This will only be achieved by making sure you understand the fundamental rules of Chinese business etiquette.
We have devised some top tips in order to ensure that you do not embarrass yourself when in the company of the Chinese.
In a formal setting
Seniority is of the utmost importance to the Chinese. Although in the Western business world it is important to respect those at the higher end of the company chain, in China this is emphasised somewhat considerably.
When you interact with a business person senior to yourself, make sure to address them by their official position e.g. Chairman Brown. Failure to do so will not only make you appear rude, but will also show that you have taken little care to adjust to the Chinese business culture and ways of handling things.
In correlation with how to address those above you, you must always include them first and foremost. For example, if you have some pamphlets, cards or gifts to give out to the group, always make sure you present the head of the room first. In Chinese etiquette it is typical when presenting something to outstretch both arms and make sure whatever you are placing in front of people is positioned the correct way up so as not to disrupt the cohesion of things.
Make sure you are aware of the seating arrangements before you go sitting down in the wrong place. The Chinese are very particular about where those in differing rankings should be placed, and it would be a great wrong to seat yourself in the wrong area of the room.
In a casual setting
The Chinese often take business associates out on lavish lunches to fancy restaurants where a lot of food and alcohol is consumed. See, the Chinese differ from the Western world in the social aspect of business. They see socialising as a crucial element to business. If they get along with clients (sharing the same views on politics, enjoying the same hobbies and so on) then they feel they can form more of an honest and trusty relationship with that person, based on a mutual friendship.
So, if you are invited to a business lunch with the Chinese, make sure you are on form and really showing them what you are made of. A suggestion would be to ease off the alcoholic beverages just a little, so you are aware of what you are saying. Make sure to remember that even though this is a casual setting, this is still business to the Chinese and you should be treating it as such.
Remember, it is the host of the party or lunch that will settle all the bills at the end of the evening. In Chinese culture it is considered rude and offensive to try and offer to pay, so make sure you don’t. Similarly, if you are the one who ends up hosting the event, unfortunately it is you who has to cough up.