Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Business Etiquette in China Like Emily Post

One of the commone questions I'm asked is "What do I need to know about business etiquette in China."

The answer is "Not too much."

In reality, most people who ask this type of question are wanting to know, is there any type of behavior I should avoid to spoil a deal or should pay attention to to help seal the deal.

As to the first part about what to avoid, there really isn't too much.  The Chinese are quite accepting.  Most of them have the expectation that foreigners are almost a different creature so it is not uncommon for foreigners to do some seemingly shocking things.  Just be polite, professional, and pay attention to what others are doing and you should be fine.  Be sensitive to others reaction to try and gauge if you are offending, and if you think you are apologize.

There is one thing that I have seen foreigners do that has spoiled deals.  That is joking around about important political or famous people, whether current or historical.  In the West, especially in the US, we have a history of freedom of speech, and we see everyday people like Jay Leno and John Stewart making fun of politicians as a career.  This does not exist in China and can offend your hosts so much that they are unable to continue working with you.

As far as what you can do to help move along a business relationship.  The first thing you can do is learn some Chinese.  Even the most basic "Ni Hao" will often be met with a response of "Wow, your Chinese is so good."  If you take the time to learn a few more key phrases like "Xie Xie" and "Bu Ke Qi", you are going a long way to show that you are interested in learning about their culture and customs.

This is a good start and the rest you can learn as you are here in China interacting with others.

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