Sometimes when foreigners are conducting business in China, they are not aware of certain of the China business customs and practices. One of these is when is the right time in a meeting to start talking business?
Business etiquette in China is different than in the West. The Chinese negotiation style is one of first establishing a relationship, or guanxi, before moving on to business.
It is not uncommon for the Chinese to start a Chinese business meeting by talking about everything except what most foreigners would think a business meeting should be about. They will talk about their children, your children, where you are from, why do you like China, how much money you make, how much does your house cost. Be prepared for questions about money that most foreigners would think are inappropriate, this is another Chinese cultural custom.
It is only when you get down to the end of the meeting where it might be appropriate to indirectly start talking about business. You might say something like, "Mr Wang, it is a pleasure meeting you and there might be some ways that my company could help your business."
This Chinese negotiating style is something that sometimes tries the patience of people that have setup a company in China and are doing business in China. It is important to realize this is not an issue of what is right or wrong, it is simply an example of Chinese cultural customs.
Of course, it is important to realize that this is a generalization and there are some Chinese whose manners and etiquette are quite similar to Westerners. They are also interested in getting right down to business. It is important to be sensitive to your host and follow their lead.
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