Doing business with the Chinese, Part II

Konnten Sie alle Fragen in unserem kleinen Test aus Teil I des Tipps auf Anhieb richtig beantworten? Glückwunsch! Aber auch die Tipps des zweiten Teils sollten Sie sich dennoch nicht entgehen lassen.

Gift giving

If you are expecting Chinese visitors, be prepared for them to bring gifts, and have some gifts ready for them, but make sure you know the rules. Lavish gift giving was an important part of Chinese business culture in the past. Today, official policy in Chinese business culture sees giving and accepting gifts as bribery. But old habits die hard and in many organisations, gifts are still given. However, observe the following rules:

  • Gifts are given after negotiations have been concluded.
  • If you want to give a gift to an individual, do it privately and don't take a photograph of the visitor receiving the gift.
  • The Chinese decline a gift three times before finally being persuaded to accept it. This is so as not to appear greedy. So if a Chinese visitor refuses a gift, offer it two more times. If you are offered a gift, play along and "refuse" to accept it two times.
  • Never present a valuable gift to one person in front of other people.
  • Always wrap gifts. Be careful to choose the right colour, because colours have many different associations in Chinese culture. Red is always a safe choice.

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At the meeting

  • The seat in the centre of the table, facing the door, is reserved for the host. The most senior guest of honour sits to the host's left. Everyone else is seated in descending order of status.
  • When you are offered a business card, accept it with both hands and read it before putting it on the table in front of you or in a card folder. Never put a business card in your pocket and never write on it in the presence of the visitor.
  • Say "I'm pleased to meet you", or "ni hao", in Chinese.
  • The Chinese state their last name first, then their given name, for example Liu Jianguo would be Mr Jiangou Liu.
  • Don't use first names until you are asked to.
  • In Chinese business, it is not customary to make and receive compliments. If you do make a compliment, expect to hear something like "not at all, it was nothing" rather than a direct "thank you".

The comfort zone

The comfort zone is the physical distance people like to keep from other people. This comfort zone varies from country to country. In Northern Europe we tend to keep further apart than people in Southern Europe. The Chinese comfort zone is slightly closer than ours. So, if you instinctively step back because you feel a Chinese visitor is standing too close to you, he or she might step closer again. But although they keep less distance from one another than we do, the Chinese do not like to be touched, especially by strangers. Do not hug, back-slap or put an arm round someone's shoulder.

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Habits to avoid

  • Pointing at something with your index finger. Use your open hand.
  • Using the index finger to call someone. The Chinese call someone over using the whole hand with fingers motioning downward, as if they were waving.

Some Chinese habits may seem unusual to you. In particular, the Chinese often slurp when eating. This is not a sign of bad manners but means that they appreciate the food. You must also be prepared for people speaking with their mouth full and for them smoking without asking for permission.