Don’t stress about not doing things correctly as most Chinese will just put your faux pas down to being a Westerner but when heading to a foreign country, a little effort does go a long way.
Learn some of the language
This is just basic common sense but it is extremely important to learn few polite phrases like please, thank you, hello and good-bye, before travelling to China. Here is a link to an online course via Skype that may help… http://www.echineselearning.com/
Before flying to China, you should know well how to greet someone. The land of China is well known for the number of ceremonies and etiquettes since the ages. The best way to greet someone is by saying NiHao, if more than one person is present use the greeting word nimenHao. The handshake is considered as the most formal way of greeting in China. On formal occasions, you can call a person directly with the job title or by using the job title before his surname or full name.
Be sure to hold gifts (and business cards) with both hands when you are presenting a gift to someone. One should consider giving gifts to all the members present in the occasion. The elder people may refuse the gift initially as a token of politeness, so you need to offer the gift a second time.
In the Chinese society, the age of the person and the rank are respected the most.
Understand the cultural meaning of ‘keeping face’
As with other Asian cultures, while travelling for business in China understanding the concept of ‘keeping face (prestige; honor; reputation) will definitley stand you in good stead. It’s a difficult to define although this goes someway to explaining it…
Face is the respectability and/or deference which a person can claim for himself from others, by virtue of the relative position he occupies in his social network and the degree to which he is judged to have functioned adequately in that position as well as acceptably in his general conduct. (Ho 1975:883)
Learn some business etiquettes to win over the trust and honour when setting up meetings or negotiations in China. Be on time for the meetings, as arriving late is considered to be a rude behaviour. If you are hosting the meeting, you should send your representative to meet the participants in the lobby and escort them to the meeting room. For higher level meetings the entrance of the guest to the meeting room by rank is highly important.
If you are attending meetings in China, especially for building relationships in the business, you should take care of the things not to do and how to dress for business. For the business meetings, men should wear a coat with tie. The slacks and open-necked shirts are preferable during summer season. Jackets and ties are not necessary during summer. Women are supposed to wear dresses or pantsuits with less makeup. They must avoid any garish jewelry.
Table manners should be given good importance, especially when you travel to China for business. Consider these…
- The dining table will be round, and the guest will be seated to the right side of the host. The guest should be seated only after the host’s invitation.
- The dining begins only after the host is seated.
- The dishes will be presented at the center of the table and there will always be a bowl on a small dish with the chopsticks and spoon. All the dishes other than soup must be eaten with the chopsticks. Dipping the chopstick in the center of the rice is considered as inauspicious. Never finish off all the dishes completely at a formal banquet as it may give the host an impression that the banquet was not good enough and the food was insufficient. The guests must leave only after the host leaves the table.