We know that business happens everywhere, from different countries and people, from small towns to big cities, from physical trades to online purchases. Each specific region is a unique business environment that produces its own business etiquette. Those business etiquettes can separate into different categories; it can be the style of clothing, the way of talking, food, gestures, or other aspects that align with their personal culture and customs.
Core elements of Chinese business etiquette
One of the most unique and interesting things about Chinese business etiquette is the deep roots it has with the culture and the environment. And it’s based on two key elements: trust and fairness.
Trust refers not only to trusting each other, but every person needs to follow the “polite rules” that offer each other equal respect, support, and mutual trust during transactions. That’s why Chinese people often consider socialization and business as one intertwined concept, rather than splitting them. It is believed that doing business not only involves trades and money but friendship, responsibility, and care.
On the other side, fairness refers to the fairness between all deals, including the policies and rules that each person agrees to follow. It is a two-sided effect that your partner will appreciate and also shows their full respect and honesty to sit down and discuss future cooperation.
Etiquette in action
Chinese business customs are aligned with the country’s social policies. Here are few examples, where you can see the interplay.
When in conversation with someone:
- You should look into the other person’s eyes when they speak and show respect when listening. Always speak fast and use appropriate words.
When meeting your business partner for the first time:
- Give a firm handshake to show pleasure or gratitude, and if you want to go a step further, you can use both hands. For females, you should ask permission to shake hands their hand.
When inviting your business partner to sit in the car:
- Treat your guests/partner with importance and always want invite them to sit right in the back, and ask the driver to take care when closing their door to prevent the guest accidentally injuring their head.
Differences between the Western world and China?
Chinese business customs are significantly differently from the western style, mainly in terms of cultural differences.
For example, in most western countries, business people often kiss cheeks as greetings, whereas Chinese people use hugs or shaking hands to show their greeting.
In China, this type of business style is inherited from the spirit of thinking from the past. China has a history of 5,000 years of civilization and is known as “a land of ceremonies”. Its etiquette civilization has exerted a wide and far-reaching influence on the development of Chinese traditional culture and society. Over the years of developing customs and policies, there are three key aspects that have become part of today’s business etiquette.
- First is the principle of respectful spirit: its original meaning refers to the respect and friendship between people.
- Second is institutional arrangements: this is all about identifying ways for both sides to agree on a business arrangement without any contradictions.
- The third is to be polite and courteous: these qualities are evident in social activities too and are deeply planted inside peoples’ minds. By adhering to these characteristics, people will be successful in business as both sides receive the greatest benefit and all deals are handled with courtesy.
These practices came to my mind for the first time when I witnessed how the boss of a beer company behaved in front of his partner. He invited my relative to visit his new company, while I was accompanying him after we finished lunch. He first shook hands with his guest and took him to sit down on the sofa. While they were in conversation, the boss often filled the guest’s empty cup with new tea. These little details hold great importance because it showed his care and respect to the guest, subtly transmitting the message that he is worth collaborating, and it changed the atmosphere from serious to harmonious.
It also required some speaking techniques before getting into a job/deals. Previously, they talked about each other’s experiences in jobs, including some family stories. It was a constant process where they successfully moved from topic to topic and finally got back to discuss the businesses. This prevents any embarrassment as no businessman wants to lose him/her as a business friend, and directly digging into business topics may influence their relationship or lead to ineffective deal-making.
Get it right
Business etiquette is often interesting to observe and analyze because it differs in different regions. By knowing the cultures and behaviors of different business customs, people can achieve higher success by applying their knowledge of correct business to all parties involved.
At Hult you will do more than study business and earn your degree. You will learn to see the world differently. By bringing together people, cultures, and innovative ideas from around the world, Hult is dedicated to providing you with an educational experience that will transform your mindset and your career.