Importance of Body Language
When doing business in China, your movements are things you have to be constantly conscious of.
Body posture should always be formal and attentive as it demonstrates self-control and respectfulness.
As well, be careful about what you do with your hands – practices like putting your hands into your mouth, removing food from your teeth or biting your nails are considered rude.
Even if handshakes are common, it is better to wait for your Chinese correspondent to initiate the action.
About titles of courtesy, most people should be addressed with a title followed by their last name.
In western countries, time is really important for meetings, you don’t have to be late (obviously) but also not too early because it would be badly seen, particularly if it’s in someone’s home. On the other hand, in China, they are used to not agreeing on a specific time and will way “Call me when you arrive”.
Now, Chinese are using more time to take business decisions because their prior is to build up relationships. Don’t be surprised if even after the deal is signed they continue to negotiate/change some terms.
It will be appreciated by Chinese people if you use a some Chinese words, but be careful you know the meaning and the appropriate occasions.
In China, the questions “Have you eaten?” or “Where have you been?” are witticism equivalent to “How are you?” in English-culture. Thus, don’t take it literally and start getting into details when you answer! You just have to answer “yes” – or simply smile and say “thank you!”.
Famous welcome topics are themes about China, for example: art, scenery, landmarks, climate, and geography.
You can talk about your travelling experiences to other countries including your positive impressions as a tourist in China!
It is better to avoid political-related topics, such as the Cultural Revolution or Chairman Mao, the “Tibet” and “Taiwan” questions, human rights, animal treatment.
Chinese people don’t like strong negative statements. Equally, negative answers are seen as impolite, so you must find alternatives like : “I’ll think about it”/”maybe”/”we’ll see” instead of a dull “no”.
Similarly, if your Chinese correspondent says “Not a big issue” or “The problem is not serious”, it means that there are still problems or that there are serious.
This is really important to know that Chinese can communicate indirectly and tend to be shy.
Chinese people have a polite education so you have to insist to offer them some drinks or food because they will start saying no. Then, after multiple propositions they will accept the offer.
In China, gifts are part of everyday life. The Chinese exchange gifts on various occasions and rarely arrive at others houses empty-handed. The red packets (money in a red envelope) are regularly distributed on various occasions: birthdays, graduation, funerals, weddings, in the new year.
This contrasts a lot with western culture, in which offering money as a gift is generally considered an insult.
Want to impress your Chinese business contacts?
Bring them something from your country, something small like chocolates or local products that are unique and unavailable in China.
It is no longer a surprise that China is one of the biggest trading markets in the world, so these tips are definitely useful for when dealing with Chinese customers or suppliers.
Reputation: Mian Zi (face)
This is a really important thing in China, it invokes social reputation and prestige.
Being embarrassed is nothing compared to lose face. Here’s an example: If you compliment a Chinese CEO and/or its company in a meeting, it will “earn face”. Then, if you accept his invitation to a fancy banquet, the CEO and you will gain face. If you refuse his invitation, he will lose it.
Another example: A Chinese could buy an iPhone at an exorbitant price even if the price exceeds his monthly salary, simply to take face.