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iHipo CareerBuzz

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iHipo: Business Etiquette Part 1 - China


No matter if you are working abroad or only planning a short term internship in a foreign country - in a globalized society we have to embrace our differences. That also means learning what is polite in other countries and what might offend your colleague, business partner or worse - your boss.

Five rules for China:

Rule #1: Be as polite as possible
Harmony plays a very important role in the Chinese business environment. While being human and admitting to failure might be common in European leadership, your Chinese colleague might need to keep face in front of the team. It is important to respect that in order to move forward even if projects get delayed or business deals burst. Be always punctual to meetings, since reliability is very important in the Chinese culture.

Rule #2: A great guest makes a great business partner
If you have been invited to dinner by your superior or colleague you should be honored. Since eating together is such a big part of Chinese culture you should consider yourself lucky. Be punctual and bring the right gift. Flowers are usually brought to funerals so stay away from them.

Rule #3: Discuss but stay away from critical topics
Political discussions are still considered a "taboo" in China. Human rights, the Cultural Revolution and Digital Censorship - those important topics should be handled with care. During meetings you might experience longer silences than you are used to. Do not interrupt, it does not necessary mean your negotiations are not going in the right direction.

Rule #4: More than just a title
In China it is relatively common to use professional titles in everyday situations. If you are dealing with a high profile executive you might address them with "Director Ying Hong" instead of only "Ying Hong". While Mark Zuckerberg is sitting with his staff in one room, hierarchy is still appreciated in China.

Rule #5: Know the local differences
China is a big country. Before going on a business trip or starting a new job you should research local differences in behavior and work etiquette. Also make sure to translate your material in the right language. While Mandarin is the official language in Mainland China, in Hong Kong and Macau it is Cantonese.

If you ever wondered how other people are holding up negotiating in China, read this funny article by Management Consultant Scott Margolis. In our next episode we will cover the US and find out what to be aware of when dealing with real cowboys.…

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