It's easy enough to get a passport and a visa for a business trip to China (even a last-minute rush passport for an important business meeting). But how do you go about doing business when in the country? China has a very different business culture to the United States, and you don't want to ruin a business opportunity by making a gaff. Here are 10 tips for good business etiquette on a trip to China.
1. Dress Conservatively
How you dress is very important in China. For men that means dressing formally during meetings and also at less-formal events. For women it means avoiding anything that is too revealing, and steering clear of high heels. Conservative is the best option, and try not to wear anything too loud.
2. Choose Gifts Carefully
The giving of gifts is an important part of the business process in China. Make sure you take a gift to present to your host, but be careful what you give: some items, such as clocks and handkerchiefs, are associated with death. A good option is a gift that represents your home region.
3. Be Punctual
Punctuality is hugely important to the Chinese, and is seen as a sign of respect. Arrive on time or earlier if possible to any engagements.
4. Limit your Gestures
Do not use too many hand gestures during meetings as this is off-putting to the Chinese. Physical contact should essentially be avoided most of the time, especially between men and women.
5. Don't Finish your Meal
When you go for a meal with your business associates, make sure that you leave a bit on your plate at the end rather than trying to finish everything. If you finish your meal your host will think that you are still hungry.
6. Be Careful with Tipping
Although tipping is very common in the United States, it is sometimes considered an insult in China. Be very careful who you tip and always ask if you are in doubt.
7. Follow your Host when Shaking Hands
Handshaking is not the normal greeting in China, and often a simple nod is the preferred gesture. However, many Chinese will now offer their hands to Westerners. The best advice is to wait until your host offers their hand first.
8. Follow Business Card Procedure
Carry a case for business cards, and don't write on one or put it straight into your pocket. Upon receiving a business card, read it carefully as a sign of respect.
9. Address your Host Correctly
A Chinese host is normally called by their family name, which comes first when written down. The best thing to do is find out in advance how they like to be addressed and stick to that. Also, don't expect them to call you by your first name: formality is a sign of respect.
10. Keep your Cool
Above all, never let your emotions get the better of you. Try not to allow yourself to get angry or frustrated as it is seen as important to stay in control at all times.
Get a Passport and Chinese Visa for your Trip
Now you know a bit more about doing business in China, all you have to do is sort out your passport and chinese visa for your trip.