The Chinese self-confidence and individual identity appreciation are increasing in China. These notions are also becoming more noticeable in the business environment. If one has dealt with the Chinese cultural history and, even better, can speak a word or two in Chinese, it often flatters their Chinese business partners a great deal.
The meeting, the obligatory business lunch, as well as the workday, can be very unfamiliar in China, thus we are happy to advise you beforehand! Many things, especially small details, have to be carefully considered in China so that your business endeavors can stand under a good “Chinese star”.
The first meeting with the business partner
At a meeting with a Chinese business partner, there is a lot to keep in mind, and a foundation of trust must be built that will form the basis of the relationship. Do not bow down, as it is not common among business people in China; a handshake is considered appropriate as a standard greeting. As in France or Switzerland, no kisses or hugs will be exchanged in China. Small talk is the be-all and end-all. Ask about the children of the other person, talk about your own positive experiences or travels in China. The small talk then usually leads directly to the exchange of business cards. The procedure of the exchange is also different than the western countries. It is advisable to rehearse the Chinese way in advance to avoid embarrassment.
You have to be aware that in China, it can be quite common for employees to “burst” into sessions, leave the meeting or receive a phone call. This behavior is often considered as a testament to the importance of a person. The meetings can then seem, by our standards, very restless. The meetings can also be quite lengthy, and certain things such as the PowerPoint presentations may appear unusually long and unstructured for us. While people in Europe tend to work with visuals and keywords in PPTs, the Chinese prefer a lot of text.
Much in China is about the middle person (中介人 zhongjianrén), i.e. an agent, a mediator, or similar, who builds the bridge between you and someone. In China, this position should never be overruled, doing so may drastically affect the relations with the Chinese side in a negative way as the middle person often has a great deal of influence.
It is also important to find out who the decision maker is. It is common in a meeting that the person sitting in front of you has no authoritative powers. Your counterpart might just have the task of passing the meeting information to the upper levels within the company and a decision may not be made during the meeting or on the same day as you may expect. In situations as such, it is important to be patient and not to push, as in China, this behavior is not welcome.
These cultural and business points are crucial to know as they are fundamentally different from our norms. They may have make or break effects on certain business dealings. Therefore, we are happy to advise you on this essential topic and share our many years of experience.