10 Ways to Make the Most of Your China Business Trip
The business environment in China is a very personal affair. Meetings in person are preferred over email or phone conversations. It is essential to be able to communicate or laugh with your Chinese colleagues and to eat with them prior to dealing with them. Naturally, anyone who has business interests in China is asked to attend more meetings. There will be restaurants, bars with karaoke and golf courses along with your customers and suppliers, typically after a long day of touring or factory trips. Whatever is discussed during formal discussions and contract negotiations, it’s on these notorious business trips where decisions are taken. Therefore, you’d do your best to take advantage of the invitation. Below are ten tips you can take on these visits to create a positive impression of your company and you, and, more important is to help you look through the giddy smiles and know what’s in the package for you.
1. Learn to drink.
Drinking is a fundamental part of Chinese eating manners. Regular toasts are a way of showing thanks and appreciation to the hosts as well as other guests, and they will reciprocate. The most common drinks are beer and robust Chinese rice wines, though red wine is becoming increasingly sought-after. If you are invited to toast, you must keep attention to your Chinese friends and observe their actions. The more critical toasts require a glass empty typically preceded with shouts of gambier”ganbei!” which literally translates to “dry glass!”. The practice of drinking only a few beverages at such a time is not a good idea. As food items are served and more toasts are required, and it is well to prevent your drink from being too alcoholic by taking a drink only when toasts are asked for or taking smaller amounts of alcohol when it’s not necessary to drink your glass empty. You’ll soon realize that the notion that Chinese drinkers are light-headed isn’t always the case. Being (somewhat) drunk can be seen as a way to build confidence for business in the future.
If you’re a man, it is assumed to smoke. But the Chinese person who offers you smoke isn’t as simply saying “have a smoke” as they are extending their warm welcome and hospitality to you and performing what they are expected to do as hosts. It’s probably beneficial to accept at least one time, even if you smoke a few puffs, and then discard the item after a few minutes. Smoking marijuana in China is not a part of the negative and unhealthy image that it is in areas of Europe as well as the US. Instead, it is seen as an opportunity for men to be level and bond over something that they both like doing. It is important to note that women are not allowed to smoke.
If you are absolutely sure that you would not want to smoke and drink or take either of them due to medical reasons, you are able to always justify and deny. However, this won’t be received by the same degree of understanding like it is everywhere else. Make sure to have your case prepared.
2. Come bearing gifts
Presenting gifts is an excellent method of getting started to a great start in China. If you’re invited to a home of a loved one, It is absolutely essential that you bring a present; however, even for meetings and in business, it’s an excellent idea to determine who the decision-makers are and give them something lovely. Presenting gifts can be an effective method to show your appreciation for your efforts and keep your company and you on the right track following a successful transaction. Don’t misunderstand every gift as corruption. While it’s definitely true that there’s plenty of corruption in China, but it is a way of life in which giving gifts is a critical element of recognizing status and respect for other people. In the period between the 17th and 18th centuries, in a bid to establish trade relations in the region with China, Western nations sent ships filled with gifts to rulers. Visitors to any wedding have to sign in at the entry point with a hong bao, an envelope of red that contains an amount that is set.
Gifts that are appropriate for what the event is. However, it’s always beneficial to choose something that is from your country because it will always attract the recipient and make the presentation stand out. Cigars or spirits from abroad are excellent gifts for business, while standard tourist gear from your home country is a good choice in many other scenarios, such as Swiss chocolate or even a miniature Kangaroo. If you have to purchase gifts in China, Fruit is an excellent option. Be careful when buying flowers because there are unacceptably shades (white) and kinds (chrysanthemum).
3. Slowly and clearly.
It isn’t easy to understand English spoken by native Chinese speakers. Don’t expect them to comprehend you more clearly. If your guests aren’t proficient English people, you can make an effort to be at their level. This is a fundamental matter, as although you might be mistaken, you’ll never know. It isn’t exactly in line with Chinese customs to interrupt you halfway through your conversation and ask, “sorry, could you repeat that please?”. Instead, you’re more likely to observe your friend nodding his head and then moving on to another topic. It is possible to feel that you are acknowledged, but in reality, you were not. It is imperative for native English people to be able to recall this exceptionally well and avoid using slang, strong accents from the region, or speaking too quickly. Do not use excessive characters of speech because they aren’t very effective in translating. Try to reduce the volume of your voice since you will not be told that you’re not understood, and that defeats the whole reason for your visit.
4. Make sure you follow up on each business card
While this is an excellent idea everywhere, business cards are prevalent in China. Everyone has them, and you’re likely to swap cards and even names to complete the transaction. Due to the high volume of business cards, it’s essential to ensure that your card will not end up in an enormous pile along with other cards. After a couple of hours of having exchanged cards with someone, send an email to them, or give them a phone call telling them you enjoyed the meeting and hope to work with them on a business with them in the near future. Your card will be moved from the pile of random cards to the more compact, friendly people and possible business interests pile. This is a great spot to be in.
5. Learn a few phrases in Chinese… however, they are not the usual ones!
Sure, your acquaintances are likely to pretend to be delighted by your ni hao’s and Xie Xie’s, but it’s not really an accomplishment. If you’re fluent in Chinese is a great and beneficial asset. If you can’t, however, it might be a good idea to just learn a couple of Chinese conversation-starters, such as the names of everyday dishes or a famous quote or two. If the rice wine is out, your guests will be awestruck when you ask them if mao Tai (a well-known red wine) is actually that comes from GUI zhou (a provincial area)? Tell them that you’re excited to taste the Jiao Zi (dumplings) since you’ve known they were a popular local dish. Ask your guests to provide you with an appropriate Chinese name If you don’t yet have one.
6. Don’t be concerned about making a mistake.
To be able to understand every Chinese custom or etiquette rule is practically requiring that you be Chinese yourself. It’s not required. Follow the example of your friends; however, should you get caught doing something which is considered to be a crime in Chinese Chinese, you’ll probably not even be aware of it. As a non-Chinese, you do not have to be able to comprehend all aspects that are part of Chinese cultural practices (in fact, even if you did it, you wouldn’t be accepted as a Chinese) So, you’re excused from making errors that are inevitable. Do not think about them in the least. Many foreign businessmen are convinced that Chinese manners must be adhered to that they are bored and nervous, making the biggest mistake of all: not having fun. If you’re relaxed and have fun and have fun, your Chinese colleagues will be happy as well. In the end, they’re striving to be impressive and to be welcoming to you. Have fun, but remain focused. It’s more work to build trust and relationships than a leisurely meal or excursion.
7. Do not make a scene.
Be clear on what you are looking for and remain focused and persistent in your negotiations, but you must be sure to keep an open-minded mind in regards to the Chinese method of conducting business. There will be lots of wasted time, and the process will appear chaotic. Schedules and estimates will go off the table because vehicles are late and papers need to be checked, and the plan was not enough in the beginning. After a long day of drinking and dining out and visits to factories that look similar, you could lose patience and start to think about when you will be able to start working. Do not let it affect you. Making things happen in China is an endurance test. Insistency isn’t an excellent way to show your dedication. Accept the Chinese mindset when you negotiate; however, keep your personal goals in your mind. It is possible to accept the fact that there will be delays when you reach an agreement. However, that agreement should be based on your inability to take on delays in the deliveries of products or in payment.
8. Dress code for business
It might appear like a minor problem; however, do not let the weather or familiarity with your Chinese friends tempt you to change your mind. Be sure to wear business attire all the time. The best thing to do is take off your jacket when it gets too hot. The whole trip might appear as if it was a school excursion to you when your business colleagues seem to focus solely on food and drink and taking pictures with their cameras as they take in the sights, but you have to ask yourself why they’re uniformly dressed in suits. While the overall notion is to unwind and relax but if you’re professionally dressed, you will be prepared for whatever you get the chance.
9. I agree with you.
Many tourists to China can’t resist. They are required to inquire questions about controversial issues from the past or in the Chinese version of the events. Particularly after you begin to feel at ease and maybe have enjoyed a couple of drinks and a few drinks, it could be tempting to discuss things like Mao Zedong or a specific incident that took place in a particular place in 1989. Although it may seem subtle, this is generally not a wise choice. If you decide to visit, keep in mind that the Chinese possess their very own interpretation of the past and know that it is essential to be able to live with it and move forward. There are a few Chinese who are convinced that the path they have chosen to follow has been flawless. However, there are fewer who would publicly criticize it. This isn’t because they’re not permitted to, but because they don’t wish to. There’s nothing to gain from them. Instead of focusing on history, how about we think upon the future? You’ll find that to be a topic the Chinese are more willing to discuss in a public forum.
10. Make your decision at your home
Naturally, any goodwill eventually leads to some kind of result. It’s unjust to the Chinese to assume that they’re just trying to lure you into an impression of security and trust in order to take complete advantage of you. However, there’s a particular element which tries at making you feel guilty and then sweeten your deal’. Do not do this. Make sure you keep your own financial position in your mind and consider what your friends have to tell you, but don’t sign to anything that you regret once you get on your plane to your home. Your prospective suppliers and clients are likely to try to force you into signing a contract or agreement before your return. However, it is generally advisable to stay off the boat for a while. When you are faced with all the good things and perks, it’s challenging to stand firm and adhere to your requirements. So, come up with an excuse, and then tell your companions that you are unable to accept anything without discussing matters with your colleagues at home. Consider your options carefully about your options, and then make a decision. Your choice is better placed to serve the best interest of your business than if you make a hasty decision on Chinese land. Do not let the Chinese make threats to you about competitors, as if you’re in the right place and the partnership is designed to last, they’ll be as eager to make it work as you would. You will be impressed; however, you must keep the matter to yourself.
Querijn Chorus works in market and consumer research at CNMI China Market Intelligence, which is a European company based in Shanghai that provides research services to businesses of any size and with any investment, interest, or even a dream of China.