china culture business

Doing Business in China: What Every Individual Needs to Know

When companies decide to expand internationally, they often do so as rapidly as possible. Doing so can be a mistake. Each country has its own customs and traditions, and this extends to the business world. When doing business in china, people need to be aware of these customs and traditions to ensure they do not offend anyone.

The Chinese Business Mentality

The Chinese expect individuals to be well prepared for a business meeting. For this reason, individuals should bring multiple copies—no less than 20—of a proposal to a meeting, and all materials need to be in black and white. Any meeting begins with small talk, as this starts the process of building a strong relationship. This relationship is important to the Chinese, thus individuals working in the country need to ensure they work to establish a strong foundation.

When entering a room, the Chinese do so in a hierarchical manner and assume their business counterparts will do the same. For this reason, make certain the people in charge file in first. Fully study the Chinese business culture before engaging with individuals in the business world so no mistakes are made.

Communicating With The Chinese

business greeting in chinaWhen meeting for the first time, the guest should always allow the Chinese to determine the mode of greeting. Many individuals in the Chinese business world prefer to nod or bow, but some do shake hands. The Chinese must offer their hand first in this situation. In addition, formal titles should be used during these introductions.

Don’t simply show up at a business and expect to see someone. An appointment is needed before meeting anyone in the business world, and contacts are typically made before the trip to China occurs. When accepting a business card from an individual in China, never put the card in a wallet or write on it, as these actions may be considered offensive. Keep a card case on hand to save these cards. Finally, be aware the Chinese like to take their time when making business decisions and will often wait until a lucky day or check the stars before providing their decision.


Individuals should always wear conservative clothes when meeting with the Chinese. Bright colors are to be avoided, as they are deemed inappropriate. Subtle, neutral colors tend to be best. Denim jeans are acceptable for casual encounters, but should never be worn to a business meeting, and even casual clothing should be conservative when dealing with individuals in the china market. In addition, short-sleeved blouses and high heels are not encouraged for women. The Chinese prefer women remain covered and discourage displaying too much with their clothing.

Behavior And Manners

Certain behaviors common in other parts of the world should be avoided when doing business in China. Following are certain things that are considered unacceptable when working with the Chinese.

  • Men and women should not touch in public, as it is considered highly inappropriate for men to have personal contact with women in the open.
  • Take care when providing gifts. Government officials are not permitted to accept any presents, although the business world has become more accepting of gifts.
  • Any gift should be provided in public or to a whole group to ensure no person is embarrassed.
  • Avoid pointing when speaking and never use large hand motions. If there is a need to point something out, use the open palm as opposed to a finger.
  • Promptness is of great importance in the Chinese business culture, thus never arrive late for a meeting or dinner.
  • Business is not to be discussed at meals, and the host should always eat or drink first. Be aware that several courses may be served, and guests are expected to try each dish. Only sample each course for this reason. Furthermore, when a person eats all of the food they are provided, the Chinese consider this a sign the person is still hungry.
  • Be prepared for individuals to belch and slurp at meals. Both are considered acceptable behaviors in the country. The Chinese consider these to be signs the person is enjoying their meal.

Many companies look forward to doing business in china. This country offers a great deal of opportunity, but only when the chinese culture is understood. Don’t risk offending anyone. Take time to learn what is acceptable and what is to be avoided, as doing so will help a business go a long way in this country.

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