Global businesses are still trying to get a foothold in China, however challenges remain for those looking to do business abroad. Intense competition, business etiquette and language are some of the barriers that can be faced. Here are some things to keep in mind when traveling to China.
Never argue or voice a difference of opinion with anyone—even a member of your own team. Never make the other person wrong. Never say “no” directly, as that is considered rude and arrogant. Full-time MIM student Bin Hao thinks, “Actually it isn’t always never. For example, if I was listening to a lecture in high school and the teacher said something incorrect, I wouldn’t raise my hand and correct him in front of the whole class. I would hide my opinion and just talk about it with my classmates later.”
Resist the temptation to jump in if your Chinese counterpart remains silent. Silence is the true friend that never betrays. Full-time MIM student Qijun Fang agrees with this statement and added, “This is true. Remaining silent can represent many things. However, for questions like: Are you feeling ok? Did I do something wrong? It is not necessary to stay silent, and answer would be helpful.”
Make an effort to speak a little bit of Chinese.“Really important! If you speak some Chinese, people will feel you are showing respect. I don’t know whether it is the same in other countries, but in China, if you speak Chinese, people will soon treat you like a friend. It is a very good skill for foreigners to have when talking to Chinese” said Fang.
The Importance of “Face”
The concept of ‘face’ roughly translates as ‘honour’, ‘good reputation’ or ‘respect’. There are four types of ‘face:
1) Diu-mian-zi: this is when one’s actions or deeds have been exposed to people.
2) Gei-mian-zi: involves the giving of face to others through showing respect.
3) Liu-mian-zi: this is developed by avoiding mistakes and showing wisdom in action.
4) Jiang-mian-zi: this is when face is increased through others, i.e. someone complementing you to an associate.
It is critical you avoid losing face or causing the loss of face at all times.
“Most of time, people think Chinese people are shy talk in front of lots of people, but it is because they are afraid that they might say something wrong and lose face” said Hao.
Handshakes are the most common form of greeting with foreigners.“True, sometimes foreigners are quick to give hugs, but many older Chinese people do not like to have that much of their body touched with new acquaintances” said Fang.
Many Chinese will look towards the ground when greeting someone. “We tend not to look directly at the eyes, but we would not look towards the ground, that is impolite. Chinese culture puts emphasis on being polite” said Hao.
“Unlike western culture, looking directly into someone’s eyes could be considered a sign of enmity or a tease. However it is not a strict rule, people will make eye contact when greeting someone” said Fang.
When eating learn to use chopsticks. “That is fine, but people use forks and spoons a lot” said Fang.
Susan Forrester is a full-time student in the Masters in International Management program. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Portland State University. After living in Seoul, South Korea for two years she was interested in finding a career that linked Oregon and Asia together through trade. Susan enjoys the diverse background of the MIM student body that allows her to frequently practice her beginner level Chinese.