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Merging Culture and Etiquette in Business

Business with the Chinese can prove to be a rigorous task. This is because there is a certain manner of how Chinese businessmen go about their affairs. Building relationships is especially vital in order to make deals with one another. In this business culture, a deal is easier to close when a bond is first established, which is why many business deals with them happen over lunch or dinner with the two parties. This is crucial in forming a long-term business partner, and one must be able to determine whether the person being negotiated with is trustworthy and reliable as an associate.

In many cases, Chinese businessmen prefer to do business with other Chinese people, perhaps because they share the same roots and understanding of the same culture. It is clear why many people are eager to partner with them, as they are known to conduct business efficiently through their own approach, and have also contributed into building the foundation for China to become one of the world’s top economies. In this instance, it may naturally be difficult for foreigners to form a connection, though a grasp on their system should lead you in the right direction.

Never underestimate the power of a good first impression. It is how one will be perceived perhaps throughout the entire initial bonding phase. Etiquette and appearance play an important role, and should be dealt with care to start the relationship on a good note. Staying confident, not arrogant, is the key. Easy enough to say, but one wrong move and the bond more or less is already broken. Minds can be made up all in the span of a minute.

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Patience also goes a long way, and holding one’s temper could prove to be beneficial if the other party does not abuse it. As stated earlier, many deals with the Chinese happen over a heavy meal, possibly lunch or dinner. This is an easy way for them to take note of a person’s etiquette. It is also part of their culture to offer a lot of food, and refusing or turning down an offer may be seen as a sign of disrespect.

When conversing, stick to safe subjects such as the other party’s hometown, hobbies, and family. Should a subject be too personal, it is better to give polite, unspecified answers than to outright decline. Avoid talking about politics or controversial subjects, such as the Nanjing Massacre, as this can spark debates which stray away from good business especially if both parties have differing opinions. Small talk with colleagues, joking around, storytelling, and of course, discussing business topics, is usually how Chinese businessmen engage when settling arrangements. While usually separate in a Western perspective, one’s social life can be used to further business relations, especially since deals are made outside of working hours.

All this is done in due time. It is important to maintain a balance between a friendly encounter and a professional one. If a person expresses a nervous reaction or shows inappropriate emotions when a party is being completely serious, it could be seen as a sign of unprofessionalism, and ultimately, insulting. While establishing a relationship is important, never make it appear as unprofessional.

Many unstable business deals arise when you fail to set up a reliable relationship from the start. This is more often seen when foreigners transact with associates they are not so close to. Inevitably, this may result in unstable, short-term business deals. This partnership may take quite a while to develop, but it is essential and a huge deal for Chinese businessmen. They would not risk a faulty business deal with a person they do not trust.