Chinese Culture and Traditions: How They Affect Your Business in China?
It goes without saying how potential the Chinese market is to foreign businesses around the world. As China is a difficult market to navigate, especially for newcomers, entering it with a basic awareness of Chinese culture and business etiquette may make business relationships go more easily.
In this post, let’s discuss some major cultural concepts of the Chinese in business and learn how these customs affect your business in this market.
#1. Family Comes First
In Chinese culture, the adage “family is life” is true. Family plays an essential role in Chinese culture. In fact, the family is so essential that it serves as the foundation of Chinese civilization.
Several Confucian ideas revolve around family. Three out of the five crucial connections, for instance, are between fathers and their children, between husbands and wives, and between elder and younger siblings.
Understanding this lovely Chinese culture, several businesses use family as their key theme for advertising in this market and have had considerable success. Coca-Cola, for example, published an advertisement that told the story of three young people living in China during the Covid-19 outbreak, expressing how the scenario “inspired a shift in perspective of what actually counts — family, friends, connection, and love.” (Bassam Qureshi, head of IMX at Coca Cola)
An image from Coca-Cola’s CNY Confessions Campaign
#2. Get Familiar with Guanxi
In Chinese culture, Guanxi incorporates elements of the face, obligation, reciprocity, and hierarchy. Simply put, it is a web of relationships that are expected to bring mutual benefit. A guanxi network is made up of people on whom one may rely and who can pull strings and arrange for extra assistance. These people are usually your relatives, classmates or coworkers.
In China, relationships with strangers are frequently marked by distrust and suspicion. Involving an intermediary in the process is the most efficient strategy to grow your relationships in China. Your business associate should be trusted by your potential business partners for it to work.
This associate will assist you in obtaining speedier acceptance by your potential business partners, obtaining better information on them, and avoiding a blunder with local traditions.
#3. Pay Attention to Greetings and Titles
The usage of particular Chinese terms will impress your business partners when you meet them for the first time. Light and long-lasting handshake is usually initiated by your Chinese business partners or clients. It is normal to lower one’s gaze, and physical closeness should be avoided. Nodding and smiling are other popular ways to welcome someone.
In terms of titles, it is best to address your business partners by their professional title and name. If a person does not have a professional title, use “Mr.,” “Madame,” or “Miss” followed by their name. It is worth noting that the surname is usually used first in Chinese culture.
#4. Don’t Forget Business Cards
When you meet a new Chinese business partner, it is rigorous etiquette to exchange business cards. Both Chinese and English must be printed on the card.
In Chinese culture, you are expected to present your business card with both hands, and make sure the side printed in Chinese is towards your partners. This is also applied when you receive your Chinese partners’ cards. Do it with both hands, read it attentively, and put it away gently. Plus, do not write on the card when your business partner is around.
#5. Know the Meeting Etiquette
Business meetings in Chinese culture are sometimes lengthy, and multiple meetings will be required to create a long-term business relationship. To avoid the language barrier, it is recommended that you use Chinese interpretation services. Exchanging pleasantries is typical during discussions to break the ice.
The majority of the time, the Chinese communicate in an indirect manner. Disagreement will not be communicated clearly by saying ‘No’. Phrases like ‘Yes, although it could be tough’ and ‘Yes, most likely’ are preferable.
It is typical to hire an intermediary who can lessen the impact while delivering terrible news while maintaining a good connection. Silence is an essential component of introspection and should not be disturbed. It is very advised not to interrupt the speaker.
#6. Saving Face is Important
In Chinese culture, face is related to honour, dignity, and a strong feeling of self-worth. Causing someone to lose face, even if it was unintended, may have major consequences for a relationship. Sometimes, when one member of a group loses face, the entire group feel like they also lose their face.
Rank and hierarchy in China are more essential than in most Western nations. If you send someone of lower-ranking to welcome a high-ranking Chinese business partner, your partner will feel offended. Similarly, putting someone of high status in an unsuitable seat at a banquet, when attendees are placed according to rank, may harm that person’s sense of respect and dignity.
#7. The Chinese Zodiac is Highly Regarded
The Chinese Zodiac, a 12-year astrological cycle in which each year in an ever-repeating rotation is allocated a zodiac animal, is an essential part of the Chinese culture. The attributes of the zodiac animal connected with the year of birth are said to impact an individual’s personality as well as significant events that occur in a person’s life. It is somewhat like a spiritual identity card of an individual.
Many Chinese people base their relationships on the zodiac. Some people, for example, prefer friends or business partners who have a compatible zodiac sign to them to avoid conflicts and bad luck.
To achieve success in the Chinese market, it is highly recommended that you clearly understand Chinese culture and seek extra help from Chinese language and culture experts.
If you are looking for professional assistance in the Chinese market, talk to GTE Localize’s localization team.
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