Chinese Business Etiquette and Protocol (Part I of II)
One of the main problems for western firms doing business in China is to deal with cultural differences and business manners which are really different. Of course world is changing really fast and companies became global which allow relations to became way easier. First at all I would like to say that I have been living and working in China for more than four years and still today I found very difficult to deal with inter-cultural differences between Chinese and western culture.
The first problem that I found in China doing business is that Chinese don’t like doing business with companies they don’t know. You need to work out the relation and a good advice is using trusted local intermediaries that can be really helpful. On the other hand, in western countries especially from north Europe and America it’s a lot easier to establish business relations among companies from the very first time. Southern Europe companies prefer to know the people before doing business but not as much as in China. One anecdote that happened to me in China was when we contact for the first time with one of our most important providers. The CEO of this Chinese company made believe us that he was a common engineer and it was not after we started to do business together that he told us that in fact, he was the CEO of the company. He pretended to be a common technician because he wanted to know our company from the inside and make sure we were a trustful partner, really interesting.
Business relationships are built formally after the Chinese get to know you. That means that one must be very patient and it takes a considerable amount of time to make business. That really contrasts with Southern Europe impatient mentally. Another culture difference that I suffer is that position rank is extremely important in business relationships and you must keep rank differences in mind when communicating. I was the responsible of our representative office in China and my boss was in Spain. In order to deal with important decisions my boss gave me full responsibility but I found a lot of opposition among Chinese companies that they did not want to deal with me and they wanted to deal with my boss directly. Moreover they never will tell you directly about that because Chinese people does not want to lose face so it takes me long time to realize what was really going on.
Catalan people are very serious doing business but relations between colleagues are informal. Companies treat everybody equal and it’s pretty common to laugh and make jokes. In opposition in China you must realize the fact that communication is very official, especially in dealing with someone of higher rank. In China is not possible to treat them too informally and that can lead to ruin a potential deal.
In following days we will publish second part of article. Meanwhile in case you have any question or want to make any observation about differences in business protocol please do not hesitate to make a comment bellow. Thanks!
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