Chinese Business Etiquette and Protocol (Part II of II)
One similar thing between Catalan/Spanish and Chinese managers doing business is that both like to have long business dinners to enforce the relations. In my experience I know that in America or Germany is not so common to have dinners and mix pleasure and business. Anyway in western countries people talk about business during meals and social events without problem. In most occasions that is not possible in China so one must be carefully to mix business during meals. In Chinese meetings and dinners people sit to their seats depending the rank order; senior people generally sit opposite senior people from the other side. There is a strict protocol during business meals and is important to know about it in order to gain trust and enlarge relationship. During meals alcohol is an important component and many times I faced a lot of heavy drinking and more heavy hangovers the morning after (one advice: try not to drink to many Chinese Baijiu because literally kills your brains). Luckily this habit is changing really fast but still there is a lot of alcohol involved in dinners.
Concerning about meetings in China one very different aspect is that in China people should arrive at meetings on time or even a little early (like in German). Arriving late is an insult and could negatively affect the relationship but specially Spanish people do not take punctuality very seriously and is not a problem to arrive a little late. Besides in China is necessary to make the appointment more than one month in advance, instead Spanish people is not very formal on that and usually meetings are arranged in days or even hours in advance.
Chinese people try to avoid confrontation. They will not overtly say ‘no’, they will say ‘they will think about it’ or ‘they will see’ or directly they will say ‘Yes’. That contrast with western behavior which is very direct and people expect always to be clear and straight. Again is a metter of losing ‘face’. Also to achieve agreement may take a long time as Chinese require careful review and consideration.
Finally I want to explain about business name cards. In western countries people do not take into consideration business cards; it’s only a piece of information and that’s all. In China, instead, business name cards are very important and people should hold the card in both hands when offering it and the receiver must examine the business card in attention before putting it on the table. Otherwise is to be really rude and disrespect your interlocutor.
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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