These start promptly, so arrive early for the standard formal introductions. It is usual to be introduced to the most senior person at the meeting first, followed by the others, in descending order of seniority.
A handshake is the standard way of greeting. Note that the Chinese respect their elders, so an extra show of courtesy in the presence of an older person reflects well. It never hurts to know even a little Mandarin in advance. Simple phrases such as Ni hao (hello) and xiexie (pronounced ‘shee-eh shee-eh’ - thank you) can go a long way towards making a positive impression. Note that surnames are placed first, e.g. Mr. Zhang Li should therefore be addressed as ‘Mr. Zhang’
These are essential in China. As mentioned earlier, have these cards translated into Chinese on the reverse side. Present your card with both hands with the Chinese side face up. It’s a sign of respect to spend a few moments examining the business cards you receive. Don’t put the card into your pocket, or write on it.
●Dining with the Chinese
Never begin eating or drinking until your host does. It is considered good manners to try all the dishes offered to you, although you can discreetly leave anything you don’t like at the edge of your plate. Always set chopsticks down horizontally, never vertically, in a bowl. Dinner speeches and frequent toasts are standard, with locally produced wines or ‘baijiu’ spirit the usual drinks for toasts. It is customary for both sides to make toasts during the meal.
The Chinese generally like to give small, inexpensive gifts. It’s therefore a good idea to bring similar presents with a theme from your country. You can even wrap these up in colors such as red, yellow or gold, which are regarded as lucky in China. It is not customary for your hosts to open the gifts in front of you, unless you encourage them to do so.
Note: China is governed by very strict anti-corruption laws. To avoid misinterpretation of your intentions when giving a gift, ensure that your gifts are small and that their presentation cannot in any way be related to the specific conclusion of a business deal.
Chinese negotiators know that foreigners will be reluctant to travel home empty-handed. Be prepared for the possibility of extended discussions. Ensure that your interpretations of any business deal are consistent with theirs and that everyone understands their duties and obligations. In the case of delays or frustrations, remain patient and polite. The Chinese don’t like to ‘lose face’ so loss of temper will only set you back.
If you are beckoning to someone, motion towards you using your hand and palm pointed downwards – never palm up. Furthermore, don’t use your index finger or point when speaking.