Cultural do’s and don’ts in China

Building good personal relationships in China is critical to the success of any business venture. This begins with good communication. Be aware that normal channels of communication differ in China. For instance, with social media there is no Facebook, no Twitter and no YouTube. Western social media all have Chinese counterparts such as renren (Facebook), weibo and WeChat (twitter), YouKu (YouTube). To establish solid relationships, there is no substitute for visiting potential seafood company partners in China. If companies are vertically integrated visit the subsidiaries. When communicating, be mindful of the hierarchical nature of Chinese companies. Language barriers will invariably come into play. Having a trusted interpreter is very helpful; this takes the pressure off your Chinese host to translate the conversation. ‘Be patient’ is sage advice. Some specific do’s and don’ts:
  • It is customary to greet elders first, handshakes are the norm. When making introductions again introduce elders first, introduce by family and then given name.
  • When addressing someone in a formal situation, it is common use title and name.
  • When presenting and accepting business cards do so with both hands.
  • Leave business cards on the table in view during meetings.
  • In formal situations, business dress code should be conservative; in informal situations, business casual is acceptable.
  • Business cards are often exchanged after the initial introduction. Using both hands to give or receive the business card is a sign of respect.
  • Business and eating go together in China. Often there are lavish banquets, which often involve drinking. It is polite to leave a little food on your plate. Never stand your chopsticks upright in your rice bowl. When making a toast to your host, tap the table twice and stand. Often time a display of holding your empty glass is made with both hands.
  • Small gifts are most welcome, present them with both hands. Certain gifts are inappropriate such as scissors, knifes, clocks, the wrong color flowers or type of fruit can be inappropriate (best not to offer as gifts) and anything wrapped in black or white paper.
  • In general: be on time, remove shoes when entering a home, do not show the sole of your feet. Avoid red ink.