Hello SOTGC community,
In my last post, “How to Connect With Your International Business Partners Through Social Customs” I spoke about the two choices you have for western style powerful body language when travelling to other countries for business: 1) you can use the powerful body language and gestures that are expected in most western countries and risk alienating your business contacts, or 2) you can learn the basics of business etiquette and what is expected in the country you’re going to so you can give a better first impression.
As promised, today is the first post in a series where I’ll give you brief tips about doing business in cultures outside of the US.
In today’s post I’m focusing on business etiquette in China. I want to give you two important tips that can really help you give a positive first impression the next time you do business in China.
Loosen the grip of your handshake. In the US (and Australia), we’re taught that a firm handshake, with direct eye contact and a smile are critical components of establishing trust and confidence when you meet somebody for the first time. But from the perspective of a Chinese business person, you will not come across as confident and powerful as you hoped. Instead, you’ll probably come across as aggressive and overpowering. If you’re in China to sign a new client, you may want to re-think the style of handshake that you use. Opt for a gentler handshake. Loosen your grip just a little and don’t maintain eye contact for so long. In China, it’s not uncommon for people to shy away from eye contact during a handshake. It doesn’t mean they can’t be trusted, it’s simply a way for them to show respect to you.
Get used to less personal space. China is a crowded country where people often live in close proximity to one another. It’s only natural that they don’t require such a large amount of personal space as you do in the US. If you’re in conversation with somebody from China and you feel them edge toward you, hold your position and don’t give in to the temptation to move back. Every time you move back to regain your personal space, the other person will feel you’re too far away and they’ll move toward you. You move back, they move toward you. You move back, they move toward you again. And you can end up spending the whole conversation dancing around the room. Has this ever happened to you? Remember, you want the other person to feel they’ve connected with you and if this means they stand a couple of inches closer than what you’re used to, is it really that traumatic?
When doing business with other cultures, there’s a lot of adapting and learning about the other person’s expectations. If you’re the visitor, it shows courtesy and respect to adapt to the other person’s culture, not weakness. Learn how to be polite in the other person’s culture, and don’t fall into the trap of making one of the Top 5 Mistakes that People Make On International Business Trips.