Markets have succeeded in removing some barriers when commercialising products and services in a worldwide scope, but still there are some cultural factors that globalisation has not been able to solve. For that reason, nowadays big multinational companies are equipped with executives specialized in intercultural business in order to establish economic relationships with countries that have deeply rooted traditions.
That is the case of China, a strong economic power in the midst of an economic commotion that has become one of the most appreciated markets around the world. And, speaking of cultural factors, there is one example that demonstrates the great importance of “balance” in Chinese philosophy applied to business: the understanding that showing blunt disagreement is a taboo. That’s why the expression they use for these situations is “We agree and disagree at the same time”.
When digging into more specific questions, like non-verbal communication, we also find relevant differences. If you are thinking of expanding your business in the Chinese market, we aware you to consider the following particularities: cheap
- Avoid direct contact, specially hugs and kisses, which are only reserved to friends and family. In case it is inevitable, contact should be very short. Instead of hand shaking, even it may be more usual; the appropriate thing to do is a slight bow of head and shoulders.
- If you are invited to go someplace, you have to be very punctual and measured when talking and making gestures. Chinese culture appreciates silence very much, so listening to someone with attention and without interrupting is a sign of courtesy. In case of exchanging business cards you have to give yours with both hands.
- Try to keep always an upright posture, avoiding leaning on seat backs or tables. You must also be careful when moving, because turning your back on someone can be taken as lack of education.
- As we have commented before, Chinese people avoid at any cost to say “no”, that is, to say I disagree, bluntly. Instead of that, they make a gesture that consists in leaning their head back while inhaling air through their teeth.
- If invited to an event, you have to reject it at first time and finally accept it. At the event, nobody can drink until the host has risen his glass. In order to enjoy your beverage in a meal, you must offer to serve drink to some other commensal, and he will serve you back.
In relations with older people, you must show respect, avoiding intimidating gestures. It is also impolite to stare at someone. We should know a little bit of them before we start a business abroad.
“If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity”
John F. Kennedy