How to Use Chinese Professional Etiquette with Your Clients

With the Chinese New Year coming up, we wanted to highlight correct business etiquette when working alongside Chinese clients and counterparts. The ability to work with people from different countries and backgrounds is called cross-cultural communication. It’s a very coveted skill to have in the workplace! This type of communication skill will also help you when it comes to interpreting Chinese professional etiquette.

How to Use Chinese Professional Etiquette with Your Clients

In this article, we’ll be talking about correct Chinese business etiquette and culture. But we’d like to mention that on top of exhibiting culturally sensitive practices, learning the language of your clients and partners is important. Even if it’s just a few phrases, learning your client’s mother tongue through programs like Pimsleur can help establish trust and goodwill!

Now, here is a list of the best ways to use Chinese professional etiquette:

1. Know the Meaning of Colors and Numbers

In Western marketing, we know that color psychology becomes important when designing sales material. China views colors and numbers differently than Western people do, though. For instance, colors have more meaning in some parts of China, and some of those meanings can be negative. Your safest option in this situation is to stick with black-and-white printed materials to avoid miscommunication.

Additionally, numbers can even have specific meanings—some being good and others being disastrous. Chinese people consider 8 a particularly lucky number. On the other hand, many Chinese people avoid 4 because the Chinese pronunciation sounds a lot like the Mandarin word for “to die.” Do your research before deciding how to use numbers.

To design sleek materials that will appeal to Chinese businesspeople and clients, we recommend using the templates on Envato Elements.

2. Recognize Rank

Sometimes rank is subjective, and not everyone pays as much attention to it. But when doing business with Chinese clients, it’s critical to be respectful and observant of hierarchy. The reason is that a lot of Chinese professionals still practice respect for rank. So, don’t jump the gun and run ahead of anyone to enter the boardroom. Additionally, be aware of seating and make sure you don’t step on any toes by sitting at the wrong end of the table.

When sitting at a circular table, the person with the highest rank should sit opposite the door. Then, people arrange themselves according to rank, with the higher-ranking individuals closer to the highest-ranking one. The one with their back to the door is usually the host.

Not sure where to sit? Avoid offending your dinner partners by waiting to sit until everyone else is seated. The meal doesn’t usually begin until the highest-ranking guest starts eating, so wait for them to start before you dig in!

3. Don’t Use Certain Hand Gestures 

Some Westerners have been described as animated, and we are often characterized as having a lot of hand gestures in our conversations. This is where it gets important to do your research before meeting with clients that have a different culture. For a lot of Chinese professionals, pointing with one’s finger is considered very rude. If you aren’t careful, a simple gesture could turn into disrespect and a cracked professional relationship. So, find other ways with which you can get someone’s attention or point something out.

4. Don’t Bring Gifts

While for some of us bringing a gift or gesture of appreciation is a relationship builder, other cultures don’t see it that way. In this case, some of your Chinese clients could view gift-giving as a sort of bribe to win their business. Unfortunately, this could make someone suspicious of your intentions, which is not what you want when trying to build trust in one another!

And if you are presented with something, remember that it is customary and polite to refuse two times before eventually accepting. Once the person asks a third time, the other person gives their final answer. It’s not unwilling acceptance; it’s just a polite practice.

5. Correct Business Card Etiquette

Before you attend a meeting or networking event with Chinese professionals, print plenty of business cards from Minted beforehand. If you want to show more respect for your new clients, have them printed in both English and the language of the region from which your clients work (in this case, Chinese). When giving a card, use both hands. And when receiving, do the same. Then, take your time viewing the card. This is seen as giving an ample amount of appreciation for someone’s work.

In addition to mastering Chinese professional etiquette, it’s essential to leave a lasting impression on your clients with well-designed business cards. If you want to create your own business cards, VistaPrint helps. With a wide range of customizable templates and design elements, you can tailor your cards to match your unique brand identity. The user-friendly interface and intuitive tools make it easy to experiment with different layouts, fonts, and colors.

More Ways to Market to Chinese Clients

The world of business still expands. There are even more opportunities to connect with others. Now that you know the basics of Chinese professional etiquette, you can network and build solid working relationships without fear of offending people.

Looking for more ways to connect with people around the globe? Check out these tools to help with your Chinese New Year marketing strategy!

We hope you love the products we recommend! Just so you know, Talk District may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page.


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