China Ready Advice for Delegations

There are long lists of social guidelines that one should follow when welcoming Chinese delegations or technical visits. Below you will find listed the most important things to be aware of when entering a cooperation with a Chinese company or delegation.

Greet your guests in order of rank, starting with the head of the delegation. In many instances, a delegation assistant will introduce the members of the group. Exchanging business cards is an art in China. First, present and receive all cards with both hands. Take your time and carefully study each card – this gesture shows respect as well as establishing whom the highest ranking among your group of guests is.

When presenting your business card, ensure that your card is facing your guests, allowing them to read it straight away- and with the Chinese side up if you have a Chinese translation of your card.

Do not fold or write anything on your guest’s business cards. Keep the received cards on the table or put them away carefully. Do not treat the card carelessly, i.e. by placing them in your back pocket.

Address your delegates by their formal title or by family name, for instance Chairman Liu or Mr. Wang. Never address Chinese guests by their first name.

When dining, do not talk business before the end of the meal. The key point of the dinner is - from their perspective - to become acquainted and establish a personal relationship with you that will lead to long-lasting business relations.

At a business dinner, your guests should be seated according to rank, starting with the highest ranking of each party seated in the middle, facing the door. The rest of the group is also placed according to rank, ending with the lowest ranking nearest the door or entrance. This rule applies to a traditional Chinese dinner at a large round table, but the rule can be hard to apply to Western restaurants with long square tables. Attempt to pick the best seats for the heads of each party and do not place an assistant or lower ranking member of your team next to the head of the Chinese delegation.

When dining or at a meeting, wait for your Chinese guests to be seated before members of your own team sit down at the table.

Make sure that the head of your team matches theirs in terms of rank. Their CEO visiting your CEO, their Vice President visiting your Vice President etc. It is highly frowned upon for a high-ranking Chinese representative to meet with a lower-ranking representative.

Allow time for group photos. Many delegations are required to present documentation for meetings upon their return to China.

In Scandinavia, many meetings can continue despite the fact that lunch is served. In China however, lunch can be the main part of a visit and can be quite time consuming and lavish with the serving of numerous hot dishes as well as alcohol. Although many Chinese are becoming aware of the differences between Western and Chinese (business) culture, a sandwich in a meeting replacing a full lunch is still a cultural shock for many.

Make sure that there is hot water or tea at meetings in the colder months. Many Chinese are not comfortable with drinking cold water and believe that it is not healthy.

We welcome tips and insights from you. If you have ideas or other useful tips that we have not included above, please contact Philip Kyhl at pwk@woco.dk 

 

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