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Etiquette tips for doing business in China

It's challenging to do business in a different country with different customs. This is especially true if you're doing business in China. Chinese people place a great deal of emphasis on etiquette and correct behavior, so if you want to close a big deal, you'll need to be aware of the nuances of Chinese business culture. Here are a few dos and don'ts for your next business trip to China.

1. Take your appearance seriously.

Appearance is important in the Chinese business world, so make sure you look professional. Choose high-quality, well-fitting clothes. Don't take any fashion risks while you're in China - you'll win more approval if you present yourself in a traditional, modest way.

2. Exchange business cards correctly.

When you give someone your business card, use both hands. Likewise, when someone else hands you their card, take it with both hands. Don't put the card away immediately - study it for a moment first, even if you can't read it. Then put it away in a business card holder.  It's considered rude to put a business card into your pocket.

Prepare before your trip by having some of your business cards printed in both English and Mandarin. English should be on one side, Mandarin on the other. When you give someone your card, present it with the Mandarin side up. 

3. Be patient and polite.

Chinese businesspeople usually prefer to get to know someone a little before closing a deal with them. Don't expect any contracts to be signed after your first meeting, or even your second. The purpose of these meetings is for both parties to get to know each other, so try to relax and make a good impression. Don't force the conversation towards business, and don't rush the people you're meeting with to make a decision.

Be aware that you will probably be invited to a dinner or two during your visit. It's very important that you try at least a bite of every dish - refusing to try something is considered rude. It's a good idea to learn how to use chopsticks before your visit.

4. Understand the concept of "face."

"Face" can be a challenging idea for Westerners to grasp. It can be loosely understood as a person's honor, prestige, or reputation. During your trip, don't do anything that might cause you to lose face. Making jokes at your own expense might work in an American boardroom, but in China, it's a faux pas. Present yourself in a calm, competent, and professional manner at all times. In addition, it's polite to give face to the Chinese businesspeople you meet by treating them with great respect. 

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