Conducting business internationally can be great for making a name for your company or your brand, but it is important to note that when meeting international clients you should keep in mind some very important cultural differences. For instance, when conducting business with the Chinese, there are a number of important tips that you should remember especially when it comes to business cards.
Get the business card right
It is imperative that your business cards are bilingual. Even if the people you are meeting speak English, it is customary to have both languages on the card, one on each side. When preparing your business card you will need to consider the following points:
- Translate the business card professionally; and use the common Chinese title for your role
- Use simplified characters, not ‘traditional’ characters. Traditional characters are mainly used in Taiwan and Hong Kong. In Mainland China, it is simplified Chinese
- Choose the right font. There are lots of fonts in Chinese but try to use the most easy to read, and relevant to your business style
- It is a trend to have a Chinese name instead of a translated Chinese name. However, when you choose the Chinese name, make sure you check the meaning of each word, and the meaning as a whole. This not only will avoid mistakes but also can help others to remember your name. For example, one of my previous colleagues, Ian, choose a Chinese name ‘Ying Xiong’. It means hero but does not sound very professional
- Put your surname first on your Chinese business card. In China the family name always comes first
- Your title should be on the card, as it is highly regarded. If you work for a company that is either the largest or the most established in your country, you should also state that on the card
Handing out your business card
In China, when meeting clients or other businesspeople, it is vital that your business card is given to the person upon the first meeting
- To show your respect towards others, it is best you make the first move and introduce yourself first and give your business card to them
- You should always exchange your business cards while standing up, and with two hands, where that is practical
- Make sure the writing is facing the recipient to make them easier to read your business card when you handing it to them
- It is also important for you to present the Chinese side of the card on top when handing it over to the other person, and it should be clean of any smudges, rips, or folds
Taking a business card
- When you take someone else’s card, do not carelessly put it in your back pocket
- Never write anything on it, as this is deemed disrespectful
- It would be helpful if you study the business card when you take it, and comment on it. If you are not sure how to pronounce their name, this is the best time to ask
Other things you need to know
In China, especially in big cities, people who work in multinational company tend to choose an English name for themselves. Indeed, the individual may be better known by their English name or prefer others to call them by their English name. To avoid confusion, it may be best to use the name they introduce themselves by. If they are using their Chinese name, then address the Chinese Mr, Ms, Miss plus family name. Please note that in China married women still use their maiden name.
When meeting people from the Chinese government, state-owned company, school, authorities, they would prefer you to call them with their title or their profession, such as ‘Wang Bing, Manager’. People normally say something like ‘Manager Wang’ or ‘Li Wen, doctor’ then use ‘Doctor Li’.
While it may seem a bit formal and convoluted exchanging business cards in China, it is important to follow their culture and their ways of conducting business. Otherwise it could result in the whole business relationship being stifled.
You do not want to start off on the wrong foot, as first impressions in China always last. It is therefore imperative to keep all of the above tips in mind. It is always important to do a little research on the country you intend to do business with. This is particularly relevant when doing business with Chinese companies as you will need to consider the unique culture and understand the consumers, and their market. If you are ever unsure, your business should consult a professional marketing company for advice to ensure your transaction goes as smoothly as possible.