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5 tips to survive your first Chinese dinner

By Jesus David Cano Romano
August 19, 2016
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In the West, it is quite common to wine and dine a client over a business dinner. Some of the biggest deals are often made in this way. But in China, certain cultural differences and etiquette could be holding you back from scoring that partnership. Here are our top 5 tips on how to survive your first Chinese business dinner:

Bring bilingual business cards – you’ll need them more than you think. In China the concept of Guanxi is very important. Guanxi is the system of social networks and influential relationships which facilitate business and other dealings, so here in China people take networking very seriously and exchange business cards with almost everyone. It is important to note that business cards should be double-sided with both Chinese and English translations. Cards should be exchanged Chinese side up and with two hands as a sign of respect.

Gift giving is more common in China than in the west. It is appropriate after signing a deal or making a big business decision. Common gifts are baijiu, red wine and superior brand cigarettes. However, it’s good to note that if your fellow diners have not bought a gift, then give it to the host in private in order to avoid embarrassing them.

Let your host take the lead. This goes for anything from dress formality to the topic of conversation. For example, if your host is wearing a suit you should be wearing a suit. If your host is not discussing business, don’t bring the topic up first.

Wait to be seated. In China, guests are seated according to status. Typically, the host sits facing the door, or on the East side of the room and the higher status guests sit nearest to him.

Toast in the correct way. When toasting someone personally it is proper form to stand up, face them and clink your glass lower than the tip of theirs in order to show a sign of respect. It’s also courteous to return a toast to someone if they make a personal toast to you.

Now that you’ve read our top tips to survive your first Chinese business dinner, check out our website for more advice about how we can help your business become a success in China!