As the fastest growing economy in the world, China is increasingly becoming an attractive place to do business. But Eastern etiquette is very different from that in the West, and getting it right can mean the difference between success and failure.
To make sure passengers travelling on its new Shanghai route get it right, travel expert British Airways is offering practical advice in the form of a guide to Chinese etiquette designed to pass on simple tips which could help travellers out of potentially embarrassing or uncomfortable situations.
Jayne O’Brien Head of Marketing (UK&I) at British Airways said, “As a major economic and business power, China is becoming an increasingly important destination. Knowing the polite way to greet a business partner or having impeccable table manners can make all the difference. These tips should give a helping hand to our passengers so they can make the most of their visits to China”.
British Airways began flying five times a week to Shanghai from London Heathrow on June 1st 2005. BA also flies six times a week, non-stop, to Beijing.
Top five tips:
1. Make sure you always present your business card with two hands, ensuring that the Chinese side is facing the recipient
2. In Chinese culture, the question ‘Have you eaten?’ or ‘Where have you been?’ is the equivalent to ‘How are you?’. It’s best to say ‘yes’, even if you haven’t actually eaten or been anywhere special
3. The number four is taboo because it means death. As is Eighty-four which means ‘having accidents’
4. Placing your chopsticks parallel on top of your bowl is believed to bring bad luck. Try not to drop them either, it is also a sign of bad luck and bad for business
5. Kissing is definitely out. It might be fine in Europe but in China kissing a colleague on the cheeks or on the hands is unacceptable. And no hugging either - unless you are very good friends
Other important advice for travelers to China:
á One side must be in English and the other in Chinese, preferably in the local dialect
á Not reading a business card that has been presented to you, then stuffing it directly into your back pocket, is deemed to be very rude
á Professional titles on business cards mean a lot. It’s the way they find out who calls the shots
á In China, leaving a ‘clean plate’ is perceived to mean that you were not given enough food - a terrible insult
á On the other hand, an untouched plate of food also give offence
á One important part of Chinese business entertaining is a tea drinking ritual known as ‘yum cha.’ It is used to establish rapport before a meeting or during meals
á If you do not want a ‘refill’ of tea, leave some in your cup
á Sticking your chopsticks straight up in your rice bowl is considered rude because in this position, they resemble the joss sticks that are used in Chinese religious rituals
á Slurping and belching at the table can be perfectly acceptable: they are perceived as signs that you are appreciating the meal
á Scorpions, locusts and snake skin are considered delicacies
á Eight is considered one of the luckiest numbers in Chinese culture. If you receive eight of any item, consider it a gesture of good will
á Six is considered a blessing
á Seventy-three which means ‘the funeral’ isn’t warmly received
á “Saving face” is an important concept in Chinese culture; a person’s reputation and social standing rests on this concept. Causing embarrassment or loss of composure, even unintentionally, can be disastrous for personal relationships and business negotiations
á Any Chinese business watcher will tell you that Guanxi is the ‘lubricant that opens up doors for you’. Guan Xi is something deeper than the normal business relationship. It is more like an alliance or a personal network of business contacts and as such it is vital to successful business interaction.