Business Customs Practiced in China versus the US

Written By Steps To Faculty Published August 23rd, 2010

When conducting business on a global scale, the issues of proper business etiquette and business customs of host countries becomes increasingly more important. Business is not viewed or handled the same in every country. Educating yourself on local and national customs, especially acceptable business etiquette for your host country can make the difference in the success or failure of your business dealings abroad. For example, many business customs in China differ from the US in terms of appropriate greetings, socializing, the acceptance of gifts, and general business behavior. The following highlights just a few of the many different customs in China.

Step 1 Pay respect

Rank and status are important. In China, respect must always be given to a person’s rank or status. You would never address a subordinate employee the same as you would an executive or supervisor. Chinese customs place great importance on showing respect for status.

Step 2 Socialize

Socializing is expected. In the United States, business relationships are more aloof and professional. It is not usually appropriate to discuss personal family matters or outside interests with a business colleague unless you have known them for some time.

Step 3 Converse

Superficial conversations about personal information are acceptable, but only in certain situations. In China, however, socializing and learning more about your business associates on a personal level carries high importance. Knowing how a person deals with personal issues, to a Chinese business person, indicates a person’s character and therefore their business worthiness.

Step 4 Give a gift

Gifts are acceptable, although not as novel as in years past. In the past, giving gifts to a business connection in China was highly recommended. Western items were seen as novelties and therefore, coveted. In today’s China, western items are more common and not seen as a novelty. However, giving gifts is still acceptable. One important aspect of business gift giving is to pay careful attention to the perceived value of gifts and a person’s status. If giving gifts to several business representatives, never give a gift of higher perceived value to a lesser employee, as this is considered disrespectful to superior status employees. In other words, do not give an executive a cheaper gift than his or her assistant. For example, a vase is apporpriate for an assistant, but a pen set is not.

Step 5 Think family

Business comes firt in the US, however, in China family and people are more valued.

These are just a few of the differences between business etiquette in the United States and business customs in China. There are many other subtle differences that are important to learn prior to engaging in business dealings with Chinese businesses or business personnel.Please visit for more great business advice.

Roger Due

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