How bad is social etiquette in China

Asia etiquette: Correct behavior in the Far East

  • punctuality

    Punctuality is very important in Japan, China and other Asian countries. In business life, being unpunctual is considered disrespectful and a sign of a lack of recognition from the other person. You should therefore show up on time, especially at your first contact, so as not to leave a negative impression right from the start. You have to plan a correspondingly large amount of time, especially in large cities with enormous volumes of traffic.

    However, punctuality does not mean that you will be there for the minute, but five or even better ten minutes before. If you are late, it is imperative to call in good time and let them know when you are likely to come. If you then arrive, you should apologize again briefly - but do not go into lengthy explanations, as this could be interpreted as an excuse.

  • greeting

    The correct greeting is unfortunately not always easy, as there are some differences between countries. In both China and Japan, a greeting is bowed. In the business world, more and more Chinese are shaking hands in greeting, in Japan it is even more traditional and bowing is still widespread. As a European, however, it is usually sufficient here if you suggest bowing instead of leaning far forward.

    If you are unsure how to proceed with the greeting, you can wait a moment to see how you or others present are greeted and orient yourself accordingly. If you meet several contacts, the following applies: The highest ranking person is greeted first - regardless of gender. Ladies first is unusual, instead the hierarchy is followed.

  • Visiting card

    While business cards are usually distributed quickly and then put away in this country, they get more attention in Asian countries. If you only treat this as a printed piece of paper, you are making a mistake. First of all, this means: You should definitely have high-quality business cards with you, if you work for an Asian company, you will probably get them on the first day.

    Whether in a meeting, at business appointments or in conversation with other contacts: Business cards are always exchanged in both China and Japan. The following applies:

    • Always with both hands to hand over.
    • When handing over say your name.
    • Receive a business card Read this immediately through attentively.
    • No way scribble disrespectfully Your notes on it.
    • Hold the card a while and only then plug it in.
    • But definitely not in your pocket. That is disrespectful for your counterpart.

    The best thing to do is to have a classy case for business cards. In this you can keep your own until they are passed on, as well as stow the received cards well and respectfully.

  • Gifts

    Guest favors are also welcomed in China and Japan, although there are also special features here that you should take into account. In both countries, you should make sure that your gifts do not contain symbols that have a bad meaning. In China, for example, this is the number four or a clock - these are related to death and have no place in gifts.

    In Japan, you should refrain from using scissors, letter openers or knives as gifts, as these represent separations, images of fox and badger are a symbol of underhandedness and should also be avoided.

    It is typically Japanese to downplay the value of one's own gift when handing it over. It's just a small thing, but I would be happy if you accept it anyway ... That doesn't mean it's really a small gift, but the Japanese demonstrate modesty.

    In both China and Japan, however, you should never open a gift immediately and in the presence of the other person. That seems greedy. It is better to store this carefully and respectfully, say thank you immediately and repeat the thank you again when you meet again.

    Noble and elaborate packaging makes a particularly good impression. Caution: White wrapping paper and white flowers are taboo in Japan because white is the country's mourning color.

  • Business lunch

    In Japan and China you have an advantage if you can eat with chopsticks - these are traditionally served with every meal. In the international business world, however, it is quite possible that you will also receive a knife and fork. If you choose the chopsticks, you should neither stir them in the bowls nor stick the chopsticks upright in the rice - this is a symbol closely connected with death. A small, mostly wooden shelf is always provided for the chopsticks.

    At a Chinese or Japanese business lunch, you shouldn't be surprised when people are sipping vigorously around you. In Germany this may show bad manners, in China it shows that it tastes really good. It is also quite normal here to enjoy alcoholic beverages at business lunches. However, they do not pour themselves, but always to the person sitting next to them, with the man usually pouring for the woman and the higher ranking for the lower ranking.

  • negotiations

    The business lunch is often combined with a negotiation, but the following applies here: one at a time! The negotiation has no place in the food itself, something else is being discussed here. Only when the meal is over do business negotiations begin.

    Courtesy and respect are the most important factors. Even if opinions differ during the negotiation and discussion, a very friendly tone should always be maintained. Raising your voice or reacting unkindly is an absolute faux pas.

  • Invitations

    When doing business in Asia, it is quite normal for one person to invite the other, for example to the business lunch mentioned. If you invite a Chinese to dinner, they will be happy to accept the invitation, but will initially be very cautious about the meal themselves and only take a very small portion. It is good form that you ask your counterpart to eat several times and offer them even more.

    If you are invited on your part, you can use this behavior as a guide and should not be surprised if your Chinese host keeps encouraging you to eat even more and to eat properly.

    In Japan, however, the chances are good that you will be invited to a karaoke bar. It says: whether you want to sing or not, refusing is not an option and is grossly rude. It works best if you really give it your all and really participate. You may be embarrassed at first, but the reputation of your Japanese business colleagues increases enormously.

  • communication

    Communication in Asian countries has some pitfalls. On the one hand, you should not only listen carefully, but also show this in the conversation. By asking your counterpart after two or three sentences Yes say, demonstrate that you are paying attention and that you have really understood what was said - if you do not, the person you are speaking to may assume that you can no longer follow what has been said.

    When asking questions, keep in mind that the truth of information is not always that clear. Nobody in Japan and China wants to admit they don't know an answer. In any case, you will receive information, but it does not necessarily have to be correct. A. No you will probably never get to hear it.

    You should generally refrain from open criticism in Asian countries. Another no-go is to bring up critical or embarrassing topics. The following topics are on the index for you:

    • politics
    • Human rights
    • sex
    • environmental pollution

    Better to stick to harmless topics. In Japan, you should also be careful with compliments. You may mean well, but it is better to ask your colleague for their professional advice rather than praising them for their knowledge.

  • Other special features

    Finally, a few general tips that you should think of in China and Japan: Blowing your nose and blowing your nose is a big taboo and should be avoided as much as possible in the presence of others. If you have to blow your nose at a business meeting or dinner, it is advisable to go to the toilet with a brief apology and only then to get your handkerchief out.

    You should also remember to always take off your shoes when entering an apartment. Anything else would be very disrespectful to your host's private living space. Last but not least, Asians are always careful to save face. Therefore, make absolutely sure not to insult or anger your counterpart. If you do, the Chinese and Japanese often react with disinterest.