Business Costumes in China
Business costumes form an important and integral part of social civilization. In China, people in larger cities, and those who have the means tend to dress in a more formal manner. As one walks down the streets in China, it is not surprising to find most of the men sporting at least a good shirt with collar and cuffs and formal dress pants.
Chinese women also take great pains to see to it that they look smart and well-dressed. Of course, this does not apply to the simple poor class women who simply cannot afford the luxury of good clothes, but as a rule of thumb, Chinese woman are very particular about their appearances.
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Chinese Dress Code
Business costumes in China are conservative and modest. In a formal setting, the business costumes for men consist of dark colored, traditional suits. Women on the other hand are expected to wear business suits or dresses with a high neckline. For men, business costumes in China consist of shirts or jackets. For more formal situations, men are also expected to wear a tie. Tuxedoes are not considered a part of business costumes in China.
Women are expected to dress in conservative business suits or blouses with a high neckline. At times, business costumes in China for women also include long dresses. Flashy and loud colors must be avoided as they are not an acceptable part of business costumes in China. Rather, subdued, neutral colors are more suitable for formal settings. Short sleeve blouses or blouses that revel too much are not accepted as part of business costumes in China. Similarly, bare backs and low necklines are also frowned upon.
It is important to keep in mind that shorts or jeans are not at all acceptable for business meetings or in formal situations. Clothes that are revealing are considered as an offence to Chinese businessmen.
Jewellery forms another important part of business costumes in China. Jewellery should not be something very flashy or gaudy. Simple gold jewellery, with an equally simple watch goes a long way in making a good impression. Women also need to avoid wearing heavy make-up.
Due to the formal culture in China, women are expected to wear either flat shoes or shoes with very low heels. High heels are reserved only for formal evening parties. Business costumes in China are formal and serious; hence it is important not to dress in a frivolous manner.
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In Business, Take Time to Learn Customs in China
When looking to do business with foreign countries, communication can be difficult. When working with worldwide establishments, different policies and mannerisms might need to be considered. What is standard in one country, China being a great example, is often not standard in another. Understanding these changes are crucial to business success. Some customs in China can be more difficult to adapt to than others, but if you keep these few things in mind your professionalism cultural courtesy is more likely to be noticed.
First, Chinese organizations often do not like to conduct business with unfamiliar people. As such, having a mediator is very important for successful business. When attempting to communicate with a Chinese company, work through another company because to do otherwise is rude and can quickly lead to a failed business attempt. So to alleviate this possibility, send data about your own company so that they can review it. If another person contacts you to ask more questions, do not be put off. They are simply doing business on the other company’s behalf, handling work that they feel is rude to ask directly.
Next, put planning into any meeting that you have with a Chinese company. Contact the business at least a month in advance, in writing, and let them know your request to meet. If you have not worked with the company before, do this through an intermediary. When the day of the meeting arrives, do your best to be precisely on time. Being a little early is ok, customs in China consider being late completely unacceptable. This is usually understood as malpractice.
When attending the meeting in a group, customs in China require only one person to speak. Seniority is very important in such meetings, and lower-level people should not be addressed. Do not expect to make great advances in any meeting. Most negotiations require a great deal of time, and it is often unacceptable to make important decisions on the fly.
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As such, you should leave room in your offers for negotiation. Bargaining is a part of many customs in China. To avoid winding up in a stalemate or giving up more than your group would like, make your first offer far less than you find necessary. In time, a better deal can be reached.
Customs in China are far different than those of the West. They require patience and understanding to avoid being rude. In interacting with business partners in China, be very careful not to offend. While different, it is not overly difficult to strike understanding with those of other cultures. With time and patience, the cultures in China can become as common to you as your own.
Business Behavior in China
Understanding Business Behavior in China
While it may seem much different than the way American businesses do things, patterns of action can be found in the business styles of any group. Knowing how to react to Chinese business behavior requires an understanding of Geert-Hofstede’s Dimensions of Cultural Variability. This process for judging how a culture treats certain aspects of communication can go far in explaining the reasons why they do the things they do. For example, China is very collectivist. This should come as no surprise, as the state is communist and is quite open about its interest in the shared experience. China also has a long-term orientation, meaning they are more concerned with how things go in the long run than what happens in the here and now. Finally, they have a high-power distance ranking, meaning that those in power are more removed from those below them.
Practical Business Formalities
But what does all this mean? How can you use it in your business dealings with Chinese partners? First of all, the fact that China is collectivist means that deals should be oriented at furthering the group, not the one negotiating. Make offers that better the entire organization rather than boosting the benefits of management. Also, think in terms of growth rather than success.
Next, make offers that show long-term potential rather than quick, onetime gains. If a venture seems to carry risk while having the potential to make a lot of money quickly, it may not interest a Chinese business group. However, if an offer puts forth, gradual, tempered growth with little risk, it is much more likely to succeed in gaining support from Chinese business partners.
Finally, be careful to keep in mind who is in control of talking, and speak only to them. Seniority is very important in Chinese business, and speaking to low-ranking workers is an exercise in malpractice. If you are not in charge of your group in a meeting, stay quiet. Allow one person to do all the talking. If you are your representative, cater your words to the senior member of the Chinese group. If they are older or more experienced than you, let them know that you see that. If you are the wiser, do not refuse their respect.
Successful business interactions with Chinese groups require a bit of bending on your part. You must understand why they do the things they do, anticipate their behavior, and respond appropriately. By studying the Geert-Hofstede Dimensions of Cultural Variability, you can be better prepared to handle the situations that arise in cross-cultural negotiations.
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Public Behavior and Gift Giving in China
The Importance of the Etiquette
Public etiquette and gift giving are very important in China. The Chinese are a cooperative people and often closely associate themselves with a group. This group can be their family, school, work group, or country. To keep this sense of group unity, the population is known for having very good manners at all times. The population tends to avoid any action that will cause someone else to be humiliated in any way. The Chinese are usually prepared to ignore their own opinions in order to help out the group they are associated with. Being quiet is also crucial in very structured meetings. It is extremely rare for someone to disagree with another publicly. They will, instead, stay quiet. If one were to speak up, it would cause both people involved to lose face.
Non-verbal communication is essential in China. They are very dependent on facial expression, tone of voice, and posture in order to try to read what the other person is thinking. A signal of a difference of opinion in China is frowning while someone is talking. Because of this, most Chinese have an emotionless appearance when communicating. Staring into another person's eyes is also thought to be very impolite in this country.
In China, gift giving occurs at Chinese New Year, weddings, births, and newly (because of marketing), birthdays. Business gift giving is also appropriate in China. The Chinese will almost always decline a gift three times before accepting. Within this country, a gift should always be wrapped. In spite of this, it is important to steer clear of plain black or white paper due to these being the colors of mourning. One should present gifts with two hands and stay away from giving gifts in fours. Four is considered an unlucky number in China. Eight is the luckiest number in this country, so giving eight of something is thought to bring luck to the receiver.
It is vital to avoid presenting a gift of value to one person in a group setting. This will most likely lead to humiliation and potential problems for the recipient. This is because of the firm policy in opposition to bribery in Chinese business culture.
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Other Do’s and Don’ts
The Chinese population typically view physical contact to be unacceptable. This is especially evident when doing business. The only scenario that would be acceptable would be when a host is directing a guest somewhere. It is impolite to slap, pat, or put one's arm around the shoulders of another in China.
It is considered rude to go to a wedding while in mourning. This occurs because it is believed to give bad luck to the couple that is getting married. It also might be outrageous for a pregnant woman to be present at a funeral. This is because of the idea that a funeral would cause danger to her baby.