Cross-Cultural Tips:

When in China...

Understand the Significance of Numbers and Symbols:

Don’t give chrysanthemums as a gift; they are reserves for funerals. Don't wear a green hat or give one as a gift. This applies mostly to men. It means that your wife is cheating on you.  Also don’t give clocks, scissors, shoes, knives or handkerchiefs. Be careful when using the color white – it is traditionally the color of mourning. Don't Use white, black or blue paper to wrap gifts.  Instead, use red or gold.  Avoid the number 4 whenever possible; its Mandarin pronunciation sounds like the one for “death.”  On the other hand, the number 8 is considered good luck.

Be a Gracious Guest:

Compliment your hosts on their choice of restaurant and menu items. Leave food on your plate or liquid in your glass if you are satisfied.  An empty plate or glass will be filled again. Don't refuse to try a new dish.  If after trying it you don’t care for it, you can decline anymore and not risk offending your host. Toast your host after the first or second course of a meal with a decisive “gan bei!” (which literally means “dry glass,” so empty your glass when you toast) 

Invest in Relationships:

Show interest in the wellbeing of colleagues’ family members. Develop relationships by spending time with colleagues in which no business is discussed – sight-seeing, dining, etc.  Don't offer to help unless you are sure you can help, and are 100% willing to help.

Be Flexible:

Provide a great deal of context in any negotiations, and plan for exceptions, changes, updates, subjectivity. Don't assume that negotiations are over when the contract is signed; a signed contract still just means that “we can continue to talk.” Give the Chinese plenty of time to discuss business plans, contracts, and decisions with each other – recognizing that many Chinese still value collectivism.

Allow everyone to Keep/Save Face:

Be careful not to embarrass or praise an individual in public (three or more people); to do so would cost both of you “face.”  Don't sustain eye contact with superiors or casual acquaintances; this could be interpreted as a sign of aggression. Don't display strong emotions (either positive or negative) in public.