If you work with Chinese partners you will necessarily experienced business dinner. They are almost like a religion in China. They have became almost legendary for westerners that have always heard of them; even when don’t work in the Middle Kingdom.
Chinese people are aware that you don’t a complete knowledge of their culture, and are very open minded about it. But Chinese partner will esteem you if you are able to show that you respect and try to understand the local customs and traditions. Here is a little guide to help you follow this etiquette during those dinners:
1. Don’t talk about business
For your Chinese partners, a dinner is the opportunity to get to know you. Chinese like to work with people they know and they get on with. Personal and professional lines are blurred in China, and friendships are created in business, and business is done among friends. Play the game and don’t talk about business. To Create and to maintain a strong relationship with your partners is key when doing business China.
2. Order in large quantities
In china dishes are shared, and ordered in large quantities ! A business dinner should be a feast.
If at the end of the dinner there is nothing left on the table, they will have the feeling they did not order enough. If you are receiving your partners, don’t hesitate to spoil them and to order a lot. Rules are less strict now, but dishes should normally be ordered in even numbers, with different meat and fish. It is very acceptable to leave with a doggy bag to avoid wasting to much food.
3. Cheers regularly
Cheers with your hosts and guest to thank them. Chinese enjoy cheering when they drink, and usually say a small word, wish for good business. If you are cheering with a superior or with an important partner, lower your glass a little, so yours is under his/hers to show your respect for him/her.
4. The important guest should be sited far away from the door
if you are having dinner in a private room, as it is very common in China, the most important guest should be sited in front of the door, on the other side of the table. If you are inviting your partners for dinner, ask the manager to sit there, and sit next to him (or your director).
5. Drink with moderation
it is acceptable not to drink alcohol (although it is much easier for women) but be aware that your Chinese partner will expect at least one person in your team to drink with them. if you accepted to drink with them, be ready to be asked to drink a lot. Alcohol and business are strongly tied in China, and business men are able to drink a lot. Play the game, but with moderation, and don’t hesitate to say so if you cannot follow them.
If things are going well, it is possible that they invite you to spend the rest of the evening at a Karaoke. National hobby in China, the level is very high ! Don’t be ashamed and enjoy yourself!
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