The Biggest Mistake American Business People Make in China

Today, in my Business Communications Class, one of my Chinese students filled me in on the biggest mistake American business people make when they travel to China. “They think business deals are made in the office, but they aren’t. All important deals are made off site, after hours.  The Chinese have you spend a day at their worksite, but that’s just a formality. Then they invite you to have dinner with them after work. A lot of Americans turn down the invitation, saying they have other plans, and they lose the deal.”

Entrepreneurs travel all the way to China, meet up with business people, and then fly back to the United States having accomplished nothing, and never know why. Shore up on the business culture of the country you’re traveling to.  In many Asian and Latin American countries, business people will spend  days getting to know you, wining and dining you, even inviting you home to meet their families, as an American might bring home a potential spouse. Turn down these invitations and it’s quite likely you will not be invited back to their homes or to their offices. Goodbye, international contract.

business cardMy Chinese students have also informed me that when you give your business card to a Chinese national,  it is important to hold the card between both your hands and extend it towards them (with a slight bow, if you like) as a gesture of respect.  Handing someone your card with one hand or, worse still, dropping it on the table in front of them, is a sign of disrespect and disregard. You’re signaling that  you could really care less about doing business with them.

Hǎo yùn  (Good Luck!)

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