Another issue is the language barrier, and all too often foreigners end up signing contracts in Chinese without knowing exactly what they have agreed to. This is why having a reliable interpreter is essential! What are the smaller, more subtle gaffes foreigners make when doing business with the Chinese? Since China is a vast country, every province has regional cultural differences so the list is quite long. However, there are some cultural faux pas that can be tough for the Chinese to forgive.
For all Chinese maintaining face is paramount; losing it, appalling; taking it away from somebody else, disastrous. Don’t underestimate the importance of personal dignity in China. Saying “no” directly is unwise, and by the same token don’t assume that a “yes” is definite. In China, this is an impermanent concept. Chinese executives just give positive and negative answers as a courtesy to Westerners who are used to hearing such words.
Speaking of language, your double-sided business cards should have your title, name, position and other vital company information in English and Chinese. Translated cards are a sign of respect, but not having them is like refusing to shake hands at the start of a meeting in Western societies. Don’t forget to take plenty of cards with you because during a business trip to China you’ll be meeting a lot of people, particularly government officials. Running out of cards won’t make a good impression.
Foreigners can expect to be wined and dined while they’re in China, and dining etiquette differs significantly from the West. The best way not to upset your Chinese counterparts is to sample a little bit of every dish on the table. If your host points out a special dish, try it! China is renowned for its cuisine and what is served is quite different from what Americans and/or Europeans are used to. Still, be adventurous and take a bite even if something doesn’t look so appetizing. One point to remember is don’t start eating until the host says it’s time to begin, and wait to be told where to sit. Chinese diners rarely split bills after the meal. Either they will pay all of it, or you will. Offer to pay for them because it’s polite.