What is business culture?
Business culture is related to behavior, ethics, etiquette, and more. A business culture will encompass the organization’s values, visions, working style, beliefs, and habits. Culture is a key component in business and has an impact on the strategic direction of the business. Culture influences management, decisions, and all business functions from accounting to production. You may now be thinking predominantly about national culture but this is only one aspect, business culture is its own unique dimension that includes getting off on the right foot, meetings, negotiation, formalities, social media use, internships and work placements, and other elements. In this article, we’ll walk you through the most basic Chinese business culture advice that you may like to know before doing business with Chinese people.
How Chinese business culture different from other cultures?
Here are the top 5 business culture differences you should know before you do business with the Chinese or run a business in China.
Chinese business partners don’t like direct instructions
People in Chinese culture are not strict when it comes to detail. This can be potentially problematic when instructions need to be followed clearly. Western cultures embrace clear and direct instructions. It requires no memorization, little thinking, and less room for misinterpretation or mistakes.
In China, however, people often take offense to being given instructions and feel micromanaged. It is not uncommon that people will begin working on a project before they understand the details or complexities.
Pushing people to read a workflow or checklist can be difficult. They may take it as a message of unintelligence.
Give notice when things change
It is quite common that a project does not start as you originally planned, since last-minute changes happened. If your Chinese vendor found out about the delay, they would be quite frustrated.
As a western-style businessman, you are used to a fast and dynamic environment. You plan ahead, try to work out the best schedule, and develop a smooth process. But no amount of preparation or experience can mitigate all obstacles. Sometimes unexpected changes arise and the game plan suddenly changes.
However, it seems like a natural part of doing business that you may cause significant stress to your non-western vendors that are not used to a fast-paced work environment. It’s a good idea to warn your Chinese partners (vendors) ahead of time if your project is dynamic or at risk of sudden change.
Lunch isn’t 30 minutes
Traditionally, lunch in China is almost as sophisticated as dinner. People have a big meal and it takes time. In the past, people even took naps after their lunch. Schools and businesses typically have a noon break for around 1.5 hours to 2 hours.
This is slowly changing as western lifestyle is influencing Chinese culture. In smaller cities, however, lunch breaks will still take much longer than what we’re accustomed to in North America. This should be considered when recruiting and preparing schedules. If employees are required to work with a shorter lunch break, overtime pay might need to be paid.
Beware of political, legal & economic differences
You prepared a carnet to ensure that your computers could be shipped into China without trouble, but as it turned out, a signature was missed on one of the carnet forms when the package left the U.S.
What is the lesson here? The lesson is to ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS double-check your paperwork.
Clearing a package through Chinese customs isn’t as simple as it is in Western countries. We consulted a couple of clearance agencies that prepared documents and letters for Customs of China. Unfortunately, all the paperwork in the world couldn’t be released to our computers in time.
This really didn’t surprise me.
Since China started becoming open to Western countries relatively recently. Although it is a big and actively developing country, it still has unique political and economic systems. Don’t be surprised if what works smoothly in western countries is a bit of a bumpy road in China.
Listen to your Chinese business partners
As one of our business members told us about his experience. That his company didn’t officially start recruiting until they finalized their location and had a starting date. At first, he didn’t understand why, because that’s what they did in Canada after all. Then his Chinese partner explained that there are many fraudulent job postings in China.
The most rampant ones in South China are multi-level marketing scams, which are illegal. Consequently, people are very hesitant when applying for part-time jobs. His Chinese partner mentioned that if they changed the location or time after an initial job post, people would likely suspect it as some illegal group trying to avoid the police. If they were to be flagged, it would be very difficult to clarify and convince participants that this is a legitimate job opportunity.
This is something I never would have thought about and probably not applicable in other countries.
Even though you might not understand their logic at first, be open to your Chinese partner’s advice.
Doing business in China may not be as hard as it seems if you have a good understanding of business culture and etiquette in China. We believe you will create a professional and positive image for your business by following these tips above.
If you’d like to discover more about Chinese culture, life, history, or language, we encourage you to sign up for Pandanese. Pandanese is a Mandarin Chinese learning platform that helps users learn Chinese easily by employing mnemonics and Spaced Repetition System (SRS).
Don’t forget to check out the Pandanese blog and read as much as you like about language and culture topics before starting your learning!