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Business etiquette: Germans and Chinese do business together

by Susanne Brudermüller

Business etiquette is about much more than just handing over your business card. By now (almost) everybody knows that you accept with both hands and treat it with respect, not simply grabbing it or even putting it in your breast pocket. Everything begins with the business card. For you, too, as a person of business or an applicant. Take some time to consider the contents and layout of your business card with which you present yourself. And above all, take great care in selecting a Chinese name. What should you consider? Beauty is one deciding factor, i.e. the appearance of the ideographs, as well as the sound, the pronunciation, and not lastly the meaning of the characters themselves, which let your features as a person and your business be brought positively into the right light.

When you meet with your Chinese business partners for the first time, knowledge of cultural differences, manners and Chinese conduct of negotiations, primarily the maintaining of relationships, will decide if your business contacts will be successful or not. How much more interesting and appealing your business will be if you are familiar with how your partner "ticks". Their behavior and manners of negotiation are based on Chinese culture. You will always be dealing with people, no matter how relevant the business is. The Chinese do not always think and act as how you learned about Chinese (business) culture. On the other hand, with some implicit knowledge of your Chinese business partner you will feel confident in your ability to run your business.

Business etiquette encompasses a broad range of areas. Initial contact with Chinese businesspeople at conventions and delegation trips held by chambers of industry and networks, negotiations with Chinese business partners, communicating with Chinese employees, Chinese work students in German companies whom you work with, are all professional and personal situations that you want to successfully pass. Do not refuse the business meal your Chinese business partners place so much value in, even if you are quite tired from your long flight in the evening and would rather go to the hotel bar. During the business meal it is all about maintaining a seating order adjusted for the hierarchy and knowing a few fundamental rules. For example, how does one behave when delicacies are being handed around that are compatible with Chinese cuisine but are too strange for German palates? We Germans also have our rules. Some things are different with the Chinese and that is good to know, but it should not lead to tense behavior. A meal serves to build relationships. Do not be surprised if you are immediately asked about your age and marital status. See it as a good opportunity to learn more about your partner. The company tour on the following day of your stay in China as well as hearing all about the company's history are a "must". The more you know about such "musts", the more freely you can go about them and take advantage of the events. With a little cultural knowledge you will approach your Chinese partners in a much more relaxed manner. It reveals to you a whole new view of China and will arouse your curiosity of this fascinating country.

Everything that applies for Germans working with the Chinese also helps Chinese coming to Germany. Your German business partners are excited and can feel your respect when you reveal yourself as Chinese and familiar with German business culture. That is more, and different, than knowing German poets and philosophers. The way Germans conduct their negotiations - in that they are used to coming right to the point as quickly as possible, while in China you much prefer to maintain relationships first - will help you conduct successful business.Cultural knowledge of one another is crucial for Germans and Chinese, but it all comes down to practice.

Susanne Brudermüller M.A.

Susanne Brudermüller - Interkultureller Dialog
Slavic Languages and Chinese
Malteserstr. 3
85737 Ismaning