Cross-Cultural Communication

   Welcome to Asia--China



Acceptable Public Behavior

  • Nodding is used to greet somebody.

  • Keep gestures and unusual facial expressions to a minimum. Chinese do not use their hands when speaking, and are annoyed by people who do.

  • Avoid touching, as Chinese people dislike being touched by strangers.

  •   Always acknowledge the most senior member in a group first.

  • There is not an emphasis on emotions in China, so be careful on how often you use them.

  •   Do not spit. Spitting is unacceptable and a fineable offense.

Business Attire


  • In Chinese business culture, suits and ties are typically worn. It is important to wear conservative colors such as black, white, beige, or brown, as bright colors are considered inappropriate.

  • For formal events, wear suits and ties, but not tuxedos. Tuxedos are not a part of Chinese culture.

  • Jeans are typically worn for casual activities.

  •   Shorts are only acceptable when exercising.


  • Woman should wear conservative suits.  Do not wear anything too revealing and keep to the conservative colors

  • Wear flat shoes or low heels for everyday business.

  • Jeans are typically worn for casual activities.

  • Shorts are only acceptable when exercising.

Conversations and Networking

  • Chinese should be addressed with a title and their last name. Example: Mr., Miss, Madam, and then the last name.

  • Many Chinese adopt an English name to make it easier for North Americans to address them.

  • These names are usually odd-sounding because Chinese try hard to make their English name different from other common names.

  •   Study China. Learn about their culture, history, and geography. Chinese people appreciate this effort.

  • Make an effort to learn some words in Chinese, but make sure that you know when it is appropriate to use these words. Chinese people appreciate this effort as well.

  • Avoid negative replies. Negative replies are impolite. Instead of saying no, say maybe, even if you mean no. Chinese people do the same to you.

  •   If Chinese people say things like “this is not a serious problem”, or “this is not a big deal”, it usually means there is a problem.

  • Expect to answer intrusive questions about your age, income, title, family status and other personal topics. If you do not want to answer a question, give a broad answer, but remain polite.

  • It is very important to initiate small talk, especially to start conversations. Small talk topics could include weather, Chinese geography, Chinese Art, or positive experiences you have had in China or other countries.

Meetings, Presentations, and Negotiation Tactics

  • Always be on time for a meeting or appointment. Being late is an insult.

  •   If you are handed a business card, make sure to look at it before you put it away.

  • Not looking at a business card before putting it away results in a breach of protocol.

  • When presenting your business card, do it with both hands. Also make sure that the business card includes your title, and one side of the business card is printed in Chinese.

  • When designing presentations, keep material in black and white. Certain colors have special meanings in Chinese culture, and the meanings are mostly negative.

  • Remember that China is a Communist country, so negotiations and presentations must be set up to support the Communist party.

  • Do not mention deadlines. Remain patient, as Chinese like to extend negotiations beyond official deadlines.

  • When the meeting is finished, leave first. Chinese expect you to leave before they do.

Dinner Etiquette

  • Always arrive on time.

  • Do not discuss business during the meal.

  • Always leave some food on your plate. A clean plate indicates that you were not given enough food, and this is a huge insult.  

  • Leave some tea in your cup if you do not want a refill.

  • Slurping and belching at the table can be perfectly acceptable.

  • Chinese people enjoy testing the ability of a foreigner to handle his or her alcohol, so be ready to drink.

  • Do not tip. It is considered an insult.


  • Surprisingly, gift giving in Chinese business culture is forbidden, because this gesture is considered bribery.

  • Some businesses still practice gift giving, but the safest thing to do is avoid it.

  •   Keep in mind that Chinese businesses are very family-oriented.

  • Chinese business culture is very relationship oriented. Expect the process of doing business with the Chinese to be a long one. In business they build relationships first, and do business afterwards.

  • Remember that Chinese business culture is very hierarchical. It is very important to respect seniority.


A summary of this information can be found at Executive Planet.
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