China Business

How to Network in China

How to network in China

I usually find these things corny and stereotypical, but I actually kinda like this one. Shanghai Networking News has an article on What The Chinese Want You to Know About Networking [link no longer exists].

Here are their findings, which I follow with my own analysis:

They’re not that different. People get so caught up in the differences they fail to see the similarities between Chinese and Western cultures. Be yourself and don’t worry about skipping across the cultural minefield. Just as most of us would go easy on any local who made a social faux pas without knowing, local Chinese aren’t going to bite your head off if you accidentally put your foot in it.

They are that different — from one another
. Following on from the above, don’t fall into the trap of thinking all Chinese are much the same. They have their own thoughts, hopes and dreams. Some are more introvert, some more extrovert and some are just plain weird, just like foreigners. They’re not all Little Red Book waving fanatics, or traditional Confucian sages or “insert stereotype here.”

Losing Face = Bad.
Making fun of Chinese, even if you’re just playing around, can be considered disrespectful and a big loss of face, especially in front of other people. Wait until you know someone better, or wait for them to make a joke first. Don’t be staid and serious, or afraid of offending them, but do bear in mind that others may take the joke more seriously than you do.

Giving Face = Good
. Acting impressed by someone’s job title gives face and can quickly turn into what Westerners might think of as a “mutual appreciation fest,” with each party saying something nice about the other’s position and modestly denying their own prestige.

They’re not that different. 

They are not. I am amazed more by the similarities between China and the United States than the differences. I have been to Korea so many times that at least 25 stays ago, I had my picture taken at the Westin Chosun Hotel in Seoul because it was my 100th stay there And yet, when I talk about my knowledge of Korea, I always say I used to think I had a 25% understanding of Korea but when I started reading Michael Breen’s book, The Koreans, Who They Are, What They Want, and Where Their Future Lies I realized that I did not know them even that much. I still tell anyone new to Korea that nothing there is as it first appears. China is far easier. China is like the United States in that both countries see themselves as unique and, dare I say it, special. China is like the United States in that it is geographically large and culturally and ethnically diverse. China is also like the US in its work ethic and in its overall informality. Now I know some are going to say China is formal, but I see China as considerably less formal than Korea, Japan, or even Germany.

They are that different — from one another
Duh! There are 1.3 billion of them. Anyone who thinks they are all alike is just off. There is even huge diversity among lawyers. At one of the Chinese law firms with which we have worked on many matters, there are fervent (almost religious) communists and there are others who make little effort to hide their contempt for the CCP.

Losing Face = Bad.
As an inveterate jokester, I find myself having to be mindful of this prescription and I am mindful of this because it is true. An attorney friend of mine once told me that it took him a while to get used to what he calls my “towel snapping humor” because he never played sports. Unless you have been friends with someone in China for a long time and they are making “towel snapping” jokes about you, you should avoid making “towel snapping” jokes about them.

Giving Face = Good
. Good idea on being complimentary and being humble. Frankly, I think this is good advice in the West too as very few people I know like arrogance.

Is this a good list? What do you think? Anything missing?

If the above is just too much for you to remember or too difficult for you to follow, then I urge you go read my previous post, Chinese Cultural Awareness Simplified: Don’t Be An Asshole.

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