Culture, Language and doing business in China

NiHao Global - represented in 22 major cities across China.
NiHao Global – represented in 22 major cities across China.

Janey Lee, Executive Director of NiHao Global in China, spoke at the Sydney Expat Advisors Community event in February. She discussed Chinese philosophies, communication differences between east and west, and provided some insights into doing business effectively in China. You can view the PowerPoint presentation here.

Chinese Philosophy

The three major philosophies from Ancient China are:

• Confucianism – the leading philosophy which advocates loyalty, courtesy and hierarchy
• Taoism – emphasizes the harmony between humans and nature, such as Tai Chi, Feng Shui, and Chinese medicine
• Buddhism – enriched Chinese language and architecture such as the Buddhist temples.

With the Cultural Revolution following almost 200 years of civil unrest, China opened up to the world acknowledging many cultures including western traditions. It is only in the last few decades the real economic boom has started.

Communication Differences

When traveling in China, remember you are a guest and it is important to be respectful of the culture and appreciate the different communication styles.

Hierarchy – comes from Confucianism. It is essential to be aware of seniority and the importance of relationships
Style – Chinese tend to be more indirect, with lengthy discussions before getting to the point
• Praise – westerners are open in providing compliments, where Chinese are more likely to offer areas for improvement.

Language is the carrier of a culture, not just the spoken word. Spend time to get to know your Chinese colleagues and avoid complaining about the pollution, traffic and comparisons with our Australian lifestyle.

Effective Strategies for doing business in China

• Understand the market – not all products and services are suitable for the Chinese market so do your homework and get your product right
• Branding – as the manifestation of an enterprise, ensure the translation reflects the intended meaning
• Hire an interpreter – not just to make communication more efficient, but providing valuable feedback, observations and insights to help in business negotiations and progressing opportunities.

A good interpreter can smooth and bridge relationships. Having a personal assistant on the ground that gets to know you and your business also provides more “face”. Plus if anything unexpected happens in a foreign country, local knowledge is invaluable.

Don’t be afraid by the culture barriers, as long as you do the right thing, your efforts will be appreciated.

Janey Lee, NiHao Global is university educated in culture and language and helps western businesses and governments operate in the Chinese market. To see the range of services NiHao Global can provide to support your business plans in China check out the website here.