Business Etiquette


Address a person using his or her family name only, such as Mr. Chen or Ms. Hsu. For example, in the case of Teng Peinian, Teng is the family name and Peinian is the given name.

Call a Chinese person by the surname, together with a title, such as "Director Wang" or "Chairman Li" for business purposes.

The Chinese way of greeting is a nod or slight bow. However, nowadays, Chinese usually shake hands,especially when interacting with Westerners.   


Business Meetings

In China, it is assumed that the first person that enters the room is the head of the group. Important guests are usually escorted to their seats. If the meeting room has a large central table, the principal guest is likely to be seated directly opposite the principal host.

When exchanging business cards, hold out your card using both hands with the writing facing the recipient. Cards should always be exchanged individually (one-on-one). Never toss or "deal" your business card across the table, as this is considered extremely rude. Receive a business card with both hands and scan it immediately for vital information. Then lay the card in front of you on the table. It is demeaning to put someone's card directly into your pocket without looking at it first.

Meetings begin with small talk. Resist the temptation to get down to business right away. Also, avoid telling Western-style jokes, because jokes sometimes do not translate across cultures and can cause confusion or hurt feelings.


Social Events

  • At a formal banquet, be prepared to give a short, friendly speech in response to the host's speech.
  • When invited for dinner, it is polite to sample every dish served. Your host may serve some food for you, and it is nice to reciprocate if you feel comfortable doing so.
  • Always leave something on your plate at the end of the meal or your host might think that you are still hungry.


Gift Giving

If is appropriate to bring a gift, particularly something representative of your town or region, to a business meeting or social event. Gifts indicate that you are interested in building a relationship. A gift should always be wrapped, but avoid plain black or white paper because these are the colors of mourning. Present the gift with both hands as a sign of courtesy and always mention that this is only a small token of appreciation. Do not expect your gift to be opened in your presence. This indicates that it is the thought that counts more than the material value.

Never give a clock, handkerchief, umbrella or white flowers, specifically chrysanthemums, as a gift, as all of these signify tears and/or death. Never give sharp objects such as knives or scissors as they would signify the cutting of a relationship. Lucky numbers are 6 and 8 (especially in a series, such as 66 or 888). An unlucky number is 4, which means death in Mandarin.



  • Bring a large supply of business cards. You may meet many more people than anticipated.
  • Avoid talking politics or religion. Good topics: Chinese food, sports or places one should visit.
  • If a Chinese person gives you a compliment, it is polite to deny it graciously. Modesty is highly valued in China.
  • The Chinese point at objects with an open hand instead of the index finger. Beckoning to someone is done with a palm facing down. Avoid beckoning with your index finger facing up.
  • Do learn a few words of Chinese. This shows an interest in your host's language and culture. It also is a very good icebreaker.


More information can be found from the books below: