It can be tough on a business travel to remember all the different local customs and etiquette, but its especially important in a business situation not to offend the locals and put your relationship and therefore your business with them at risk!
You may be applauded when introduced to a group of employees in China, applauding back is a polite return! A handshake is the most common gesture used when meeting but if given a bow you should return it.
When exchanging business cards in China be sure to take out your card carefully and present it with two hands, offering it with just one hand is deemed offensive and careless.
If a second dinner is required the foreigner should always insist on arranging and hosting it, to keep balance and show respect of the mutual relationship, upon agreeing a deal it is also expected that the foreigner should host a celebration dinner.
When eating with chopsticks, never leave them stood upright in a bowl they resemble incense burnt at religious ceremonies for the dead this image is deemed deeply offensive.
You must also be careful about how much you eat, while leaving a full bowl of food may be deemed offensive clearing your plate entirely can also be deemed as meaning that the host did not provide enough food and may cause offense! The same goes for shared dishes, do not eat the last piece of food unless it is offered to you.
Never send or give flowers in China, they are associated with the dead and would be seen as an insulting gesture.
Find out more about being a business traveller, in the business travellers guide to Hong Kong!
Never play with your chopsticks or use them to stab food, its considered the height of rudeness, despite the Japanese’s particularity with table manners if eating noodles slurp away, the more noise you make the more appreciation you show for the food!
Never pour your own drink in Japan, you must wait for someone else to pour for you and you in turn should top up their glass if it is getting low.
Business card etiquette in Japan is extremely important; likewise with China you must never slide your business card across the table, always present it with both hands and present it to the most senior member of the party first. It is also expected that you will have double sided business cards (with Japanese one side and English the other), as you might have noticed business cards are a big deal in Japan so don’t under any circumstances forget them! Upon receiving a business card store it safely and neatly straight away never fidget, crumple or play with the card and never ever write any notes on it.
Take lots of notes in meetings to show your interest, Japanese will often all take their own very detailed minutes of the meeting, if you are sat writing nothing they may think you are uninterested or not paying attention.
Never shake hands in Japan unless you are offered a hand, it is not customary and many Japanese people find it extremely uncomfortable.
Opposed to many other countries in Asia, Thailand is fairly relaxed when it comes to business etiquette; as long as you are seen to be trying it doesn’t normally matter too much if you get it a bit wrong now and then.
A Wai is the traditional gesture which involves putting yours hands together and placing them in front of your chest or face. As a foreigner you are never expected to initiate a Wai and many simply use a handshake instead but if offered one by a business associate it is customary to return it, the position of your hands is important as the higher they are placed the more respect is given. A good guide is to return the Wai at the same height that it is given to you, and never place your hands higher than eye level.
Even Ronald McDonald Wai’s in Thailand!
Traditionally it is customary to remove your shows when entering any home/shop/office, nowadays many people no longer practice this but if you see a pile of shoes or a shoe rack at the door make sure you follow suit and remove your shoes (even though you may feel strange walking around in a suit and socks!) it would be seen as disrespectful if you did not.
When a Thai person says ‘Yes’ or the Thai equivalent ‘Kaa’ for females or ‘Khrap’ for males, it is often used as a mark of respect and acknowledgement of you speaking, it does not always mean ‘Yes’ though. For example, “Will this be finished by Wednesday?” “Yes, yes… It will be finished Friday”.