Y, 24, Guangzhou 广州 – on Gap Years in China

By Olivia Halsall (郝文婕), 66hands Last year, Y contributed to “You […]

By Olivia Halsall (郝文婕), 66hands

Last year, Y contributed to “You Have More Freedom Than You Think” (你比你想象的更自由), a book documenting the experiences of 30 young Chinese who took a “gap year” 间隔年 to do something unconventional. Y is often asked how to overcome parental conflict as China’s only children deviate from their parents’ “fixed plan for their kids — primary school, middle school, college, job, marriage, and having children”.

Chinese education expert, Xiong Bingqi, explains that Chinese parents cannot fathom a year out of education because most Chinese universities only permit deferring in exceptional circumstances, such as illness; a “gap year” would hinder one’s chances of university admission when competition is already fierce. Another factor is one’s personal citizenship file: an unexplained year could disadvantage those applying at government or state owned companies. Despite this, Chinese youth are beginning to challenge traditional expectations of education, employment, and more importantly, social status. Sun Dongchun is confident that “society is progressing and more young people will be able to have their own gap year experience.”

On his own gap year experience, Y primarily freelanced whilst building his company’s website as he likes to be able to anywhere. For the first 6 months, he travelled between Guangzhou 广州 and Beijing 北京 (roughly 2,140 km), choosing to leave Beijing and its cold, smog-filled winter for New Zealand 新西兰.

Interested to know what Y thought of the British, having just completed his Master’s in London, he told me before arriving in the UK he thought the British might be高冷. The characters literally translate as “tall, cold”, the closest translation I could find being “haughty”. Another word used to depict the UK, (owing to Chinese social media) was 腐国 which is Chinese slang referring to, “the perception of the UK as decadent for its attitudes towards sexuality”. The former image of haughty Brits formed a stark contrast with the flamboyant, modern and seemingly “decadent” supporters of homosexuals. 腐国in fact originated from Chinese social media trends and memes of various British TV series characters, that whilst we may appear cold and indifferent on the surface, we are humorous and light-hearted on the inside.

I asked Y if there is a particularly desired characteristic amongst the Chinese youth, to which he replied the spirit of being able to 折腾 which translates as “to toss from side to side”, or “to be weird and wonderful (crazy)”. If an individual is daring to persist, fight and dream for something they are passionate about all whilst having a positive impact on others as a role model, then, in the eyes of the upcoming Chinese generation, they have achieved 折腾. Y told me, “If you purposely pursue success, then you are just like everyone else in China. Pursuing success isn’t necessarily a desired characteristic because it’s too common, 折腾 is what the Chinese youth are now striving for”.

J, 20, Jinan 济南 – On love, sex and relationships in China.

Curious about the ways in which love, sex and relationships manifest themselves in contemporary Chinese society, I met with friend, J, to discuss boys, relationships and sex; more specifically J’s reasons for hiding her 3 year relationship with her boyfriend from her parents and gender roles in modern Chinese relationships.

J told me that people would not normally say 性 sex, but instead subtly clap three times, refer to it as  啪啪啪 (pronounced papapa) or say to do the 滚床单 (to roll around in bed sheets). J started dating one of her close friends in secret aged 18. 3 years on and whilst the relationship is no longer secret among friends, J is yet to tell her parents. One of the necessities in keeping the relationship undisclosed is because dating in Chinese secondary schools is often frowned upon and in some cases forbidden. In 2011, a school in 四川 Sichuan imposed a rule stating that students found “20 inches of each other would be told off by teachers in the first instance and then given a formal punishment”.  Whilst many parents express concern for their child’s love life, they also believe that relationships would interfere with one’s studies, so only after graduation should one find a partner, get married and have children.

A Chinese saying goes 宁坐宝马车里哭,不坐自行车上笑 I’d rather cry in a BMW, than laugh on a bicycle; coined in 2010, when 20-year old Ma Nuo, a contestant on TV dating show 非诚勿扰 If you are the one, rejected a potential suitor after he suggested they go on a romantic bike ride to which she replied she would prefer someone with a BMW. Despite social media criticism of modern Chinese dating values, this phrase represents the motivation and mentality of some Chinese seeking a partner. Without previous experience, based on parental advice and societal pressure, some Chinese are selecting life partners based on their material wealth as this guarantees financial security and a certain lifestyle.

J explained that in China, a marriage between two people is more like a marriage between two families, with less emphasis on individual happiness and satisfaction, and more emphasis on the needs and requirements of the family as a whole. However, more and more Chinese youth are shunning conventional expectations and choosing happiness over materialistic wealth. For example, a group of  剩女 (a term for leftover women i.e. those that have reached late 20s without having married) fought against parental and societal expectations in their “Marriage Market Takeover” video and couples are now embracing 裸婚 naked marriages which excludes the emphasis on materialistic wealth (house and car ownership) in a marriage.

J told me her boyfriend and her are equals in their relationship, but he displays  大男人主义 (chauvinistic) behaviour, considering his role as a boyfriend to protect and support her. Traditional expectations of Chinese women include “passive and inactive” behaviour, “maintaining one’s virginity” and “not to ask too much for sex and consider men’s satisfaction as one’s own”.  J said that men who hold onto these expectations are said to have 直男癌 (straight man cancer) and are fiercely criticised by many Chinese youths who strive for gender equality in relationships.

However, despite their shyness in talking about sex, Chinese youths are having sex at an earlier age than before. A study by Peking University showed “the average age for first time sex in China was 22.2 years for those born after 1980, dropping to 17.7 years for those born after 1995”  Furthermore, TV shows such as 女人帮·妞儿 China’s own “Sex and the City” are tackling expectations of virginity and sexism head on. Like many countries both developed and developing around the world, China has a long way to go before longstanding Confucian values (where women are inferior to men) are squashed and gender equality can be achieved.   Perhaps what we are beginning to see is the start of a  “Chinese sexual revolution”; China is slowly starting to lay the groundwork in becoming a society that feels comfortable in talking about love, sex and relationships.

Olivia is the founder of 66hands.com, featuring very interesting and insightful stories from Olivia’s China experience, reflecting on China’s past and present. 

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Understanding the structure of Chinese words as the key to intuitive learning

Are you learning or planning to learn Chinese? Did you [...]

Are you learning or planning to learn Chinese? Did you know that by understanding how a Chinese word is constructed and what parts (called “morphemes” in linguistics) it is made up of, you’ll find it much easier to memorise new characters and to remember the meaning of the ones that you’ve seen before?

The most basic part from which we can start analysing the structure of Chinese words is the morpheme. A morpheme is the smallest significant unit in a language and the science that studies the functioning of morphemes is called morphology. In Classic Chinese, most morphemes were found on their own, isolated from each other, called “monosyllabic words” in linguistics – that is short words that cannot be broken down in smaller parts. On the contrary, in Modern Chinese different parts of words combine with one another to create longer words, which linguists call “bi-“ or “polysyllabic” words. Let’s look at the comparison below:

In Chinese, small parts of words combine together to form longer words. Like logo blocks, each word has a ‘root’ meaning, and when words are put together, they form new words! Take the example of the word ‘apple pie’ in English, Apple is a word, Pie is a word, and when you put them together, they form a new word. This is how most words are structured in Chinese: they are logical, meaningful and descriptive. To illustrate this, let’s see how the word classmate (tongxue) is formed. Part #1 Tong, means the same, together, part #2 Xue, means to study. Therefore a classmate is someone who studies with you. What this means is that learning new Chinese words will become easier as you progress, as you learn more and more of the basic ‘lego blocks’.

These small units can be classified into two types. Lexical units are the nucleus of the word, they’re the lexical basis and they convey the meaning of the word. Grammar units define the grammar category that a word belongs to (for example, whether it is a noun, and adjective, and adverb or a verb), the gender (masculine or feminine) and the number (singular or plural).

Chinese words are created through a linguistic process that is called derivation, meaning the addition of a unit (called “affix” in linguistics) to a root (the main part of a word, its core), which triggers a change in the grammar category and/or in the meaning of the derived word. Derivation can happen either by adding a unit before the root, at the beginning of the root (prefix) or by adding a unit after the root, at the end of the root (suffix). To understand the concept of derivation at work, let’s check out the examples below. Note that some of these additional units have fixed meanings so by learning them you’ll find it easier to guess the meaning of a word, even though you have never seen it before!

A word which is made up of two or more units is called compound word. The criteria according to which two units can be combined together to create a compound word are plenty.

Stay tuned to learn more about compounds!

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How do the Chinese use communication channels differently?

Chinese businesses and consumers have on their hands similar channels [...]

Chinese businesses and consumers have on their hands similar channels of communication as we do in the UK. However, did you know they are often used in slightly different ways than in the UK? Here are some of the subtle but important differences:

  1. Face to face is still the best way to establish new and nurture existing relationships. Nothing builds a relationship more than seeing each other face to face, having a meal, or even singing some drunken Karaoke together (yes, the socialising bit is important when doing business with the Chinese people and we will cover more in our course). The key thing is to remember that it takes time to build relationships and it’s more the case when doing business with Chinese people. Invest time in building the relationships before you expect the return (read more in my blog Lessons learnt expanding to China’s Tier 1 cities).
  2. Mobiles – One thing different about Chinese businessmen is that many of them answer their mobiles wherever they are, whatever they are doing – in a meeting, at the dinner table, on holiday or at a family gathering. I was once told by a recruiter friend that a Chinese HR manager picked up the phone during an interview with a candidate and was on it for over 20 minutes. Not great if you were the candidate, but the point is, if you are trying to reach your Chinese clients/partners/agents urgently, you have a better chance in reaching them on mobile than you do in the UK.
  3. Emails – you may see even in some larger, well established companies, employees still use their own private email account for business use. As a result, email addresses can often change due to excessive spams and you may not be notified about it.
  4. Social Media – the Chinese are constantly on Social Media, especially through mobile devices (you are probably aware that Chinese Mobile Internet users have already over taken desktop users back in 2012). They use it more and they are also influenced by it more (as they are deemed a more reliable source having come from friends and family). In our recent China Online Marketing talk, our speaker Arnold Ma from Qumin showed us a really interesting app which Durex developed to engage Chinese consumers on WeChat. The app is an art gallery where visitors can walk around and view different artworks. Each artwork is tied to a Durex product. Visitors can go to the store within the app and purchase products directly from their phones. There are also gamification elements in it (and it’s a big thing for the Chinese), for example, visitors can collect keys and open doors which will then take them to other parts of the art gallery.

In short, Chinese social media are a dominant platform to reach Chinese businesses and consumers, so make sure it’s part of your marketing strategy!

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Quick Tips on Strengthening your Chinese Business Relationships

With 5,000 years of history, Chinese culture exerts an enormous [...]

With 5,000 years of history, Chinese culture exerts an enormous influence and explains a lot about how the Chinese do business today.   An understanding of China’s Business mentality and etiquette can help you avoid unnecessary misunderstandings, build relationships quicker,  and maximise business opportunities. What are the key differences in business environment, Chinese mentality and how do you navigate around them to deepen your Chinese business relationships? Here are some of the key points (and we will cover more in full detail in our upcoming Survival BUSINESS phrases – Mandarin taster on 25th September 2018 at 19.00):

  1. Guanxi – In the west, we say ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’. This captures the essence of Guanxi in Chinese.  In English, the term means having a fantastic set of contacts. Without Guanxi, ie. with the right introductions, it will be especially hard to get to the top decision makers in China as the Chinese much prefer to do business with the people they know.  In the past, Guanxi is essential for getting a job, seeing a good doctor etc.  It is no longer as critical now but in general, it’s still an extremely important way to get things done in China, in personal life and in business.  To do business successfully in China, you need to build a strong Guanxi chain. Nurturing a good relationship/Guanxi via sharing a meal and thoughtful gift giving are basic practice in China.   We will cover this in detail plus other useful Chinese characteristics in our Survival BUSINESS phrases – Mandarin taster on 25th September 2018 at 19.00.
  2. Banqueting – Nurturing Guanxi is vital, so people need to socialise. The meal plays an important role in doing business in China.  Banquets are often hosted at lavish restaurants to welcome Western guests.  The head of each party is usually expected to give a speech and toasting with Chinese wine is a part of the occasion. In Chinese, we call a business dinner ‘fanju’ (饭局),which literally means a dinner plan or strategy – it’s something that’s planned to achieve the desired business results. There are Chinese books on how one can best plan a ‘fanju’– a testament to the importance of the dinner in doing business in China even for the Chinese themselves. A quick note on the dinner, if you are hosting, your Chinese guests are likely to interpret the price of the meal as how sincere you are about the business relationship – it’s also associated with the concept of ‘giving face’ (explained below), Where do you have to sit at a banquet? Do you have to finish everything on the plate as demonstrated in a HSBC advert?
  3. Gift Giving  Do you know that it’s a big taboo to give a clock, or a watch as a gift to the Chinese people? This is because in Chinese, the word ‘clock’ sounds like the word ‘funeral’ and when you give a clock to someone, it sounds like you are ‘attending to their funeral’ in Chinese! It’s considered very unlucky and we can get quite offended.  Sadly, these small (but quite unpleasant) misunderstandings are still happening,  for example, earlier this year the British Transport Minister presented the mayor of Taiwan a watch on her visit and unsurprisingly it was not very warmly received (you can read more about it here).  Things like this highlighted the importance of some fundamental knowledge of the Chinese culture when doing business with the Chinese people. What other gifts can be sensitive to your Chinese counterparts? We will explain in detail with real life case studies on the 9th.
  4. Face – The Chinese concept of ‘Face’ concerns the image or credibility of the person you are dealing with. For the Chinese, it’s important to maintain a good, external image. In business, ‘giving face’ to someone could mean to compliment a member of staff in front of his boss, arriving a meeting with an immaculate suit to show your respect, or hosting a very nice banquet dinner as mentioned before. Face is also linked with hierarchy, respecting someone’s rank or status. This is has implications on how you address your Chinese associates and where people sit during a banquet for example.

We will help you to compare and understand more differences in the Chinese way of doing things, pitfalls and ways to navigate around them in the Survival BUSINESS phrases – Mandarin taster on 25th September 2018 at 19.00.

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Differences in Chinese private business compared to State-owned organisations

4 senior members from CRCC Asia, Bank of China, Active Anglo […]

4 senior members from CRCC Asia, Bank of China, Active Anglo Chinese Communications and Davica HR gathered at a recent China Unbound event to discuss how we can build more successful cross-cultural teams and collaborations. Here are highlights of the event!

Q: Is there a difference between privately owned organisation’s in China and State Owned Organisations in terms of the way people behave?

“Yes I feel UK SMEs generally behave more like privately owned organisations in China and UK large corporates are similar to State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) in China.” Yintong Bester, MD of Active Anglo Chinese Comumnications says.

“Having said that, it is important to try to empathise and understand each company’s background that you are working with, and work out what defines success for them.” Edward Pearce, Director of CRCC Asia adds.

Particularly with SOEs, they might have some targets that are not necessarily related to making more money. It may be about keeping people employed or sorting out some other potential future problems.”

“On the other hand, for many small Chinese companies that I met that could potentially list on AIM, it’s the listing process, the successful listing, that is their success. That means either they got a big pay out or they got fleet of cars, or they got their new factory etc. It is not necessarily successfully running this business for 10 years.”

Bester further observes, “It’s not consistent, some companies you find they take a very structured approach, develop their business step by step, and very focused. Then with other companies, they come up with an idea and off they go! Chinese companies I have dealt with can be so different, they are less consistent than the companies in the UK in my experience. I feel it’s a transitional stage in China now.

To see how we can help you build your China business: Survival BUSINESS phrases – Mandarin taster on 25th September 2018 at 19.00.

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An Insider’s view on Engaging Chinese consumers

How do we successfully engage Chinese consumers? I spoke to [...]

How do we successfully engage Chinese consumers? I spoke to a good friend and China veteran Ben McMillan for some tips. Ben spent 10 years in China, photographing China’s explosive growth story and set up his own media production company, Beijing Photospace. BPS went on to become one of the leading production houses in China, supporting clients such as American Vogue, Sony Pictures and Mercedes.

1) Tell us about your fascinating business, journalist and photography background! How do they help you understand how to engage with Chinese consumers?

Well those are different disciplines and experiences, and they’ve given me a very rounded exposure to China. On photography first, a picture speaks a thousand words and to take one for a Chinese advertiser, or commercial client, by definition requires successfully meeting their expectations. But the thing with photography is you don’t get things like a scale drawing, or a precise model for the product you deliver. Instead you have to connect with your client’s vision and understanding of their whole brand and customer base. So it’s a super direct exposure to the world and aesthetic view of the culture from which your client is from. And in my case that helped me learn a great deal about China.

Journalism also had great relevance to photography and business in China because so much of the standard support you get in London – access to locations like a roof top, processes in place to get permits to shoot – just don’t exist there. So you have to draw on other skills. Finding out processes and passing tests and making connections. As for setting up a business in China, again it teaches you an awful lot about a culture and community. And that’s what consumers are! Many expats live in China but most inhabit exclusive, gated compound homes and their office and a bunch of plane and hotel interiors. That’s really different from drawing the story of a culture out of people, from all levels of society, and in all kinds of locations. In their comfort zone not yours … eye to eye.

2) You said it’s important to understand how the UK is perceived in order to engage Chinese consumers successfully, why is that?

National identity really matters in marketing into any community. Think of the Marlboro Man back in the eighties and nineties. The rugged cowboy who smoked Marlboro cigarettes. In one image the product was entirely wrapped up in a range of positive brand messages about the USA that people could immediately understand. Space, bravery, freedom, manliness … conquering the American West and so on. It was aspirational and worked because the audience in the west had grown up watching cowboy movies. So we could connect all those dots ourselves, in a heartbeat.

So with UK, the question is … what dots do Chinese consumers connect about the UK in a heartbeat?

Is there an entry point of cultural understanding you can link your product to that will resonate? And if there isn’t, or if there’s a less desirable association about the culture from which you come, how can you rebalance that? How can you reinvent?

I’ll address this further in the talk but I appreciate a response to that might be, ‘why try to link a product to a national identity at all’? A washing machine is a washing machine, and paint is a paint. Why should it matter to the consumer where products come from? But in many ways I don’t think that’s the case with China.

In China, every interaction with everyone and everything is defined by national identity.

Every taxi driver wants to know where you’re from, and they process that information against how you act, appear and past cases they’ve known. And if they can, every market seller will try and sell a product on the back of where it’s made. And usually … not China!

And up to a macro level, China as a state commissions foreign expertise in every major industrial field in order to learn from them, and nations have been partnered, or not, due to very specific historic frameworks and modes of perception. In the case of the UK, the Chinese business world associates us with good management, law, finance, education and personal investment, especially property.

But Chinese consumers have a hard time putting their finger on what the UK is good at.

They like the premiership football league, for example, but know it’s full of foreign players. Whereas by comparison, Germany is clearly identified with strong leadership and good manufacturing, especially cars. And their football team knows how to win! So it adds up. Equally with the USA … movies communicate so much about technology and a fast-paced, can-do society…buildings are shiny and modern. Whereas Britain, with the royal parades, neo-gothic houses of parliament and movies about butlers and Duchesses … we make the UK look so conservative, while in reality, with pop music, fashion, art, F1, defence, computer gaming … the UK is anything but!

We have so much to offer so it’s worth understanding those domestic perceptions before you spend money trying to tackle them, or in other cases, leverage them.

3) What are the 3 common perceptions, or misconceptions about the China market as you see it from your own experience?

China is much larger than the whole EU and just as diverse, so the first common perception, or misconception, is that China is one market. On the surface it is, in regulatory terms … but even that’s a stretch.

The reality of China is that the provinces are far more autonomous and independent than outsiders appreciate.

The big show meetings of the ruling party in Beijing are a by-product of that. It’s not just a post-Soviet presentational paradigm … but part of a constant effort by the centre to remind the wider country that they’re still there, and ultimately in charge. But in reality deals are done on such a scale across China, Beijing can’t possibly know what’s going on everywhere. Outsiders think China is run with a rod of iron from an all-knowing Beijing centre and it’s just not the case.

So if you want to partner with a company in Guangzhou, it’s the culture and regulations of Guangzhou you need to know about. Not just those of the central Government in Beijing.

And that follows through to the second and the third perception. That China’s economic success in the past 20-30 years is down to inspired central Government leadership when in my view, it was actually more the centre lifting restrictions and just getting out of the way. Which is where a lot of issues come from now. Today the centre is trying to manage a slowing down when it had nothing much to do with the growth that occurred in the first place, and doesn’t understand how it works as a consequence. Not to the extent that we would imagine a Bank of England of US Treasury department would. It was organic in many ways, once the ‘reform and opening up’ program was begun under Deng Xiaoping in the late seventies.

And finally modernisation.

It’s so easy to see sky scrapers and modern buildings in China as proof of a modernised society, in depth.

But that masks the fact that Chinese society is massively diverse in terms of internationalisation and awareness of global business practices. In China, you encounter people from all corners of a far wider economic, educational and cultural landscape than any Western nation.

So the mental world view of a person you are dealing from one meeting to the next can be very different. The fact you may be doing several such meetings in one day in an awe-inspiring 70 story tower has absolutely nothing to do with it. Many other important issues I’d like to talk about at the event on the 21st trickle down from these factors.

4) You lived in China for 10 years without speaking fluent Chinese, how easy is it to get by without speak Chinese?

I don’t speak fluent Mandarin, but of course I do have basic language skills that were essential. But while I was able to get around town and order food, pay bills and so on, yes I wasn’t able to have lengthy discussions. I was also travelling around China by myself, on jobs, like shooting Chongqing for a major feature for The Guardian in around 2006.

And really, looking back, the answer is confidence. Confidence, patience and anticipating where a communication problem might happen and proactively managing that, in advance. For example, printing your hotel address before you travel, so the taxi driver has that. Then from the car you can phone ahead and ask the hotel staff to tell the driver where you are going, to make sure. It’s a lot about logistics on a street level basis, and in terms of meetings and serious conversation, all my clients had English speaking staff.

Speaking Mandarin plays a much more important role in showing respect and commitment, and helps a great deal in relating to people and understanding their culture.

But you will find your clients don’t need to have long, complex conversations in Mandarin to establish that. Showing willingness to absorb Chinese culture at first is most important.

I never spoke perfect Mandarin, but I always did when meeting people for the first time. And I used key words and phrases, selectively, at the right moment to confirm I understood an agreement or a plan from both sides.

An appropriate use of a Mandarin phrase says so much more about what you know about China, than any amount of contractual commitments in written documents.

It shows you’ve taken time. You’ve understood and listened and had the respect to give that time and attention. If you’ve not taken that time, how trustworthy can you be, long-term? And always, always, end by saying thank you in Mandarin.

5) What is the one advice you most want to share with businesses looking to reach Chinese consumers?

Spend time in China. If you’re a decision maker, do a trip and make free time. Even a day if that’s all you can manage. Watch TV. Wander some shopping malls by yourself. Get a meal by yourself. The menu’s all have pictures! Look at advertising on the street. You don’t have to understand Mandarin to see a car ad is a car ad. Or a phone ad is a phone ad. Get a local SIM card and you’ll probably get adverts by SMS and some cold calls. Listen to the tone of delivery, the style of the voice. Is it male or female? Why?

Learn what you’re trying to participate in and break into.

As the oldest continuous history on earth, with the size of its territory, borders, population and history for isolationism … China is a different market from anywhere else.

There are lots of nuances about selling into China … how your product is perceived, if it’s perhaps associated with a country or part of the world.

At least 33.3% of the game is just getting personal affinity not just with reports and focus studies and whatever, but some practical experience.

You need to have some grasp, some reference point, for what you’re being told by staff or clients and partners. And you won’t get that simply by attending meetings and dinners.

You need to let China connect with yourself.

It will make a difference. The point is people in China do not differentiate business practice from the rest of life or their world view. When you get your head around that, it’s unusual, and it’s a big deal.

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How to work effectively with Chinese partners or agents?

4 senior members from CRCC Asia, Bank of China, Active Anglo […]

4 senior members from CRCC Asia, Bank of China, Active Anglo Chinese Communications and Davica HR gathered at a China Unbound event to compare UK and Chinese’s approach to leadership and how we can build more successful cross-cultural teams and fruitful collaborations. Here’s part 2 of 4 of our post-event highlight (UK vs Chinese Leadership)!

Q: If you are working with Chinese partners or agents, how do you get international collaboration?

A: “It is very important to learn what the structure is like in China, and how to work the hierarchy system. Nurture the relationship and show people respect is very important for a long term business.” Yintong Betser, MD, Active Anglo Chinese Communications explains.

You must also make sure that you are talking to the right person. As often there are junior line managers involved in the process – build relationships with them to get things done, but make sure you are talking to the senior managers if you need decisions made.

We should also realise that often the decision isn’t actually made here in the UK. The Chinese companies are massive in China, but they are a smaller operation here, and they don’t necessarily have the autonomy. So helping the managers here to send the right messages back so the right answer comes back is important. Claire Martin, Director of Davica HR adds.

Edward Pearce, Director of CRCC Asia adds: “The role of the government is also very important. Especially if you work with State Owned Enterprises.”

“A lot of UK organisations go into China and expect instant results. But you have to be patient and open minded.” Bester says. “For example, is common sense international? My British colleagues will say, of course! But is it? If your boss is supposed to chair a meeting but they are running late, would you go ahead and start the meeting? To the Chinese, the common sense is not to start. But in the English culture, to be punctual probably is more the common sense. So it is always a different interpretation.”

“Another example is how age is viewed. In the Chinese Culture, older can mean more responsible, more caring, so can be positive sentiments. But in the UK – people can get very upset if you tell them they are old!”

So things can be interpreted from different cultural references in China. Knowing these basics help build stronger relationships and are fundamental to effective business strategies as you cannot sell to someone effectively if you don’t understand the world from their point of view.

 Enjoy this? Read the rest of the series here: Part 1 UK vs Chinese leadership, Part 3 Motivating Chinese employeesPart 4 differences between privately owned vs State Owned Organisations


To see how we can help you build your China business: Survival Business Mandarin in 4 hoursSurvival Business Mandarin in 10 weeks

China Unbound specialise in helping business people do better business with China using two primary drivers – Language and Culture. Their happy clients include professionals from Grant Thornton, Crowe Clark Whitehill and SB Wealth Management. www.china-unbound.co.uk

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