This FINAL section will examine, or maybe even expose, 3 last dynamics you should know when performing business with your Chinese business partners. The last 3 areas we are going to explore are neither the least important, nor the most important. All of the cultural information that I have provided should be taken as a whole. That being said, let’s dive into the last 3 “points-of-interest”. They are:
- Dining Standards
- Body Language
- Gender Issues
I know I have already given tips on what to do in formal dining and banquet situations, but everyday eating customs in China should be recognized. Here’s a fact I found very interesting. The Chinese don’t associate specific foods with time of day. The goal in Chinese culture is to provide a number of dishes for variety.
The main part of the meal is a grain of some sort. In Chinese this is known as fan. Rice is eaten in southern China. In northern China, families eat meals of millet, sorghum or corn. Meat and vegetables are considered side dishes.
All of the dishes in the meal are placed in the center of the table. Diners at the table eat from the communal plates with chopsticks. Soup is eaten from a communal bowl. I don’t know about your sensibilities, but that would personally be difficult for me. One thing your mom probably told you not to do when you were a kid was to not reach across the table…right? Well in China, it’s socially acceptable for diners to reach across the table to take a bite from a dish.
There is decorum and order. Diners eat by order of seniority. The cue to eat is taken from the immediate superior. Children are taught to eat from every dish. Now your mom would be proud, huh? Choosing a specific bite is frowned upon.
His is very important…rice is eaten by placing the bowl at the mouth and pushing the rice in with chopsticks. It is considered bad manners to eat out of the bowl of rice when it is still on the table. It is equally bad form to leave any grains of rice on the table.
Soup is eaten by sipping from the spoon while inhaling. Eating soup in this manner has a two-fold effect.
- Helps to cool the soup
- Flavor of the soup is diffused
Soup is usually the only liquid served at common meals. There are no beverages served at meals because tea is served all day.
In the area of correct body language, let’s start with the proper body language in China that accompanies giving out business cards shall we? Present your business card by holding the card in both hands. Hold the card so the recipient is able to read the card, then bow and say your name. If you run into the situation where you are handing out your card to several people present your card to the highest-ranking person first.
It’s also good for you to know it’s preferable that when asking for someone else’s card, offer your card first. Once you accept someone’s card, don’t immediately put the card in your pocket. Bow when accepting the card and say, thank you. Saying thank you expresses gratitude for the opportunity to meet. In closing, feel free to give business cards anytime.
The role of women in China in the last decade has vastly improved, specifically when you take into consideration that as of 80 years ago women were having their feet bound. The practice of foot binding started in the Sung Dynasty reportedly to imitate an imperial concubine who was required to dance. China has a long feudal history. The feudal system placed women in the lowest echelon. In Confucian philosophy a woman’s subservience to a man is a virtue. Ambition and achievement are non-virtuous desires for a woman.
The Cultural Revolution changed all that. The revolution promoted gender equality. In 1949, 7% of the work force was comprised of women. In 1992, the percentage jumped to 38%. Chinese women made up 43% of the population in 1982. That percentage is higher than that enjoyed by American women in 2000.
As crazy as it may sound, there is still an intense bias against female babies. In fact, selective abortion and female infanticide are common. There are still negative stereotypes towards women. Women are seen by some as emotional, narrow-minded, and vengeful. The gender ratio is unbalanced as a result. Chinese men now pay for the custom of selectivity by suffering a shortage of brides. Young men may have to accept bachelorhood; this condition drives some men to crime or suicide.
To turn the trend, antidiscrimination laws and rules on equality and female rights will have to be strengthened. This being the case, women in China have gained earning power in recent years. Chinese women are the major role in grocery purchases. Women also have major financial responsibilities within the household. Therefore, the Chinese woman is becoming the prime target audience for the fast-moving consumer food market.
Taking into account the market potential of China, the future is bright. China can prove to be an excellent market to expand your company’s profitability…as well as improve global communication.