Pittsburgh Tribune-Review published an article entitled U.S. Businessmen Get Chinese Culture Lesson (by A.J. Panian TRIBUNE REVIEW Monday, March 27, 2006), which tells about U.S. businessmen get Chinese culture lesson. It spells out some of the typical cultural phenomenon in modern Chinese culture, which could be some interesting references to get to know more about Chinese cultural patterns.
Did you know 666 is a popular Chinese number?
The Chinese love the number ‘six’ because their word for ‘six’ rhymes with their word for ‘smooth’, said Sha Zhao, principal of Asia Synergy LLC, Pittsburgh, a provider of market entry liaisons to the South Asia country. Many people have e-mails with 666 in them because that’s considered a good, good number there. However, a Chinese bride won’t hold her wedding on a date with the numeral 4 or, for that matter, accept four gifts from one of her guests. ‘Four’ is a bad number in China because it has a similar pronunciation as the word for death in Chinese, Zhao said. These are just little things people may not realize.
Those little things could trip up American business people trying to leave a good impression on their Chinese counterparts in the 4,000-year-old culture, Zhao said. The Chinese consider their business cards to be like their faces, so you don’t want to write anything on the card or shove it in your back pocket in front of them, Zhao said. That’s slightly insulting, and that instantly makes you not as strong a business partner.
Preventing such oversights is Zhao’s mission when prepping clients for trips like the upcoming China trade mission in May offered by St. Vincent College.
Through intercultural training in proper business etiquette, Zhao schools her clients on the often-subtle social beliefs and customs held so dear there. She also serves as a helpful guide on the trip itself.
As a liaison, I want to help bridge the East and West as they buy and sell to each other and promote a better business culture understanding between the two, Zhao said.
Such an understanding can’t be reached over the phone or through e-mail in China, nor can a business deal be completed that way. Both are much more likely to occur over glasses of wine, at the dinner table or even in a karaoke bar.
Relationship-building there is so important, Zhao said. You need to become their buddies and earn their trust before you can do business with them.
If that happens, Zhao said, a Chinese company owner may choose to buy a product at a higher price from a American seller they like before considering a cheaper offer for the same product from an untrustworthy patron.
They’re not looking for your brochure, said Frank C. Dlubak of Dlubak Corp. They want to look at you, have a drink with you, they want to look inside of you and see if you’re for real. It’s not how much money you have, it’s whether you are a good person first and whether you are willing to be their partner.
In addition, Americans wishing to buy Chinese products must follow the country’s customs for negotiation and display some background knowledge regarding product value, Zhao said.
(The Chinese) will offer an American something at a higher price than it’s worth to see if you try to negotiate the price down because they value one’s ability to do that, Zhao said.
Americans also must be prepared for what can be an arduous process when trying to nail down a business deal there.
You have to be prepared for a lot of back-and-forth, Zhao said.
But if the priority is placed first on friendship, the possibility of a pact has more promise. In China, it’s more important to have a commitment from the heart than it is to have one on paper, Zhao said.