Last week I posted a blog about how cultural differences play into global networking and how understanding those differences becomes very important as we do business around the world.
On a related note, I’d like to offer some valuable tips I’ve picked up from a handful of networking experts in Asian countries–today I’ll focus on China and Vietnam and in the coming weeks, I’ll revisit this topic and provide the additional advice which comes from experts in Malaysia and Japan.
One of China’s leading experts on networking, Jihong Hall (pictured with me below), says that “face is everything to the Chinese.” When used in a business context, face is not something you wash or shave but is something that is granted or lost. In China the word face is an idiom for dignity, prestige, honor, respect, and status. According to Hall, Westerners often make jokes at their own expense or at other people’s expense. They have a knack for laughing at themselves. However, she strongly recommends that you do not do this with the Chinese until you know them very, very well. If you lose their face you will lose their business.
She has three additional recommendations when working with the Chinese:
- When negotiating, always keep plenty in reserve. A deal must be a compromise in which you have given enough ground so that their face is satisfied.
- Numbers are very important to the Chinese. For example, if your company was formed in 1944 it is best not to mention it because that means “death, death” in Chinese culture. Even prices and fees charged are guided by the right numbers.
- How you look is VERY important. Dress well. Smart, casual dress is fine; however, wear stylish clothes.
Vietnamese business networking expert Ho Quang Minh (pictured above) also recommends that you look formal when doing business in Asian countries. He says:
- Westerners should be aware that some Asian businesspeople may talk less because they do not feel comfortable speaking English. Don’t assume that they are not highly successful or that they are not driven business professionals simply because they come across as quiet or reserved.
- Discuss business over a meal. Do not go straight to the point at the first meeting.
What do you think of this advice–do you find it helpful? If you are a networker in Asia or commonly network in Asian countries, what has your experience been? Do you have any insights to share? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section.