Preparing to Network in Asia?–Consider These Valuable Tips

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.



5 thoughts on “Preparing to Network in Asia?–Consider These Valuable Tips

  1. Dear Dr. Misner,
    This is very valuable information to know. Do I see another book in the works? Recently at a B2B after hours networking event, I met a man from Korea, the tall Asians. Although he had been in the USA for 13 years, he stilll was having great difficulty speaking English clearly. We went out to sit together on the patio where it was quiet, and I patiently spoke slowly, simply, and clearly to him. He really responded to my active consideration. So even with cultural differences, Korean at least, respond to kindness.

    Thanks for all you do to make us better networkers, Dr. Misner!

    Wishing You Plenty To Live,

    Tom Doiron

  2. Thank you very much for sharing !!

    I’ve been living and working in Asia for 2 years (Recently in a Chinese Company) and i’m totally agree with this article !
    Especially with the fact that some Investisors who are not comfortable in English language used to be affraid to keep longer a conversation. They looks like they want to go ahead and close the deal (or not).
    It doesn’t mean they are not interested. It’s really important for us to know that !
    We just need to speak slowly, sometimes make them laught (better to know some chinese words) and try to create a relaxing environment for the deal/Meeting.

    I wanted to read some stuff about cross cultural management and i saw this blog (for the first time)
    I really appreciate your job Dr Misner.

    Brahim Hamel
    From France

  3. My husband and I just returned from China on business and pleasure. Your suggestions are right on! I would mention 2 other things. Business card exchange is a much more formal process than here in the US. Cards are passed with 2 hands and a slight bow and placed in safe place. . not a pant pocket! Also your Chinese host will lead at a meal and your should eat what is offered to you. Our hosts were very pleased when we asked for their guidance in social protocal. A suggestion for women in business. . NO nail polish or a very light color. Bright polish is not worn by business people.
    Thanks for starting this conversation! Kathi Jo DeYoung Michigan USA

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