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Shanghai Expo bound

May 25, 2010

Last week I was invited to give a short presentation on Business Etiquette in China as part of the pre-departure briefing for the Wellington City Council Mayoral Delegation to the World Expo 2010 Shanghai.

This delegation will be the biggest New Zealand delegation going to the Expo, as well as to the cities of Beijing, Tianjin, and Xiamen.

Three of the points I made which resonated with the audience were:

  • Generations: The generational differences in behaviour we may encounter in China.  For example, don’t be surprised when you come across entrepreneurs from the younger generation who coolly hand over their cards with one hand and no particular care, instead of the traditional way of using both hands as a gesture of respect.
  • Gender:  Women in the delegation were struck that gender is less of an issue in China than in other countries/cultures – China takes pride in the nation’s relative gender equality.
  • Hierarchy:  If everyone in a group that you meet has the same title on their name cards, how do you recognise hierarchy? One way is to observe the people’s body language: who talks more than others, who talks first; watch out for eye contact to see who’s really in charge; i.e. where do people look before they speak.

Why, you may ask, why learn about this and try to modify our behaviour in the first place?

What happens when we adapt our behaviour is that we put others at ease, make them feel more comfortable and hence more open for our messages.

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