Gan Bei, Cheers and More

Building personal relationships is key to doing business with the Chinese. Say you find yourself in the company of your Chinese business partner over a private dinner. This is a golden opportunity to get to know your new business partner and establish personal rapport. What should you do and say to make sure the dinner ends on a high note?

1. Talk business but not only business.

Talking business over dinner is very common in China. In a relaxed atmosphere, people can reveal more of their true self which is what your Chinese partner would like to see. But if you occupy the entire dinner with business and making it a "working dinner", you are losing a huge relationship building opportunity and will come across as impersonal. Donate time to learn a bit more about the other person and find out a few things you didn't know before. Make a mental note of this information and use it in your on-going relationship building. As is true in all cultures, people will appreciate such personal touches. Drinks are usually a staple at Chinese business dinners, so be prepared and be a good sport when it comes to "Gan Bei" - Cheers or "Bottom Up" as is literally translated.

2. Show genuine interest.

The Chinese can be rather reserved and formal before they get to know you (once they do, they won't stop talking - but that's for later). A good rule of thumb is to show genuine interest in the other person's life, his family, his interests, his company and his country. Yes, his country, China. The Chinese are incredibly proud of their country, so any interest you show in its culture, tradition, people, food and arts are going to reflect well on you. Make it a habit to follow news about China, through your own local news source as well as Chinese news source. Here are a couple of good local news sources:,

3. Avoid politically sensitive topics.

The good news is that there aren't many topics that are not appropriate to talk with a Chinese. This is especially true when you have established a relationship. The only "taboo" is politically sensitive topics. This would include topics related to things such as Tibet, Taiwan, human rights, IP piracy, cyber attack... you know, the sensitive topics. Reading Chinese news source can help you establish sensitivity to what is considered "politically sensitive". And reading the official Chinese coverage on a particular news item that is also covered in the west is sure going to give you an idea of where the boundaries lie.

4. Pay? But be very fast.

The Chinese are very hospitable. Besides, it is maybe in their business interest to pay for your meal. If you want to pay instead, make sure you arrange this ahead of time so that it does not end up as a "I pay - No. I pay. - I insist - No, please allow me" type of situation. And believe me, if it comes to that, I have yet to see a westerner end up paying at the end of this exhausting and somewhat awkward polite exchange. So give the restaurant your credit card before the meal start and have the bill settled outside the dinner table. The best way to avoid this awkward situation is that the bill never even shows up.

+1 703 932 0188 (phone) | |  © Connect East LLC 2015 | All rights reserved.