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How to use a Business Card to make that first impression in Asia.

How to use a Business Card to make that first impression in Asia.

What is the right etiquette for exchanging business cards in Asia? This article explains the proper way to conduct a business card exchange in Asia. You never want to show disrespect in Asia by treating an Asian business card as if it’s just a piece of paper to throw away. In this BLOG you will learn the proper way to present, receive, and observe Asian business cards with the respect.

Business Card Exchange

Asian business cards are exchanged upon the first meeting. It is always best to have two sided business cards, on one side the English version and the other the translated version. These should be exchanged with the translated side up and where possible with two hands, as a sign of respect. To appear at a meeting without an Asian translated business card is a sign of disrespect; it is just like refusing to shake someone’s hand in the Western culture.

Make sure that your cards are clean, no smudges and not dog-eared, after all it does represent you and your company. It is also best to stand when exchanging business cards and exchange them one to one. Never put a pile of cards on the table for colleagues to take one and never flick them across the table to an Asian businessman.

What should I do with the business card when it has been passed to me?

Asian business cards represent the person to whom you are being introduced, so it is polite to study the card for a while (Even if you can’t read it) and then place it on the table next to you or in a business card box. Never put it in your pocket straight away.

Also don’t make notes on the card in their in their presence. You may write on your own card if you want to add a telephone number.

Business cards in China

When in China the Chinese translated side should use ‘Simplified’ characters and this can be used for mainland China, Singapore, Malaysia & Indonesia. ‘Traditional’ characters are used in Taiwan and in parts of Hong Kong.

Business Cards in Japan

In Japan business cards are called ‘Meishi’ and they have a much greater significance in Japan than in the Western culture. In a society where an individual is less important than the group to which he/ she belongs, Meishi provides access to its bearers identity.

The initial Meeting in Asia

Shake hands at the first instance but remember that some businessmen may bow or nod instead of shaking hands. However, shaking hands is becoming more the norm. When being introduced to a group in Asia sometimes they will greet you with applause; just simply applaud back and smile.

Normally the most senior person will begin the greeting. So greet the oldest most senior person first before the others. Normally with group introductions they will line up with the most senior person first in line.

Asian Names & Titles

At all times use family names and titles until you are specifically invited by your Asian host to use their given name. For example you would address a Doctor Li Qiang as Doctor Qiang until told to use her given name.

Chinese, Japanese & Koreans are often addressed by their professional titles. Using the example above Doctor Li Qiang would be addressed as Doctor Li.

The Chinese generally introduce their guests using their full title and full name so you should do that same.

Japanese people are generally introduced by their family name and in the case of a man it is followed by ‘san’ which is used the same a ‘Mister’ in western cultures.

Body Language

This can be so hard to judge but here are a few tips.

The Chinese dislike being touched by strangers so the friendly arm around the shoulder is not something that you should do. Also clicking fingers or whistling, or gesturing or passing an object with your feet is considered very rude.

Blowing your nose in a handkerchief and then returning it to your pocket is considered vulgar by the Chinese.

To beckon a Chinese person over to you, place the palm of your hand down and move the fingers in a scratching motion. Never use your finger to beckon anyone. Also never point with your finger use your open hand gesture to point at something.

If you are developing your business in Asia and would like us to help plan your travel plans then please fill in the contact sheet at the top of this page or call us on 01282 930295.

About the Author
Steve was the Operations Director of a UK based TMC (Travel Management Company) for 5 years and also runs a successful Travel Agency. He has extensive experience in both business and leisure travel, living and visiting many of the countries he recommends in his travel blogs.