There are hundreds of books and articles educating business people about how to do business in China. Instead of spending thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours reading books that will essentially tell you the same thing, I’ve taken my 18 years’ experience working and living in China and boiled them down into some tips that will help any business that wants to make a good impression with Chinese partners and customers.

The Big Six 

1. Chinese are always telling me how loud Americans are and they find it off-putting. Plus, for non-native English speakers, how fast we talk can be confusing and hard to understand. So keep in mind that they are working hard to follow you, do them a favor and speak more softly and slowly when in business meetings, on the phone or just chit-chatting about the weather.

2. Do not underestimate the need for business cards when traveling to China, even in today’s world of LinkedIn. The name card is an important part of the introduction etiquette in most Asian countries and you will lose a small amount of respect in your Chinese counterpart’s eyes when you don’t have one.

3. Even though the majority of Chinese you might encounter in a business situation have studied English and can read some English, it’s always easier for them to read about you and your business in their native language; so invest in translating your website and marketing collateral. It also shows respect.

4. Chinese appreciate hard copies of brochures, booklets and other materials. I’ve seen the trend of companies wanting to position their businesses as green and not print out as much collateral in the US and EMEA, but China still prefers it. For the Chinese, I’ve been told that it’s more about their impression of quality rather than being environmentally friendly. Companies that don’t have print outs are often seen as being cheap.

5. The Chinese have a cultural behavior of saying ‘no’ three times when another person is trying to pick up the check at a dinner or lunch, or when receiving a gift of any kind. Let them say ‘no’ three times, but always pay – it shows face.

6. Bring a small token of appreciation when starting to work with a new client or partner. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should be somehow representative of your company, country or culture. Choosing something that is unique to where you come from works very well. Being from the state of New Hampshire, I tend to go with a bottle of our famous maple syrup.