If you are invited to a banquet in China, prepare yourself for a meal to remember.
The banquet can consist of up to thirty dishes being served over a period of time and it is therefore wise to pace yourself. Try to eat a little of each dish rather than sticking to the one you recognize. It is traditional to leave some food — if you finish everything, this can be taken as a sign that you are still hungry!
The seating arrangements at a banquet are very complex and linked to perceptions of hierarchy and status. If you are invited, you will be shown where to sit. However if you are the host it is probably best to get some local advice on the best seating plan if you want to avoid insulting anybody.
The meal is usually coming to an end when the fruit is served and the hot towels given out. It is possible to leave after this stage of the proceedings — although the host is unlikely to initiate your departure.
Meals can be accompanied by a great deal of smoking — even during the courses. The idea of no-smoking restaurants hasn’t really taken off in China. It is acceptable to belch and slurp during the meal as this is taken as a sign of appreciation.
Alcohol will in invariably be consumed in quite large quantities during a formal banquet — mainly either beer or local clear alcohols which can be very potent. Although it is not really a problem if you drink a little too much, it is probably safest to be wary of unknown local liquors.
Traditionally, tipping was unusual in China, although it is starting to become more common in newer westernised establishments.
Written and Produced by Keith Warburton
China seems to grow more confident by the day. Is it too strong a statement to say that China is starting to regain its historical position as the pre-eminent global economy? The Chinese government is steadfastly following a policy of internal economic consolidation and international engagement. Wherever you are in the world you can start to feel the impact of Chinese investment and influence. China can no longer be classified as an emerging market. China has emerged and is taking on the world – much as America did in the early twentieth century and Japan in the 1970’s.
How the traditionally pre-eminent global economies such as the USA, Germany and Japan react to the growing strength of China will be fascinating to watch over the coming decades but one thing is sure – China is a force to be reckoned with and cannot be ignored. If you are not currently doing business in (or with) China, you probably should be.
However, China is not easy – somebody once said ‘in China everything is possible – but nothing is easy.’ Before starting to do business in China it is essential that you try to get an understanding of the cultural drivers and expectations of your Chinese contacts. Do you really understand the importance of ‘face’ in China and do you feel confident you can navigate the complexities of Chinese corporate hierarchy? How are you going to develop those all-important relationships and what impact will Chinese long-termism potentially have on your cash-flow forecasts?
China is a land of opportunities but it is also a land of potential bear traps. Do your homework – don’t fail through lack of research and planning.
This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Chinese business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on: