Taiwanese Communication Styles

Communication in Taiwan can be difficult if one does not speak Mandarin Chinese (the official language) or Taiwanese, a southern Fujian dialect which is widely spoken.

Levels of English (and other major languages) will be patchy even within Taiwanese multi-nationals and major MNCs based in the country. Within the bulk of small to medium-sized businesses little or no English at all will be spoken. It may, therefore, be necessary to employ the use of a translator which will further slow down an already tardy process. Be prepared for the inevitable delays and confusions.

As in many Asian cultures language is rarely used in an absolutely literal fashion. Much of what is actually meant can be hidden behind a smoke screen of vagueness and coded language. It is impolite and disrespectful to disagree openly and therefore anything other than an unequivocal ‘yes’ should be viewed with some wariness. Probe for further information, go back to the subject later in the meeting and use flip charts, diagrams etc. to aid mutual comprehension.

Unlike Japan, it is not unknown for meetings to become heated with emotions erupting and then subsiding quickly. It is best to try to ignore this lack of reserve and avoid referring back to it in an attempt to score points. This could result in loss of face and a fracture in the relationship.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in Taiwan

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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This country profile has been produced to give a short overview of some of the key concepts to bear in mind when doing business with contacts in Taiwan. It is intended to be an aid to business people who have commercial dealings with counterparties in the country but should not be seen as an exhaustive guide to this topic or as a substitute for more substantial research should there be a need.

With this in mind, we have covered the areas which are key to a better understanding of the cultural mindset underpinning business dealings in Taiwan and which are, quite often, extremely different from the approach and thought processes associated with business in other parts of the world.

Therefore this briefing note is broken into short, bite-sized sections on the following topics:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips