Initial meetings are usually used to aid the relationship-building process with little or no emphasis placed on the actual business ideas on the table.
It is important to take these preliminary meetings seriously and to try not to push things along quicker than the Taiwanese are comfortable with. Relationships are of primary importance in business dealings and it is very much in the best interests of profitable long-term business to allocate resources to these early skirmishes. Build some relationship meetings into the business plan – if you don’t the plan is flawed.
Meetings tend to be formal with the two heads of delegation sitting opposite each other flanked by colleagues. All comments should be made to the senior manager who will bring in experts when and where necessary. Do not be seduced into talking mainly to the best speaker of English – they may only be present because they speaks good English. It would be disrespectful to ignore the key player.
Although Confucian values stress reserve and harmony, the Taiwanese can resort to aggression or at least exasperation when confronted with obstacles or perceived intransigence. This emotion could be genuine – but it could just as easily be feigned and part of a premeditated negotiating ploy.
As in many other parts of Asia, communication patterns can be vague and coded, which can make true meaning difficult to decipher. This approach to communication, coupled with often indifferent abilities in foreign languages, can make meetings difficult and slow.
Gift giving is endemic throughout Taiwanese culture. The giving and receiving of gifts is part of the all-important ritual of business relationship development and in a country where relations are placed firmly before business, gifts are therefore an important business tool.
Avoid expensive gifts, especially in the early stages of a relationship. If an expensive gift is to be given present it to the head of the delegation as a gift for the whole group. If individual gifts are to be given, ensure all present receive one with a slightly more impressive gift going to the senior person. Single malt whiskey or cognac is always appreciated. Gifts should be wrapped and are often refused two or three times before being accepted. They are rarely opened in front of the giver.