It is always polite polite to bring a little gift to your first encounter with a contact. It can be a company pen, hat, shirt, or coffee cup etc. It is an Asian custom and will help break the ice. It will also show them that you have done your home work and know a little about their culture.
Bring lots of business cards when you visit Asia. Everyone loves to exchange business cards, and they are offended when they offer one to you and you do not have one to give them in return. They consider giving business cards almost as a way of shaking hands. Usually Asians will present their cards with both hands, and you should receive it with both hands while at the same thanking them. Hold it for a while and examine it and try to notice their title. When you present your card, you should use both hands and bow your head slightly to show your respect.
This is a great way to show friendliness to a stranger, or someone you have just met. People from the Pacific Rim Region seem to always be smiling. Thailand is even referred to as the smile country. Chinese sometimes use a smile as a defense mechanism. They will smile when they are nervous or they feel uncomfortable. Smiling is practiced by Asians of all social levels. You will make more friends and influence more people if you smile often.
Asians enjoy small talk "chit chat". They want to learn all they can about you. This is why initial meetings sometimes do not yield results. Asian sales people will often wine and dine their clients for hours before they even begin to talk business, this is especially true in Japan. In America we believe money talks and everything can be spelled out in the contract thus relying on our legal system. In Asia trust is King! They want to get to know you first. If you bring your attorney to your first meeting it often times sends them the wrong signal and they may feel you are trying to outsmart them. This is not the way to begin a relationship of trust. Asians are very willing to sign contracts, however, only after achieving a certain level of comfort, understanding, and trust.
Many Asian people are very superstitious when it comes to numbers. For example, the number 4 in Chinese rhymes with "death" or "failure". Many people try very hard not to have their numbers or telephone numbers contain the number 4. the number 14 is even worse. The Chinese character for 14 rhymes with "sure to fail" or "sure to die". Numbers 3 and 8 are good luck in the asian culture. The Chinese character for the number 3 rhymes with "growth", While the number 8 rhymes with "prosperity". Its no accident that the telephone numbers of the Western hotels in various Chinese cities contain the numbers 8888, they want their customers to feel good and comfortable.
In America, business dress is becoming more and more casual. This is not the case in Asia. They take pride in dressing professionally for work. They expect men to wear a suit and tie; women to wear a pant suit or dress. Dress accordingly to make a great first impression or you may offend the party. In America we often address people we don't know well by their first name. CEOs and employees are even welcome to address each other as if they are on equal footing. This would be considered bad manners in Asia. To be safe, always be formal in addressing others. Only childhood friends and spouses call each other by their first names.
If you want to get things done in Asia, you need to know people. The meaning of "Guan Xi" is "Knowing" or "connections". When you cultivate your "Guan Xi" with people, you may get them to bend over backwards for you, let alone buy into your asks and demands. Showing up with legal documents before people get to know you and are comfortable with you won't go far or make for long-lasting deals
Most Americans like to speak fast. The result, They lose their audience. It will not matter how superb your ideas are if you cannot convey them in ways that the asian audience understands. Asians consider it impolite to ask someone to repeat themselves. If they don't understand you, they'll just sit there looking as if they do while letting your words and ideas pass them by. It is critical that you speak slowly. The same holds true with interpreters; If you speak too fast the interpreter will simply not translate the segments they didn't understand. Asian translators may be too shy or afraid to ask you to repeat something for fear that they'll lose face. Asking for clarification may suggest a lack of experience or expertise.
In America we often make constant eye contact when we converse with others. This is not the case in among Asians. To the asians, a lack of steady eye contact doesn't indicate a lack of attention or respect. On the contrary, because of Asian society's more authoritarian culture, steady eye contact is viewed as inappropriate, especially when subordinates talk with their superiors. Eye contact is viewed as a gesture of challenge or defiance. When people get angry, they tend to maintain steady eye contact. Otherwise, they look elsewhere or appear nonchalant while talking.
Asians have a habit of saying yes to show that they are paying attention and/or following what you are saying. In such context, the word yes does not mean that they agree with what you say or your terms.
Most Asians that speak and read English learned the language in an academic setting. As a result, they're often unaware of colloquialisms or figures of speech that we take for granted. Ive seen "love canal" translated as "sex virology". an article on negotiation skills contains the phrase "football field" when in fact the English original talks of a "level playing field". Other American phrases such as "in terms of", "the skinny", "ballpark, "sidebar" and other jargon will confuse the Asian prospect. Keep in mind that most asian people (translators and executives included) will not ask you to explain your terms because they do not want to chance losing face or put you on the spot. In order to avoid these pitfalls, it's imperative that you have someone with experience living and working in Asian countries to review your translations.
Asian people have learned not to challenge their political leaders in public. Instead, they find ways to work out their problems by involving other people who can help them. This is why Asian people tend not to express what is on their mind in public. When they are with you in a private one on one setting they will be much more comfortable being direct and straightforward. For nearly 11 years I've learned to do my sales pitch and make my presentations in front of large audiences without expecting to field many questions. However, I try to stick around a while afterwards so that I can field questions with patrons requesting private appointments. I've found these meetings to be the most insightful and fruitful for all involved. My friends and customers tell me things in private that allow me to get things done. If you want to know the truth, and how to compete in the Asian market, learn to pull people aside and chat in private.