Once you’ve got your importing business going, you’re most definitely going to want to visit China. You’ll be able to meet your supplier face to face, negotiate lower prices, and also get the chance to experience China (which is awesome and weird).
However, if you aren’t prepared for China – you’re in for a BIG surprise.
Landing in China is like visiting a new planet. The customs, the language, the people, the food, the traffic- I could go on forever…
Personally I never thought anywhere on the planet could be more weird / unique. But despite all of its quirks and weirdness, I love it.
Below are the top 8 things that I think everyone should know and be prepared for when heading to China or doing business in China.
Though efforts have been made in recent years to curb this disgusting cultural habit, spitting seems to have etched its way into Chinese culture for the long haul…
Spitting is as common as breathing in China, along with a laundry list of other bodily functions that you never even knew existed, so you’d better get used to it. If their body wants to release something, they believe (and maybe rightly so) that it should be released right then and there (weddings, birthdays, funerals, it doesn’t matter).
In general this is not considered weird and you have to accept this and ‘let it go’ (pun intended).
The stories you’ve heard are unfortunately true. The weirder the animal (and body part) – the more expensive it is.
And God as my witness – if you have a business dinner in China, you’ll be presented with a smorgasbord of foods straight off the Fear Factor Menu…
However, if you can muscle through it and take a few bites – your Chinese counterparts will greatly appreciate and respect you. I suggest a blindfold and nose clip for such occasions.
Things I’ve personally ingested (and am not too proud of…)
- Frog lungs
- Cow stomach
- Fish eyes
- Something from a pig that I could not identify and nobody could really explain…
Think of the worst alcohol you can possibly imagine, and then add some more alcohol to it to make it worse. Something like paint thinner, nail polish remover and turpentine all mixed together…
That is the best way I can describe Baiju.
Chinese businessmen love this stuff, and typically have it served at business dinners. This is like the finally step of hazing at a fraternity, if you can make it through this you are officially in their club.
When dinner is served someone will most likely ask you ‘Would you like some white wine?’. Don’t fall for this trick like I did!
This is not the ‘White Wine’ you’ve come to know and love. This is Baiju translated very poorly and unfairly (bai(by) = white ju(joe) = wine).
Interestingly enough if you order Hongju (Hong = Red and Ju = Wine), you do in fact get Red Wine…
The Chinese are PAINFULLY polite…
This means even if you are blatantly wrong or offensive, they won’t tell you. Even if they think you are completely retarded and will never do business with you again – they won’t tell you.
In order to get through this politeness you have to really read between the lines…
If a supplier isn’t writing you back it’s usually because they are not interested, and if they do finally respond it’s because they don’t want to be impolite.
This is probably the most difficult thing to navigate in China, but also the most important.
Likewise, you should do your best to be as polite as humanly possible to your Chinese counterparts. Things like ego, impatience, rudeness, outbursts, and other ‘power plays’ are not well received in the far east – and it will do nothing productive for you or your business to act in such a way.
The best thing you can do, is bite your tongue, shake your head and smile. Actions speak much louder than words in China, so make sure you act accordingly.
5. English is tough
Despite having learned it for years in school Chinese have a hard time speaking and understanding English.
This is not because they are dumb, this is because in school they recite, read and write a lot of English, but do not actively speak English in conversations. They are only drilled as groups.
So when you speak, speak slowly and clearly, take your time and try to explain things. Also remember you do not speak (Mandarin/Cantonese) and you are in their country, so respect the fact that they are trying to speak your language.
6. Lines and Lack of Personal Space
You have to remember that China has the largest population on the planet with 20 million people plus in many cities (People will argue this is not true, but what wikipedia and many other census do not account for are migrant workers).
That being said personal space is a luxury that doesn’t exist in China…
You should not take it personally, nor be aggressive about it. Just embrace it and go with the flow. If you are trying to get on to a bus or train, expect that you will be pushed and bumped around, just use your size to your advantage 🙂
Same goes for ordering street food, on the airplane, and pretty much everywhere – this is just a fact of life in China.
When people in China, or Asia for that matter, see a white face they see an ATM. This is just a fact of life…
Culturally they consider us to be wealthier, better looking, and for that matter smarter in many ways. Places where you will see this the most is Open Air Markets, Local Shops and or Hotels.
Here are my tips for successful bargaining like a local:
- Speak a bit of the language
This gives you the impression that you at least know a bit about what you are doing and furthermore, will make them a bit sympathetic.
– Ja shoe sha ma? (this is not proper pinyin or Mandarin) Which means ‘What is this?’
– Dough shouw qian? ( same as a above) Which means ‘How much is it?’
Once you have found what you want shop around and compare prices until you get an idea of what the going price is.
- Be Poor!
Once you have shopped around and you have an idea of what the going price is, take out everything except the amount you are willing to pay from your wallet, put the rest in your side pocket.
When you are negotiating down to your final price then simply pull out your wallet and show them exactly how much you have.
If there are any flaws or defects point them out and use this as a point of your bargaining
- Walk Away
If all else fails, don’t be afraid to walk away. This may seem too simple, but it works, in general they would rather make some money than no money at all.
It often seems as if Chinese are yelling at one another, but this is not the case – they just speak REALLY loudly!
This again has to do with the lack of personal space and the mass amount of noise, construction, cars, etc.
Some also contribute to the fact that Mandarin and Cantonese (Chinese is not a language in case you didn’t know) are complex tonal languages and the loudness is to ensure that they are fully understood.
Enjoy Your Trip to China!
The reason I wanted to share a few of these things with you is because if you can make it through the spit gauntlet, the cavern of frog lungs, and the Baiju hazing – you will be a million steps ahead of most people who attempt to do business in China.
In closing, China is an awesome place that definitely takes some getting used to, but it is also one of the most amazing places that I have ever lived in my life.
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