Doing Business in China, Japan, and South Korea

Individual businesses may not recognize the immense role that other countries and cultures play within their sphere, but it is foolishness to ignore the effects of differing markets on cultures around the world. One fallacy committed by many individuals in the United States is to assume that all countries located in Southeast Asia share a common culture; this could not be any further from the truth. In order to emphasize the diverse nature of cultures found in the region an examination of the cultures of the dominant players is in order.

China, Japan, and South Korea are growing forces in the global economic equation, but there culture is often misunderstood as being homogeneous. Five areas of culture in business will be examined in order to highlight the similarities, because some do exist, and the differences between these rapidly accelerating economic forces. These areas will be greetings, business cards, meeting promptness, gifts, and negotiating. Greetings are a chance to make a good first impression, and understanding the message sent by a particular greeting is key to starting off on the right foot.

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The greeting will consist of either a handshake or bow. Chinese greetings involve slight nods or bows, although handshakes are common. The key is to wait for the handshake to be extended, and the focus is on formality. The Japanese have a similar focus on formality but will also employ a handshake and bow. Handshakes will be longer, and great attention must be paid to the technicalities of the bow. Do not bow lower than your partner and ensure that your eyes are lowered with palms flat at your side. South Koreans are less formal, and a handshake will include eye contact.

The younger should initiate the handshake, and special care should be given to become familiar with the elderly. There is a more relational focus which forces individuals to have more personable greetings. Understanding the cultural emphasis allows greetings to be a stepping stone into a great relationship. Business cards are a universal means of communicating information about one’s self. However, it is important to give and receive business cards in a manner that is appropriate and sensitive to the culture of those around you.

In all three cultures the business card should be examined carefully, never Ritter on, or placed into a rear pocket under any circumstances. Business cards in China should have the information printed in Mandarin Chinese on the reverse side preferably in gold ink. In Japan, the business card is presented after the initial greeting with the reverse side printed in Japanese. When receiving cards always inspect them immediately and either ask a question or make a comment. In South Korea, once again have the reverse side printed in Korean. Business cards are key in South Korea because they tell the recipient what level of respect you deserve.

After greetings, business cards give an opportunity to establish respect and honor between individuals. Meeting promptness seems like an odd topic to cover given that tardiness is seen as unacceptable in Western culture, but it is an important factor to consider in global meetings. In all three of the cultures being highlighted punctuality is important. The Chinese and Japanese will be punctual and find tardiness to be highly offensive. In South Korea foreigners are obligated to arrive on time out of respect, but the locals will most likely not arrive on time.

The giving of gifts is a much more common practice in these cultures, and special care should be taken to not offend the recipient. There are several common themes when giving gifts: use both hands when presenting the gift, use appropriate wrapping paper, the gift will not be opened in the presence of the gift giver, imported spirits are typically a good call, and do not give a gift made in one of the other two countries. In China, gift giving is actually illegal and should not be done in public. However, a gift from one company to another is acceptable.

Also, banquets should be reciprocated. In Japan, gifts involving any even number of items should be avoided. The ceremony of gift giving is more important than the actual gifts. South Korea is the most lenient when it comes to gifts, and impersonal gifts that contain the gift giver’s company logo are good places to start. Negotiating is by far the most complex topic because the cultures core values cause them to negotiate in drastically different ways. In China, there will be many presentations to different parts of the company. The key is to be patient and display little to no emotion.

Chinese business executives are now to drag out negotiations in order to Secure a more favorable deal. In Japan, it is important to always speak indirectly. It is considered rude to speak in direct terms such as a flat “no” statement. It is recommended to use phrases like “maybe” or “I’ll consider it. ” Use “I’m sorry’ frequently but not in excess. The most effective technique is to bring both parties together on points where they agree. South Korea requires patience like in China and indirect language like in Japan. One of the key features is that South Koreans will be much more emotional in their negotiations.