Working with Chinese

Victoria Danovska

China is the land of opportunity for many businesses, however, infiltrating into the Chinese market isn’t as easy as most companies would think. Understanding the business model and cultural differences would play a big role in a successful partnership with Chinese customers.

After working on several occasions with Chinese clients, our team has compiled a list of aspects worth considering while planning opportunities in China.

1. Corporate background

China is actively developing IT business, however they lack qualified specialists, thus they tend to outsource internationally.

Working with Chinese

 

China tends to stick to the traditional hierarchical structure in their businesses, which sometimes affects the decision making and the business mode in general. When discussing an opportunity or starting a project, we suggest using a responsibility assignment matrix and making sure that the main approver is available on planned delivery dates.

2. Traditions and cultural aspect

While looking for your perspective partners, it is preferable to dig deeper and get as much understanding of the company background and habits as possible. Although China opens to Western businesses, many companies may remain true to the local market.

When marketing our design services, we noticed that some companies aren’t ready for big changes, thus the chances to gain attention should be calculated properly basing on openness, budget, and goals of the company.

Everybody will agree that it is always a good idea to present in person, thus we would suggest planning a business trip to meet with your perspective clients.

Here are some “lessons learnt” we brought from our business trips:

Working with Chinese - Business CommunicationsSmall talk is a big deal.

Chinese love to discuss all details, since it helps to find the real purpose and to define the goal. They say “the tongue can paint what the eye can't see” and we can’t agree more. Don’t forget that English isn’t their mother tongue, that is why repeated discussions will be quite useful.

Although small talk is a nice thing to do in the office, you will rarely see colleagues spending time together outside their work as the focus on family is a common trait.

A little overtime never killed nobody.

Chinese work a lot. Either it is connected to general customs or caused by other factors, you should not be surprised to receive messages or emails from them at any time of day or night.

Considering the time difference, you will most probably be able to interact with your clients quite often.

Fashion is blind.

Be aware of current trends in design and media, as it might drastically differ from what is on peak in your country or even in most of the world.

Make sure to not only ask for many examples of what the customer likes, but also demonstrate own examples based on your understanding of their needs.

Autocorrect can go straight to he’ll.

Working with Chinese - Business CommunicationsWhile trying to be exquisite and use modern fonts, never forget about the specifics of the Chinese characters.

Not only many fonts don’t support specific hieroglyphs, some of them may let you down by missing a stroke. We suggest sticking to a standard list of fonts and to have all deliverables proofread by a native speaker.

Punctuality is the soul of business.

Respect is appreciated around the globe and most of all in Asian countries. Try to never be late to prove yourself as a reliable partner.

3. Technical aspect

Whichever country you decide to partner with, analyzing technical specifics is a must. Find out about technical limitations and overall mindset to be prepared to face any blockers.

Here are some points you should consider:

Firewall.

Yes, it’s not a secret, and you need to be aware of the fact that some of the websites are blocked in China. You might think it isn’t a big deal, since you are a grown up and can live without Facebook for some time :) However, be prepared to the fact that many of the resources that we use on a daily basis will be blocked too.

Plan beforehand how you will transfer big files, prepare local copies of your portfolio as you might not be able to access DropBox, Google Drive, YouTube, or other popular resources.

You might want to use one of many services to check the accessibility of a website in China.

Hardware.

If the receiving party is open for dialogue before your trip, discuss the office equipment beforehand to make sure you’re ready for a conference or a demonstration, and all the needed cables, switchers, and adapters are packed.

Internet speed.

Be ready to have problems with online conference calls, especially if you plan to make a video call or to share your screen.

The internet speed should also be considered when getting ready to an on-site presentation. We advise to download all the materials in advance.

WeChat.

You might not have heard of it, but it is really a big deal in China. We tried it and we loved it!

Basically, WeChat is a mobile messenger, which accomplished a dream of many and grew into a multi-functional platform. Chinese use WeChat for messages, calls, conferences, mini blogging, purchases, company presentations, you name it. We suggest downloading the app for both mobile and desktop and to enjoy the ride.

And remember, working and travelling (even for business) to a different country is always a challenge and it is up to you to choose what kind of experience to get from it. Be open minded and attentive, every challenge is a lesson and each new learnt lesson makes you a better professional.


The world becomes smaller every day, but cultural differences still stand on our way of efficient cooperation with each other. Understanding what your client from another culture expects you to do is a huge advantage and a necessary prerequisite for successful partnership. Check out more articles about doing business in other countries: Sweden, USA, Germany, Italy.

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