As China becomes a main player in global economics, the demand for business and trade with China surmounts new heights. 

This guide gives a comprehensive list of what to expect when you go abroad for your next business trip.

Inviting a Coworker to Dinner

On your first day arriving in China, you shouldn’t be shocked when your boss or coworker asks you to dinner. 

This is customary in China when doing business, especially with foreigners.

The phrase “请客吃饭“ (Qǐngkè chīfàn) has grown in popularity as time goes on. This phrase means to invite guests to eat dinner. 

In some cases, your host may even pick you up from the airport to go to dinner. 

Seating Etiquette

When you arrive at the restaurant, they may insist that you sit in a specific spot. This is also tradition when inviting a guest to dinner

The seat that the guest sits in is called “上座” (Shàngzuò, the seat of honor) and will usually face the door. 

This is because if any danger comes through the door, the guests will be the first to see it and duck for cover.

Handshake vs. Hugging

After a long business trip in China, it’s time to say goodbye to your coworkers. 

You may think a hug is appropriate in this situation, but you’d be wrong.

Celebrating a business deal with a hugIn the Chinese business world, handshakes take the cake over hugging. 

In America, hugging is acceptable in some situations to show a level of closeness between coworkers. However in China, it can make your coworkers uncomfortable as they are not accustomed to it.

Trust in Business

In any sort of business negotiations, trust between the two parties is fundamental. 

In China, these key phrases and idioms describe the importance of trust specifically in business and trade. 

Phrase 1:

一手交钱,一手交货 (Yīshǒu jiāo qián, yīshǒu jiāo huò)

Meaning: One hand give money, one hand gives goods 

Example Sentence: 洽谈以后,一手交钱,一手交货。(Qiàtán yǐhòu, yīshǒu jiāo qián, yīshǒu jiāo huò)

Translation: After negotiations, one company hands over the money, one company hands over the goods.

This phrase describes the foundations of doing business. If one party does not do their part, trust is broken and negotiations cease.

Phrase 2: 

亲兄弟,明算账 (Qīn xiōngdì, míng suànzhàng)

Meaning: Even blood brothers keep close accounts

Example Sentence: 在竞争上,亲兄弟,明算账。(Zài jìngzhēng shàng, qīn xiōngdì, míng suànzhàng.)

Translation: In competition, even blood brothers keep close accounts.

This idiom shows that in business, one must put themselves and their company first.


Have you worked in China before? Let us know your experience below and if you encountered any of these phenomena! 


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Collin Absher

Collin Absher is a Chinese Studies major at the College of William and Mary. Collin hopes to spread his love of Chinese Literature and poetry in fun ways!
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