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Making Sense of China

You’ve found a factory in China and before ordering your product and booking inspections are taking the intelligent step to visit yourself to ensure that your factory is acceptable and its quality control standards are up to snuff. Great! But do you know the basics of the culture enough to interact with the native Chinese without being too disoriented?

In China, more so than almost anywhere in the world, it is important to understand some of the cultural differences that separate the culture from that of the West. There are wide disparities that are often misunderstood by Westerners that with a little training could lead to more effective communication and overall less confusion.

  1. Just because a Chinese person nods or says that they understand does not mean that they understand you completely. Making sure several times that instructions are explicit and fully understood is vital.
  2. The concept of personal space is radically different from China to the West. Don’t be alarmed when a few people crowd very close to you on the subway or bus.
  3. Chinese rarely show their anger openly! You may see a smile, but that does not necessarily mean they are happy.
  4. While Westerners like tackling problems head on, Chinese are generally much more indirect in solving problems.
  5. The way you present business cards is not to be taken lightly. For rules and information, check out one of our articles from last year, The Art of giving business cards in China.
  6. Lines are just a mere formality. When waiting in a line, don’t be timid! Chinese tend to ignore lines and, much to Westerners dismay, cheat ahead as much as possible.
  7. Friends- two females or even two males- will often walk around holding hands or with their arms around each other.
  8. Don’t be offended if people constantly stare, ogle, or even take pictures of you. As a Westerner, you are still a novelty in some cities. (Hint: to really throw a Chinese picture-taker off guard, try taking a picture of them and see their reaction!)
  9. Kids usually don’t wear diapers in China. Don’t be shocked to see a child squatting anywhere that is convenient to “do their business”.

Can you think of any more cultural differences that we missed? Disagree with the article? Comment below!


David Fisher

I used to be AQF's Business Development Manager, leading marketing strategy. I have recently left AQF to get my MBA, but still serve as a blog contributor. I enjoy visiting China and helping clients with their Asian business and quality control strategies.

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