February 8, 2019
This blog was co-written by Caroline Novion, an intern with Brighter Group’s Destination Representation and Marketing team in Finn Partner’s London office.
If you’re travelling to China and don’t have first-hand experience of the destination, you could find yourself confronted by many unusual, even awkward situations. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your trip.
- Download these two essential apps: WeChat and Pleco
When it comes to smartphones, China is one step ahead. But don’t expect to be able to use Google, Facebook, Twitter or other social media applications once you’ve entered the country, courtesy of the Great Firewall which controls and monitors everything. Instead, Chinese people use WeChat, an all-in-one app similar to WhatsApp but with more features allowing you to make payments or book a taxi.
And if you think English is widely spoken, you might be disappointed and find all conversation, including asking for directions and ordering food, presents a great challenge. Even though some younger people in the larger cities have a good knowledge of English, it is highly recommended to learn a few words of Mandarin to deal with everyday activities. You can also use Pleco for translation help, a popular free Chinese-English dictionary with full sentences and an integrated document reader. To understand signage, menus and other items displaying Chinese characters, simply snap a photo of the writing, and it will translate the phrase for you. This is when you realise how much you LOVE technology!
- Be aware of Chinese etiquette
In China, to win someone’s trust you must win their friendship first and there is no significant business meeting that does not include dinner. What to do or not do with your chopsticks; how, when and what to drink - Chinese table manners and drinking etiquette are miles away from Western habits.
Learning about the etiquette will certainly prepare you to manage a business meal in the best way. But most importantly, do not panic if your clients or colleagues fight eagerly for the bill at the end of the dinner. This gesture is always appreciated in China, but it is important to show some resistance so don’t be shy and “argue” for the opportunity to pay! Failing to argue over the bill insinuates that your host owes you something. You will ultimately find out that Chinese people are very tenacious and you will have to graciously accept the hospitality of your host. Thank them many times after agreeing that they will pay the bill and if the opportunity arises, return the invitation by, for example, treating them to your country’s delicacies.
- Do not hesitate to go off the beaten track
This might not be directly business related but it is great advice. When going on a short business trip we tend to stay in our hotel rooms, only going out for meetings or to quickly visit famous scenic spots.
To better understand how Chinese society works, you need to see it for yourself and what better way to get some local colour than going out for breakfast? Do not have breakfast at your hotel, instead take a walk in the backstreets for an early meal of dumplings or noodles and watch the area wake up while you are eating. The street vendors can be found nearly everywhere. They are open from 5am and breakfast is served until around 11am. The most common breakfast food includes soya-bean milk, deep-fried dough sticks, porridge, steamed stuffed buns, or rice noodles. A lot of Chinese hurry to have breakfast, and some of them don't even have time to sit down but have it as a take-away and finish breakfast on their way to work. If you are not in a rush, take the time to savour your breakfast while people-watching; isn’t this the best way to immerse yourself in the local culture?
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