Whether social, business or work- related, business cards in China are a vital part of social interaction. Of course, one reason is that business cards are an easy way to exchange information. However, the symbolism and treatment of business cards in China goes deeper than this.
Knowing the etiquette around business cards in China makes a fantastic first impression on Chinese friends and colleagues. Not knowing what to do with business cards can lead to an early end for work relationships.
Here are some top tips on business cards in China. If you’re keen to make a good impression in China, make sure you also check out our posts on gifts not to give in China.
Exchanging business cards is like shaking hands in Western business
The importance of business cards
In China, the business card is thought of as an extension of the person. You should always be ready to exchange business cards at the beginning of a meeting. If anyone offers you their business card it is vital that you can offer them something in return, not being able to shows that you haven’t thought about the impression you’re making. This is similar to shaking hands in Western business meetings.
When someone hands you their business card, make sure you spend some time studying it (even if it’s in Chinese). You then need to demonstrate that you’re putting it away in a safe place. Never discard a business card in front of the giver!
Exchanging business cards
When you’re in China, it’s vital to have one side of your business card in Simplified Chinese. Make sure that you get this done professionally and hand the card over with the Chinese side on top, and the correct way round for the other person to read.
You should always give and receive a business card with two hands. This also goes for gifts and anything else that you exchange with a Chinese person.
If you turn up without a translated business card you can do irreparable damage to a business relationship. Whilst Chinese businesses are becoming more used to foreigners not knowing their rules, this does not yet extend to business card culture.
What should be on my business card?
One side of your business card should be professionally translated into Simplified Chinese, even if the people you meet speak English. Don’t just use Google translate, any mistakes will look very out of place.
Business cards should always include your title, your name and a primary way to contact you. Think about this before you leave! If you will be using a Chinese telephone number then that’s the one you want to give.
Including any awards or statistics about the success of your business will always go down a treat as well.
4 things to avoid
Never throw your business card to someone. You should always exchange one at a time using two hands.
Never put a stack of business cards on a table and gesture to people to take one. It shows that you’re not willing to engage with them.
Never put someone else’s business card in your back pocket. After you’ve had a look over it, put it in pride of place in a bag, wallet or purse. And let them see you do it.
Never write on someone else’s business card, use some paper instead. You can note down extra information on your own card, such as a new phone number.