How to Make Great First Impressions with Any Chinese Speaker

When doing business or interacting with other professionals, there is an expected set of behaviors, or etiquette, that is universally understood and followed. On the other hand, you should be aware that the culture in China may be quite different from the one in which you were raised.

You surely know, too, that first impressions are vital to your likability. Whether or whether you are given the job depends on how well you do in your first interview with human resources, and how well you do in your second interview with a higher-up. Students from other countries who are studying Chinese or interning in China need to be well-versed in the art of making a favorable impression on the first day at the workplace. This not only leaves a long-lasting impression, but also helps you maintain positive relationships with the Chinese people you meet during your stay there. Interns are also expected to learn about the Chinese notion of giving face and other nuanced aspects of Chinese culture. These materials are useful whether you are applying for a Summer Program position or an internship that runs throughout the year.

But what exactly do Chinese companies value in potential employees? What are some social faux pas that you should never make?

At a gathering...

Please don't be late, or even 10 minutes early. There's a common misconception that Chinese people don't value punctuality, but you'll really be more well-received if you can get there a little early.

Avoid bowing or putting your hands together in front of you, since doing so shows a lack of understanding of Chinese culture.

Begin by welcoming the oldest or most influential person in the room.

It's OK to extend a short handshake, but it's not appropriate to crush someone's hand, since it might come off as forceful. When greeting someone of advanced age, it is appropriate to shake hands more gently and nod slightly.

Not everyone like being hugged or kissed, therefore while in Rome, do as the Romans do and refrain from doing so.

When greeting someone, it is appropriate to look down slightly to show respect.

When referring to...

Be wary of treating a bare first name as such. The current leader of China, Xi Jinping, is referred to as Mr. Jinping Xi. People you encounter in Mainland China may only have two characters in their name, such Chen Hao (Ms. Hao Chen), however in Hong Kong or Taiwan, practically everyone you meet will have three (or even four) characters in their name.

Do use an honorific and address them by their last names solely. When meeting a Truman Wang for the first time, you should address him as "Mr. Contrary to popular belief, it was Wang who replaced Truman. One notable exception is when a person uses simply their first name while introducing oneself.

Be careful not to mispronounce anyone's name. If necessary, you should repeat the name again following introduction.

Pretend to use the same honorifics as the person making the introduction. If someone you respect calls you a laoshi (teacher), lao, or da, feel free to return the favor by using the same title.

Use an honorific such as "mister" (xiansheng) or "miss" (nvshi), which both mean "female" in Chinese.

Avoid using the pejorative form of address, xiaojie (miss), when addressing someone you don't know well, even wait staff.

When presented with...

Don't be too stingy with your acceptance of business cards (or anything else).

Do not hastily file the business card away or stuff it into a pocket.

Check the reverse side of the business card if you can, read it thoroughly, and complement the person on the card if you can think of anything positive to say about the card, the title, or anything else. The font, layout, and/or paper quality may be worthy of praise; alternatively, the recipient may have an unexpectedly cool job title.

If you're done using it, put the card safely away in a card case, pocket, or wallet.

Don't rush to accept a gift; doing so can give the impression that you're too eager and materialistic. Refuse the gift not once, but twice, before accepting it with open arms.

Please wait to unwrap presents. You should hold off till later, or at least inquire about doing so.

The question was...

Don’t ask for anything.

Do refuse at least once even if it’s only a glass of water. More than likely they will deliver it to you regardless of your response.

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