Last August I was fortunate to backpack a whole month in China in what I believe was one of the toughest and most enlightening trips I have done so far. Among thousands of great pictures, good and bad stuff I saw there which I could share, there are some far more subtle aspects of the trip which took me some time to understand.
Whether you are prospecting for upcoming business or have already initiated an activity in China, there are some must’s and don’ts you need to take into account:
China is neither Europe nor America. They are not expecting us to be like them, but curiously enough we always expect them to think like us and adapt to our patterns. Do so, and your first hours of contact can be as short as a “bye bye”!
First I thought I was open-minded enough and tried to convince myself that we had no differences. But then I learned they are different, obviously! In spite of globalization, cultural ubiquity isn’t a reality. While most see those differences as a gap and zone of avoidance, some may already see their true advantage in business and complement to our differences.
Human relationship and knowing the right people is an unavoidable step for building any type of endeavor. Relationship builds trust, which finally drives your long term business and partnership. I now better understand the cliché of “drink to do business with Asians”. It was not about the drink itself, but about showing yourself as an equal to you counterpart: Trust.
Again, I thought China only takes, copies and never gives anything in return. Is that really true? I experienced Chinese people to be generous and rarely asking anything without proposing you a fair value exchange. At firsts they may seem reserved or not interested, but as soon as I tried to communicate with some rudiments of Mandarin Chinese showing real interest in the exchange, surprise came to their faces. And interaction started. Do the same in business and show that you are willing to give.
Wait, insist, and persist
Negotiation is part of China’s DNA. Not the one we know by fine-tuning terms and conditions of a contract which mainly will benefit only us. Rather old fashioned and healthy negotiation through teasing, waiting and testing your true interest in a long term partnership. Or may I call it Friendship? Current Hong Kong generation seems to have inherited a strong influence from the British period and lost some of those principles. Time is money, friendship comes a bit later.
Although some of these principles may seem naïf, I learned to stick to mine and gained my little place to successfully business with my counterparts. After the trip in China which included a short stop in Hong Kong, I have been invited to help our Hong Kong colleagues to accelerate their (digital) business, and have been coming and going there the last whole year. I have learned a lot, and hopefully shared all I could to build the next step of this friendship. To be continued!
Did you fail, or succeed? What are the factors that influenced most? Please share your thoughts.
Photos above by Hans Sandkuhl – Digital Business Manager & Stylish Backpacker: Fishermen at Tai O, Hong Kong. Thanks to Chen Chen and @camillechaudet.