Chapter 9 – The Importance of Business Cards

They are lightweight and can be used long after your visit to China, so bring considerably more than you would normally think is necessary. In China, everybody expects you to give them at least one business card and if you are meeting with several people, you may handout a dozen or more at a time.

Sometimes manufacturers are reluctant to provide detailed information to somebody who “is naked”, meaning “being without business cards”.

If you miscalculate and run out of them, you can use one of the print shops nearby to print them for you within a couple of hours.

The Chinese perform a small ceremony when exchanging business cards. Make sure to hand over and receive business cards in the typical Chinese way, which is with both hands.

If you are sitting around the table, it is a good idea not to put their cards in one of your suit pockets after they are handed to you. This is extremely impolite and indicates that you do not care for the person that passed you his/her business card. The proper way is to study them first (pretending to do so is OK) and place them in hierarchical order on the table in front of you.

How do you know who is the highest ranking person at the meeting? It is usually the first person introduced to you and this person is not necessarily able to speak English. It is proper to exchange business cards with that person first. In Chinese business culture, this gives him the face he deserves. This applies even if the sales manager will be the person you are in constant contact with following the visit.

It is a good practice to write a persons title on their business card if it is not preprinted on the card. Otherwise, you may find it impossible to figure out later. A person’s title printed on the business card is sometimes a little bit vague and you should ask to get it right. Also, you will not be able to distinguish whether it is a male or female name. Make a note of this for future reference. It might surprise you to learn even the Chinese will not immediately know, whether the name on the business card is from a woman or a man. There are so many different areas in China with special local names and Chinese from other provinces may not be able to differentiate gender by name. Therefore, add Mr. or Mrs. on the business card to make sure that it will not be forgotten.

You should also know that a person with the name YUEN Kai Shun is not Mr. Shun but is Mr. Yuen because the family name is always the first of the traditional three Chinese names shown on any business card. However, in Hong Kong people have adjusted after a 150 years of colonial rule by England. There they mostly mention their Christian name first and then their Chinese family names, for instance Peter Kwok.