While preparing for an Asian event, organizers sometimes fail to take into account the corporate event’s rules in Asia, a factor that can be crucial for creating a favorable meeting atmosphere. Etiquette is more than just having the right table setting. It entails having polite, casual, and culturally acceptable behavior and manners in any situation.
Mistakes to avoid & challenges you may face
In Asian culture, etiquette is especially important. Therefore, compliance with Asia corporate events rules determines whether you will be accepted as a reliable, trustworthy, and honest person who is worthy of doing business with. Here are some basic corporate event etiquette rules that should be adopted in this part of the world.
Table etiquette for food & drinks
Remember the local customs and what types of food and drinks are consumed in Asia. If you’re not sure about the menu, it is better to give preference to vegetarian dishes and non-alcoholic beverages in order to avoid uncomfortable situations.
In Asian culture, especially in China, a joint meal is very important. This ritual plays a critically important social role and is used to build strong relationships. Even if local dishes seem unfamiliar to you, be prepared to try them. Willingness to participate in the local food culture suggests that you are open to and interested in exploring the lives and cultures of other people. This is the easiest way to demonstrate your interest in cooperation.
In some Asian cultures, eating with chopsticks is common. However, do not knock them against your plate, do not use them as a pointer, do not rub them together, do not puncture food, and try your best not to drop them.
At the end of the meal, leave some food on your plate or else the person who invited you might think that there was not enough food. Wait until you are invited to take a seat; do not rush to sit down first. Also, remember that in many Asian countries, leaving a tip after a meal is considered disrespectful.
A very important aspect in Asian culture is the exchange of business cards. If possible, prepare localized business cards or order a special business card kit with the texts in several languages. Present business cards with both hands. Accept business cards of the giver in the same way. You should not put it in your pocket or make notes on it while in the presence of the person who gave you the business card.
Tips on how to behave: clothes, manners, communication etiquette, etc.
In terms of when and how to communicate with other guests, a good topic to start with is a conversation about attending a presentation, lecture, or other interactive events. Of course, you cannot talk during the event itself, as this is bad manners. Instead, wait for the appropriate pause or end of the meeting.
Follow the dress code, if any. A neat and elegant look will always do. Clothes and appearance in Asian society mean much more than they do in Western society, especially at business meetings and protocol events. Traditional business attire is a conservative grey or dark blue suit, a bold-colored tie, a brilliantly white shirt, and black or blue shoes.
Make sure you don’t ask guests simple questions with the intended answers of “yes” or “no”. It is better to give them an opportunity to think about their answers. This is especially important for business event etiquette in Asia as there are cultures here that attach great importance to the preservation of dignity. It is very important to allow others not to lose face, so one should not mention things that may cause embarrassment or point out someone’s mistakes, etc.
Another way to express respect for the dignity of the interlocutor is to show modesty while mentioning your own achievements and to downplay your own significance or greatness when you are given a compliment. In this case, pay compliments back.
Corporate events rules & invitation etiquette in Asia
The Chinese population is absolutely dominant in China, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong, and in other cities of Southeast Asia, there are also large and economically active groups of Chinese people that have a certain impact on business etiquette in this region.
Thus, national, psychological, and other characteristics of Chinese culture influence their business activities as well as negotiation processes in particular. In Asian countries, great importance is attached to compliance with the rules of business etiquette, so having knowledge of these characteristics within the local culture can be positively assessed by Chinese partners.
Here are the basic elements of Chinese corporate event etiquette:
– It is necessary to avoid a situation in which you can put a Chinese person in an awkward position in front of the other guests. When criticism is inevitable, saying it one on one is best. You can also use the services of an intermediary, especially if it is a person with a high social status.
– It is improper to undermine the authority of a Chinese person in a superior position by turning to his subordinate with a question in his presence.
– Assume that it is correct to respond to all requests, offers, correspondence, and invitations as quickly as possible. You should immediately send reply messages; the sooner you send them, the sooner you will be answered. One of the most common complaints from Chinese partners is the slowness with which, for example, European companies respond to their requests and demands.
– It is not recommended to skip rituals or protocol events. Joint banquets, receptions, and other such events create closer relationships, which is so important for Asian business practice. We recommend coming to any such event with a gift (a good gift for most situations can be a fruit basket or a bottle of wine). Packed gifts are not taken to unpack before leaving the guests, which is the exact opposite of European customs.
– In Asian society, the exchange of business cards is a mandatory aspect of business relations. Business cards printed in both English and Chinese are recommended. The way you hand them to other people is described above.
– The Chinese put their family name first. In Western practice, on the contrary, the family name is often put second, which can create confusion. If you have just met a Chinese person, call him or her by their last name. Some Chinese professionals who constantly deal with Westerners organise their name in the Western manner, such as in the case of Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan.
– At banquets and receptions, rice wine (Shaoxing jiu) is served, which is supposed to be drank after a toast. In this case, hold the glass in your right hand, supporting it with your left. According to Chinese etiquette, the guest of honour is the first to try a new dish as well as the first to get up from the table.
Apart from the Chinese, the Japanese impose particularly stringent requirements on the ethics of business communication, which may influence the way you organise your events.
Features of communication within Japanese business circles:
– Like the Chinese, the Japanese carefully adhere to the rules of style and professionalism in terms of service and protocol events, including wearing a formal business suit. The main requirements for clothing are tidiness, accuracy, and even some pedantry. During negotiations, as a rule, jackets are not removed, and ties are not loosened. In Japan, clean socks without holes are of particular importance. This is no wonder since it is common to enter a house or a traditional Japanese restaurant without shoes.
– The Japanese value solidity and seek closer, more trusting relationships with partners. They are favorably impressed with the attention to the affairs of their firms. Gifts and souvenirs can be an important attribute of property trust relationships. According to Japanese etiquette, during the first meeting, gifts are presented by the hosts, not the guests.
– Making first business contact in Japan is impossible without the exchange of business cards, which are of great importance. As with Chinese partners, it is wise to print cards in two languages (English and Japanese). When contacting delegations, the exchange of business cards is strictly subordinate. Violation of subordination is tantamount to an insult.
– Japanese people should always be called by their family names while adding -san, for example, Kaneko-san or Takeshita-san. Calling them by other names with more familiarity in communication is not acceptable.
The uniqueness of conducting negotiations with Japanese partners requires a detailed consideration of everything, including questions that are seemingly unimportant at first glance. Discussions, as a rule, pass slowly and have many pauses, which the Japanese use to resolve differences of opinions in their circle. Any manifestation of impatience or nervousness is regarded as a sign of weakness and non-observance of etiquette by Japanese businesspeople. Consider that carefully when preparing your invitations and planning events in Asia.
Event planner dos and don’ts
Since many different cultures coexist in the Asia-Pacific region, it is important to do some research before attending a meeting or business event because fundraising event etiquette, for instance, may differ from that of any other formal event etiquette, etc. Be well prepared.
Learn more about the etiquette and traditions of the region where you are heading so that you can demonstrate good manners and avoid any awkward situations.
Many people wonder when and how they should leave an event properly. You can leave the meeting after the end of the event, after talking with everyone with whom you wanted to talk, and so on. When you are an honored guest, if possible, thank the speaker or event organizers. The same concerns the organizers. Words of thanks to sponsors, guests, speakers, etc., are also always acceptable. When leaving, offer your help; people who want to help and are grateful make a good impression and are of particular value in Asia.
For networking your event, study business event invitation etiquette effectively and smoothly; check out our previous posts on how to make communications as natural as possible and on how to establish good relations. This will help you master your communication skills before embarking into a new cultural environment and planning an event there.
Feel free to leave your comments or personal experiences in the Asian region below!