To build long-term relationships with an Asian, one should understand the rules of communication that are acceptable and culturally expected. In the same way, if you want to run a killer event in a global environment, mastering the local etiquette would be the first step to success.
Because Asia is home to multiple cultures, you’ll hardly find a region that could be more colourful and diverse in every single tradition—from eating habits to invitations etiquette. So how do you make the concept of your event adhere to local traditions? We have some ideas that can set you on the right track.
Why is it important to follow event etiquette?
When a host does not respect local etiquette, the event will fail to meet expectations, and ultimately, guests will not enjoy the event; this is a no-brainer. Let’s dive a bit deeper into what could go wrong if you have a poor understanding of Asian event management features:
- Early arrivals: There’s a belief that the Japanese are obsessed with punctuality. Whether it’s really an obsession or just a business habit, time really matters in the Asia-Pacific region. Ensure the organisers and managers arrive at least one hour before the event start time and get ready to meet the earliest guests.
- Introductions: In some Asian cultures, introducing yourself to people sitting at your table is the rule of thumb. A failure to follow this tradition can make your Asian guests feel very awkward.
- Dress code: The idea that “business casual always works” doesn’t really apply when it comes to the rules of etiquette in Asia. For example, the Chinese love wearing national clothing to gala dinners and weddings. To avoid dress code misunderstandings, ensure you know your guests’ preferences, and specify the dress code in your invitations.
Event etiquette in Asia: Key rules
As we’ve already mentioned, Asia has many colours and flavours. Accordingly, the etiquette traditions vary greatly across different regions. Although we won’t be able to pack all of them into even a dozen articles, we’ll help you understand how event organisers can do their homework properly in terms of etiquette analysis:
- Pay attention to the history of the region. Etiquette is dictated by the rules and standards of the past. For instance, China’s ancient hierarchical traditions still influence the rules for seating arrangements at events as well as the culture of inviting and introducing guests.
- Consult a local event professional. It’s a good idea to talk to a person who works in the events industry in your target region. This will give you an insider’s view of the local etiquette traditions.
- Attend a local event. If possible, visit a similar event in the area to immerse yourself in the vibe and to make some crucial observations about how local attendees behave.
Once you have the full picture, it’s time to start planning. We recommend focusing on these three fundamental etiquette concepts to ensure your event is in sync with the local traditions:
Eating and drinking
Catering tradition is truly king in the system of event etiquette in Asia. Break a single rule and you risk spoiling the vibe of the whole event. Check out some examples of “make it or break it” catering traditions that exist in the Asia-Pacific region:
- In China, seating arrangements are made in accordance with your guests’ ages and seniority. If there are any guests of honour, they are usually seated to the left and right of the host or head of the table.
- For event catering in China, Vietnam, and India, normal practice is to order one or two dishes more than the number of attendees.
- According to the tradition of dining in many Asian countries, dishes are shared communally at events.
There’s a joke that when a Singaporean starts a sentence with “In my humble opinion,” he or she actually intends to give a directive. Unless a Westerner is well acquainted with the local customs, this communication habit will seem paradoxical.
Especially if it’s a business meeting, failure to comply with the etiquette of communication can have catastrophic results. Before planning your event, pay attention to how local event managers invite people (in 89% of cases, email communication is used), explore the etiquette of gift-giving, and learn how to introduce guests and speakers properly.
Rules of exiting
To fit in, it’s not enough to learn how to get someone through the door—you also have to know how to exit the party properly, in accordance with Asian event etiquette. The idea won’t work for a large-scale conference, of course, but if you are organising a smaller meeting in China or Singapore, you should know that locals will most likely want to thank the organisers before leaving.
Whether it’s high-tech Hong Kong or picturesque Bali, following Asian etiquette at events is fundamental. Incorporate these three etiquette concepts when preparing your event in the Asia-Pacific region, and you’ll improve the attendance journey by leaps and bounds.