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China: knowing its business culture is key to success

The Chinese have a great ability to adapt to any environment that comes their way. However, as they have an ancient culture, they also have ancient traditions and customs that are almost impossible to change. That is why it is up to us to study and understand their behavior in business in order to avoid cultural misunderstandings when we sit down at the table. In many cases, having this knowledge marks a big difference between success and failure.


Cultural misunderstandings cannot be well handled if they are not interpreted in the correct way. Sometimes they are minor, but at other times, much relies on our ability to understand what is happening in order to formulate the appropriate response or action in our favor.


Acting according to Chinese cultural standards in business is a skill that can be acquired. Why do they behave the way they do? What do some actions or pronouncements they make during a negotiation really mean? How can we know what motivates our counterpart? In what areas do we Chinese obviously have cultural differences with Westerners? How can we handle those differences efficiently? These are important questions to ask ourselves - understanding how we perceive each other, as well as learning to manage those cultural gaps and communicating in a transparent way is crucial when establishing a relationship of any level with a Chinese.

One of the main reasons why it is worth learning about Chinese customs is the benefit of clearly understanding what is happening around us. The Chinese will give subtle cues that will express how they feel during interaction with their counterpart. These behaviors are not usual for Westerners and therefore if we do not know about Chinese customs and behaviors, we will not understand what they want to demonstrate or say in full negotiation. Knowing the meanings of these behaviors can represent a distinct advantage in business and even social settings. This can even help us to understand if we have offended, pleased, flattered or surprised our counterpart.


This knowledge will also help us to differentiate the role of each person in front of us during the negotiation - who makes the decisions, who is the technician who provides data to that person who makes the decisions, who is the intermediary, etc. Mainly, learning and understanding the traditional behaviors of the Chinese can help us determine what we need to do to keep the wheel moving in the right direction. Negotiating with the Chinese does not necessarily mean completely adapting to their rules. Cross-cultural communication is a two-way path and there must be ways of giving and receiving so that both parties feel satisfied. Panama, as a global country, must be characterized by its ability to negotiate with all the countries of the world, understanding the existing cultural differences in order to reach agreements more efficiently, where all parties win.


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