Chinese ain’t easy guests. They don’t think like you (presuming you are non-native).
They are superb hosts, it is time to turn the table now.
You have been doing business with China or dealing with your Chinese clients for quite some time now. Let me remind you, this shall not go on for long. You have to turn yourself into a host at some point. The sooner, the better!
Being the guests to Chinese will not be forever, they want to hear your side of the story too, now it is your turn to be the perfect host.
It is time to flip pages and become the best hosts.
Playing host to a delegation
This is going to be a costly affair. You have decided to host a delegation, means this is a good deal for you, spending some money on them should not be a question when you know the returns will be good. Yes, this is an investment.
At no point, you have to unease yourself. I have discussed this in my other posts also, Chinese are different people, they belong to a different culture. This nowhere means that you have to kill yourself just to please them. You are doing all these little things just so that it will fetch you good results and fast.
I do not recommend this to people who will have clashes with the differences in tones or customs. Not all cultures dwell well. You should only practice these customs to make everyone feel accepted, giving them respect. Not ruining your identity or feeling insulted at any time.
All this will become uncomfortable for everyone.
1. The Delegation
What is a delegation?
A Delegation can be an organised unit who is visiting a place together on business. In China, this delegation could be a hierarchy in the workplace. These people in the delegation are high ranks, who are about to retire, in an aim to visit a different place, some engineers, an interpreter, a treasurer, deputy leader, and some lower ranks.
In old China, this was an important visit. A delegation represents a company. They all had their names printed with their official ranks on a list. This list was being given to the host to show the importance of people in the delegation. One had to take care of this list dearly.
If you were the host back then, you had to ask for this list from the lower ranks in the delegation. This had to be done months before their actual arrival so that you are ready with the preparations.
In today’s China, this might not be of that importance, things have changed and eased with the time but it is very much present.
2. Expectations of Chinese guests
Chinese are high maintenance with high standards when they are a guest.
You are a host, there are some rituals you must follow. Below are some expectations:
1. A host is always expected to receive the delegation at the airport.
This show that you are giving them a ‘face’ that this delegation hols importance. It is not necessary that the highest rank of your company should receive the delegation. But if the highest rank from the Chinese is visiting, your equal rank should be there to receive them.
2. Level of hospitality.
The Chinese are particular of the level of hospitality you are providing to them. Considering you have adopted the list of the delegations with their name and designation, you are further expected to work accordingly.
All your efforts will show how important it is for you to do business with this company in China.
3. Helping in Visa filing
Now, this may sound weird but Chinese will be expecting you to help them in their visa filings and helping them. You should consider that not all Chinese speak English, they might not be able to help themselves in a different country. You should be providing them with a staff who speaks some Chinese.
They also expect you to pressurise your own government to get things done for them. You have to take care of their transportations, site visits, escorts, etc.
3. Your competition
If the Chinese delegation is visiting your company, there are high chances that they are also going to be visiting your competitors. They might have contacted them or your competitors might have made a contact. This is business, this happens so often with the Chinese.
If you happen to find this out on your own, the best thing is to clear the confusion. You should keep in touch with the delegation and you should be the one who plans their entire day or trip. They will get a clear idea that they should not approach others. This is a strict business.
If a company is hosting a delegation for a longer time, for a month or a few months, they should be fully equipped to provide a second home to the Chinese. Housing facility, local travel arrangement, their meals, an interpreter for their local visits, their entertainment, a staff member for further help and assistance.
4. Accomodations for the guests
Sometimes the hosts bear the costs of accommodations for a Chinese delegation, sometimes not.
The case may vary. There is an option for you to arrange for the hotel stay of the delegation. You can also pay for their international travel expense. In this case, they will arrange for their stay on their own. If you are not covering their travel allowance, then do make their hotel arrangements and local travel.
If your company does not support their hotel allowance, then you should inform them in advance. Provide them with the list of decent hotels and their tariffs. Higher ranks prefer to be given a suite.
Do ask them in advance about the number of rooms they require. Single seaters or double sharing.
Let me explain the airport visit in detail here.
Many companies do not take this ‘airport’ pick up seriously.
Not repeating myself for the things I have explained above, let me move forward.
The higher ranks should be greeted by higher ranks (preferable). If not, then they should be greeted well by second in line of rank. Ask in advance about their preference. A higher rank should be seated with your higher rank in a separate car. The rest of the delegation shall follow in following cars or a mini-bus or van.
Sometimes, a higher rank prefers to travel with the entire delegation, to show as one unit. A mini-bus is a good idea here. Some officials do not prefer to be treated differently.
6. Plan their itinerary
This is a very important part. The itinerary could be discussed before their travel with their liaison or the delegation’s lower rank who is looking after this. Always make sure you know the entire list, their names and their designation. The Chinese do not like when you forget their names.
Always inform them about any changes in the agenda or protocol. They do not like to be blank-faced.
Meeting this liaison beforehand means that you are particular about this delegation. This ‘liaison’ will definitely inform the Chinese counterpart about your efforts, this brings you in the good face with them.
Always control the delegation by making itinerary as per you and your company’s benefits.
Like mentioned before, they like to be called by their names, it is suggested you make batches with their name on them. They accept this happily. The Chinese also like to address you with your names, provide them with your name lists of the people who will be dealing with them. These name labels should be bilingual, if possible.
Itinerary should also include the company or factory visits. The Chinese like to see your actual production site or your actual work office. This lets them know how big of an enterprise or factory-size you are.
This helps them decide your stature in the market.
Photography: Chinese people love to photograph almost everything they see, especially in a foreign land. If this is not allowed in your company office or your factory, kindly let them know in advance.
But, do take photographs outside with the entire delegation. This gives them a good face for their visit.
Be an observer. You can know 70% of the things from a Chinese by plainly looking at their behaviour. They always give respect to the highest in the rank. They put emphasis on little things. We should learn from their actions and convert this as an opportunity which will benefit us. Not everything about ‘Doing Business with China’ can be taught or written in blogs, some things are meant to be experienced by oneself, that cannot be put into words.
Anyone doing business with China or dealing with Chinese in their daily lives should find my blogs helpful. Do write to me with your thoughts about my blog. I will be happy to receive your emails or comments.