5 Tips for Surviving a Business Trip in China

5 Tips for Surviving a Business Trip in China
Jul 30, 2019 By Niklas Westerlund , eChinacities.com

Did you finally land a job on your intrepid China adventure that at the very least appears to be professional? If you’re here for any length of time, you're likely going to be sent on a business trip in China, voluntarily or otherwise. What can you expect to encounter and what are the rules of engagement? Keep reading and you might just find out!

You’re one of the lucky few who’s been told you’re needed at place X, at time Y, to do thing Z as a representative of your company. Congratulations! While you’ll want to keep your cool among your colleagues, you might feel like a slightly elongated version of Bilbo Baggins happily proclaiming, “I’m going on an adventure!”, at least for the first couple of hours.

Business trips in China can make for an exciting break from the mundane office-dwelling you’re likely to endure on a daily basis. But, be warned, they can also be confusing and exhausting. Depending on the size of the group being sent, you’re either going to be left to figure everything out by yourself or forced to endure the headache of being herded around like a flock of sheep.

What important items should you bring? How jumbled will the office hierarchies become? How should you deal with potential business partners? And why are your colleagues so hungover they’re sleeping in the exhibition booth? Read this for some essential China business trip survival tips.

What to bring, physically and otherwise

“Do I really need my business cards?” and “Should I bring swimwear?” are both legitimate questions. Bringing business cards is as obvious as breathing. But how much leisure time is it reasonable to expect without coming off as a lazy C-grade foreigner? The short answer is very little.

On a business trip in China, you’re almost certainly going to be shuttled around as a group before, during, and after the real working part of the day. Free time is just wasted time that could have been spent crammed in a bus, watching your colleagues take selfies in front of landmarks, or socializing as a group. So bring your patience, stamina, and an ability to keep a smile plastered across your face at all times.

Another crucial item to bring is a thermos, especially if you’ve assimilated to the Chinese culture of constantly drinking hot water or tea or if you’re just a regular coffee drinker. If you fall into the latter category, a few bags of instant coffee will be an absolute lifesaver if you’re staying in a traditional-style Chinese hotel, which will have terrible joe at the very most. Pro tip: If you’re staying at a more international hotel, bring your thermos to the breakfast buffet and fill it up there. Yes, you’ll lose face. No, you won’t care later when you’re falling asleep standing up.

Finally, mentally prepare by simply accepting the fact that you’re a foreigner and will therefore be expected to play the foreigner role (being adorably outgoing but clueless about Chinese culture) for the entirety of the trip. Once you accept that as your job, you’re going to have a much more pleasant time on any type of business trip in China.

Understanding your place in the hierarchy

Imagine you’re on the showroom floor hanging out in your company booth. You’re doing your thing (whatever that is), when all of a sudden, your CEO materializes and asks you to film a testimonial video, right now, right here, because he/she overheard that the rival booth is doing just that.

You have no idea how to do it and no equipment – so what do you say? The simple answer is, “Why yes, of course I can film a professional-grade video with my phone. Studio lighting and microphones are for amateurs anyway.”

Chances are that by the time you’re back in the office, the whole idea will be long forgotten. Your place in the hierarchy during a hectic business trip in China is both exclusive and elusive. Use it to your advantage and never be a naysayer to senior staff. It’s usually better to agree and then do the opposite rather than cause your boss to lose face.

Meeting potential business partners

How should you conduct yourself when meeting potential clients and partners on a business trip in China? If the new contact is Chinese, you’ll be needed to show the company is international enough to have employed a foreigner. If the new contact is foreign, you’ll be expected to keep them comfortable by making foreigner-specific small talk. That is until it’s time to get down to business, at which point your services are probably no longer required.

Dinner with potential business partners is an important part of the dance dictated by Chinese business etiquette and absolutely crucial in order to build guanxi. If the rules are followed correctly, not a single word about potential partnerships, co-branding, joint-ventures, and whatnot will be uttered before those attending are well into their third bottle of baijiu. Keep your head down, don’t embarrass yourself more than you’re supposed to, and you’ll do just fine.

KTV calling

Once the exhibition or the activities pertinent to the business trip have ended for the day, what happens next? It’d be presumptuous of you to expect leisure time, as most serious companies will hire agencies to organize every detail of the trip, including the after hours “fun". Resistance is futile.

In the evening, expect there to be beer, baijiu, cigarette smoke, and obligatory KTV. Thinking you might have a “Get out of an embarrassing situation”-card because you’re a foreigner? Think again. You’re expected to perform, but rest assured that your colleagues and business partners will love you no matter how bad you are.

Pro tip: If you think you’ll be faced with a KTV machine that belongs in the nineties during your business trip in China, learn the words for Yue Liang Dai Biao Wo De Xin before you go. It’s super easy, especially if you’ve studied Chinese for more than a semester, and it’ll automatically make you appear cultured.

Business trip fatigue

Standing around for 12 hours a day with a severe case of dehydration and alcohol poisoning is no fun. And no-one knows this better than your Chinese colleagues, who are snoring softly while snugly tucked away at the back of your booth or in the loneliest corner of an empty conference room.

Remember that if you’re exhausted, your colleagues are probably doubly so. They work harder than you after all, and it might also have something to do with the mysterious pink contact cards that were adroitly scooped up from the ground just outside your hotel the night before. The world may never know.

Whether you’re suffering more than your colleagues or not, how do you combat this dreaded condition? Aside from the obvious and ill-advised alcoholic pick-me-up before breakfast, plenty of water and coffee will also do the trick. Hydration tablets will come in handy, as will mint lozenges if you need to talk a lot, both for your own throat and for the general wellbeing of those you’re addressing.

In summation, business trips in China can be fun and serve as a nice break from the daily grind, but you’ll probably be happy to get back to the familiar monotony of the office after a few days.

Do you have any more tips on how to survive Chinese business trips? Let us know in the comments below!

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Keywords: business trip in China Chinese business trip


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Apr 14, 2020 02:55 Report Abuse


You have to work hard

Oct 18, 2019 17:11 Report Abuse


good article

Aug 24, 2019 08:45 Report Abuse