Knowing how to dress for an interview and work in China can make the difference between success and failure. What you wear will be directly linked to your perceived professionalism, so be sure to follow these rules for business attire in China.
Source:US State Department
In the not too distant past, the unisex “Mao suit”, a single color trousers and shirt combo with two pockets on each side of the chest, was the standard work uniform in China.Business attire in China is now much more modern and less Soviet looking, with both men and women largely adopting more Western-style work clothes.
However, there are still some clear rules when it comes to work clothes in China. The Specific norms and culture will vary between industries and workplaces, so ask the HR manager before an interview or starting a new job. But it’s always best to err on the side of caution, so here are some business attire dos and don’t to try and stick to.
Colors & Patterns
Generally speaking, muted colors such as black, brown, navy and gray are preferred in the Chinese workplace. White is associated with mourning in China so should only really be worn as a shirt under a suit, although the younger generation is increasingly disregarding this rule. Red is synonymous with power and prosperity, so a red tie is a good choice for a man, but a red dress for a woman is a bit ostentatious for work.
Solid colors without patterns are the most conservative option, but subtly patterned ties for men and shirts for women are becoming more common in the Chinese workplace. However, avoid loud patterns and, it goes without saying, novelty ties.
Watches & Jewelry
Wealth is admired in China so good quality watches and jewelry are permitted in business situations as long as they’re not too flashy. Women should steer clear of chunky pieces. When meeting a high value client, it’s probably better to go without a watch entirely than with a cheap knockoff.
Male Business Attire Norms in China
Rules for business attire for men in China are not all that different than in the West. If you’re going for an interview, it’s advisable to always wear a suit and tie, even if you’re applying for an outdoors job. It’s considered rude to take off your jacket during an interview or meeting though, so if you’re hot, suck it up! If you decide to just go for a shirt and tie, make sure the shirt is freshy pressed and long-sleeved.Wear brown or black dress shoes, make sure they’re nice and shiny and avoid brightly colored or white socks.
Female Business Attire Norms in China
Although younger women in China tend to dress more casually and sometimes even a little sexily for work, middle-aged and older women dress very conservatively. Its best to follow their lead in an interview situation or when starting a new job. Women in China generally wear pant suits, skirt suits or dresses to work, but hemlines should always be below the knee if you’re shooting for conservatism. Necklines should also be high, and wearing tights/stockings is obviously more formal than going without.Sleeves should be at least mid-length and shoes should be closed-toed and either flat or with a very small heel. It could be seen as disrespectful if you’re wearing huge platforms to meet a smaller male client. Finally, keep makeup neutral and to a minimum.
To sum up, if you’re in doubt, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. You may offend someone if you’re under-dressed or over-dressed, but it’s almost impossible to upset someone by looking too smart.
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Keywords: China business attchina work clothes etiquette ire
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