Dispatches From China

Dinner etiquette is key when doing business in China

Meals are part of the meeting sequence of doing business in China. Be prepared for two-hour lunches and three- to six-hour dinners, sometimes followed by a few hours of karaoke.

This is a time when both sides ostensibly are relaxing but are actually trying to get to know each other. Meals are not just a way of showing hospitality. They are an extension of the meetings process itself, and to navigate them, you need to be aware of what your host is trying to convey, and you need to be receptive, appropriate and clear in your responses.

It is important to be friendly, but you are not there to entertain them. It is about business. When in doubt, reverse the situation and think about it in terms of someone from China showing up on your doorstep, asking about doing some business.

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