China’s working culture and etiquette is quite different from what you may be used to, so you may find it helpful to consider this before you travel; it will make your working life a whole lot easier!
Most importantly, please note that seniority is very significant to the Chinese, especially when dealing with a Manager, Director or someone who is part of a government body. Instead of addressing the other party as Mr or Mrs, it is always appropriate to address the person by their official title, such as Chairman ‘xxx’, Director ‘xxx’ or Manager’xxx’. This will help to create a very good impression when meeting new people, both at your school or outside of work.
The Chinese also love business cards and while you will not be expected to have your own, some schools will provide these for their teachers, and you should expect to accumulate a lot of business cards during your time spent teaching in China. Take care when you accept a business card; hold it with both hands, ensuring it faces the correct way and make sure you spend a moment to read it and show an interest.
Another important concept in China is ‘guanxi’ which loosely translates as relationships or connections with others. Networking is extremely important and generally speaking to more people you know the better chances you have of being successful in a wide variety of situations. Building deeper relationships with colleagues is also very common and trust is vital in the workplace. The Chinese even have a saying “to do business we must first be friends” and this is very representative of their ways of working.
The concept of ‘saving face’ (mianzi) are crucial to the success of doing business in China.