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Three golden rules for doing business in Asia Pacific

September 1, 2017 Business News No Comments Email Email

Asia Pacific is home to some of the largest markets in the world, and has experienced tremendous economic growth over the years. For business travellers, this means more frequent trips to or within the region.

As businesses become more globalised, business travellers should understand, respect, and act within the cultural context of the country that they are doing their business in, which can sometimes be neglected due to busy schedules. After all, the last thing you want is to see is an important deal going down in flames due to a clumsy mistake. 

To ensure that your business will thrive in Asia Pacific, here are three golden rules to follow –

Bertrand Saillet

  1. Understand the power of authority

Never underestimate the importance of seniority, or you might be construed by your Asian clients as disrespectful. Asian cultures value title, rank, respect for elders and these factors can dictate many unspoken cues such as who enters/exits a room first to seating arrangements. In South Korea for example, it would be considered disrespectful to speak to a junior executive before speaking to a senior executive. 

Call-to-action: Include specific details about your “rank” when you introduce yourself to a potential client in Asia. In China, business associates typically introduce themselves by verbalising their titles and company name to establish hierarchy (I.e. Doctor Jonathan Smith, CEO of American Data Corporation).

  1. Want to make a business deal? Move out of the boardroom.

Asians prioritize relationships and would prefer to develop a sense of mutual trust before they proceed with contract negotiation. With this in mind, it might be helpful to move out of the boardroom when striking a business deal.

In China, for example, it is common for them to invite foreign business partners for meals, drinks and entertainment. Participating in social events like this will not only strengthen your business relationship but also demonstrate respect for your hosts. 

Call-to-action: Connections matter. As such, it is best to not respond with any sign of impatience or frustration when negotiations seem to be moving slowly. Instead, work on gaining their trust. Bond over “hot-pot” meals if you’re in China, or even a “karaoke session” in Hong Kong to lighten the mood.

  1. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Saving face is a highly-valued concept in Asia Pacific so try to avoid any situation that may cause your business partner to lose face. If a disagreement arises, always seek out a non-confrontational way to settle it.

Cultural sensitivity is not only about speaking and writing – body language matters as well. While it is acceptable to greet a lady in France with a quick kiss on the cheek, even in a business setting, the same gesture would be frowned in Malaysia and India. Similarly, a handshake may seem harmless enough but in Japan, they are more accustomed to a simple nod or bow.

It never hurts to equip yourself with the local honorifics, even if your business partners don’t expect you to. In Japan, adding san to a name (i.e. Nobu-san) will help you to score points. Same goes for adding Pak (for men) and Ibu (for women) in Indonesia (i.e. Pak Fajar).  

Call-to-action: Discernment of cultural, religious, moral, behavioural and linguistic differences is crucial in a business environment. One of the most valuable investments that you can make is by learning and honouring these customs.

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