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China And Western Countries Etiquette Differences Cultural Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 5437 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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China is a state of ceremonies since the ancient times while western countries also have their own etiquettes. With the coming of economic globalization period, negotiation becomes the most common and useful activity day by day. In international business negotiations, two or more parties, which are belong to different countries, come together to discuss mutual interests and conflicts. Successful business negotiations certainly bring more benefits and further development to both parties. However, in the real life, etiquette differences will result to some cultural conflicts, even lead to negotiations failures. In order to study how etiquettes influence on business negotiations, this paper uses the method of contrast and analysis, compares Chinese and western business negotiation practice in detail, discusses the impact of etiquette differences on international business negotiations, and puts forward some useful suggestions on the process and strategy of negotiation.

[Key words] Reception Etiquette; Difference; Business Negotiations; Impact

I. Introduction

1.1 The Purpose of the Study

The success of business activities begins with agreements reached between corporations. An satisfactory agreement requires effective business negotiations. Negotiation is a basic human activity and is such a process involving kinds of interpersonal communication activities that takes place at the verbal, nonverbal, situational contextual levels. In a single culture environment, the negotiation process is more predictable and accurate, as negotiators do not have to concern with challenges of languages and cultural differences. Individuals having the same cultural backgrounds tend to display common patterns of thinking, feeling and reacting in line with their cultural heritage. However, there are more challenges in international business negotiations. International business negotiations are ones where the negotiating parties belong to different cultures and do not share the same ways of thinking, feeling, and behaviors. The whole negotiating process is generally more complicated because cultural norms may undermine effective communication.

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As above, international business negotiation is not only the communication and cooperation in the field of economy, but also among world cultures which have great impact on such kind of negotiations. In fact, conflicts over goals and procedures of negotiations are often intensified by cultural differences. Etiquette, as one part of culture, if its differences are not well understood or dealt with can be serious barriers to successful international negotiations. The greater the cultural difference, the more likely barriers to communication and misunderstanding become. Hence, learning and understanding etiquette differences between the negotiating parties are really conductive to the success of intercultural negotiations.

Chinese culture is different from western culture in terms of beliefs, values, lifestyles and world perspective, so negotiations failures often occur due to great differences of these two cultures. In an international business environment, negotiators with an understanding and respect of cultural differences, will have large advantage at the bargaining table. Thus, the author tries to focusing research on the impact of etiquette differences on conflict management styles in sino-western business negotiations and makes a comparison of the different conflict resolution styles commonly found in Chinese and Western cultures.

In brief, the purpose of this thesis is to identify etiquette differences between China and western countries, providing suggestions for the international business negotiations, which can help to reduce unnecessary failures of negotiating and accomplish desired agreements.

1.2 The Organazation of the Study

This paper consists of five parts. Part 1 introduces the purpose and the organazation of the study. Part 2 gives a general understanding of etiquette and negotiations, which providing a foundation for further study and explores core factors of Chinese and western etiquette. Part 3 points the influence of etiquette on international business negotiations. Part 4 puts forward some suggestions for international business negotiations. Part 5 is the conclusion.

This paper keeps pace with the times and is of great practicability. This is the significance of writing the thesis. There are various factors that have impact on international business negotiations such as international economic factors, political environment, pluralism of legal system, culture and etc. The paper combines the material of language and culture with the material of business negotiations, which illustrates the idea of doing research from a multi-disciplinary perspective. The thesis presents a comprehensive review of theories on etiquette, bushiness.

II. Differences of Etiquette Between China and Western Countries

2.1 Definition of Etiquette and Negotiation

Generally speaking, etiquette refers to the use and communicative occasions, which is a form of showing respect and friendly. Bisiness Etiquette is a code of conduct which must be respected in business dealings(Jin Zhengkun, 2005). It is a kind of art, which shows an elegant picture of life. With the globalization of the whole world, there are more and more communications between western culture and Chinese culture. As everybody knows, cultures between China and western countries are almost different. There are etiquette differences between the two cultures in the respects of reception, greeting, banquet, presenting gifts and so on. In international business negotiations, etiquette is one of the key factors to be concerned.

There are different kinds of definitions of “negotiations”. “It may be understood as a process of two or more parties combining their conflicting points of view into a single decision of mutual interest”(Wang Guanfu & Su Yurong, 2001: 38). Common interests and conflicting interests are two basic elements of negotiations. Negotiations parties must have common goals, or there would be no need for negotiations. Conflicting interests refer to some of preferred outcome is better for one party. In business negotiations, conflicting interests may include payment, distribution, profits, contractual responsibilities, quality and so on.

2.2 The Differences of Shaking Hands and Forms of Address

Shaking hands is a usual way in communication. In western countries, people will not necessarily shake hands, just a smile and say hello to others. But in China, even it is the first time they meet, shaking hands is also considered as a basic courtesy. There is no much restriction to shake hands in China while the western countries have certain etiquette. For example, between men and women, woman should be the first person to reach out and shake hands. If the woman has no meaning to shake hands, the man can only nod and bow; between old and young, the young people should give the hand after the old; between the superior and lower levels, the superior should give the hand first; between the host and guest, the person who should first give the hand is the host. Handshaking should be paid attention to watching each other, and take off gloves; otherwise they will be regarded as impolite.

In western culture, “people can call each other’s name directly”(Austin, 1962: 30), without paying attention to the age, position and seniority. “They regard this form of address as a way of showing intimate and close relation”(Austin, J. L, 1962: 31). However, in Chinese culture, the position in the family hierarchy and the professional posts are very important. You can not directly call a person’s name whose position is higher than you; otherwise people would think you are very impolite. In addition, Confucianism has the strongest influence on the daily lives and business cultures in China. One important doctrine of Confucianism is its teaching on respect for hierarchy and age. The Chinese language has a large vocabulary used to distinguish people in terms of age. The family name plus occupation linked title is popular form of address, such as “Professor Wang”, “Doctor Li”. The age difference of the same generation and the difference between paternal and maternal relationship are reflected in kinship address terms in Chinese but not in English. The table shows the relationship of English and Chinese kinship.

2.3The Differences of Greeting

Greeting behaviour are important tools for establishing and maintaining social relationships. Differences in English and Chinese greetings are remarkable. The western people usually use “Good morning/ afternoon/ evening?” “How do you do?” “Nice to meet you.” “How are you doing?” “Hello” “Hi”etc. to greet other people. “Have you eaten yet?” “Where are you going?” “Where have you been?” When Chinese people extend greetings to each other, they always ask like this. This is a Familiar greeting way for Chinese people but no other meaning. “In Chinese etiquette, this kind of greetings is taken as attitudinal warmth and care toward others instead of inquiring others’ personal matter. However, these questions make the western people puzzled, even misunderstanding”(Goffman, E, 1967: 48). For instance, “Have you eaten yet?” they may misunderstand you are inviting him to dinner. “Where have you been?” They may think you are inquiring about his privacy and response you with “It’s none of your business.”

2.4 The Differences of Banquet

Chinese table manners occupies a very important position in Chinese people’s lives. They believe that eating is not just the physical needs, but also important social experience. Therefore, it is very important to grasp some knowledge of Chinese dining etiquette, whether you are the host or merely a guest.

In Chinese table manners, the guests seated on the seats first. Chinese food dishes include chopsticks, dishes, spoons, bowls and so on. Chopsticks are the main food dishes. When use chopsticks to take food, several problems should paid attention as follows. First, do not lick the chopsticks whether there is food on them or not. Second, when talking with other people, it is necessary to put down your chopsticks, do not waving your chopsticks when talking. Third, do not put chopsticks on food upright, because it is only used for sacrificing. Fourth is strictly the function of chopsticks. Chopsticks are used to take food only. It is very rude to clip teeth or take something else but not the food.Sometimes, when taking food with chopsticks, spoon can also be used to support, the main role of the spoon is to scoop. You should put the spoon on your plate if you do not use it temporarily, do not put it on the table directly, or make it in the food. After taking food with the spoon ,you should eat it immediately, or placed it on your plate, please remember that do not put back to the original place. And if the food is too hot to eat, please not to use the spoon to scoop or boast the food, you can put the food in your own bowl first, and wait for a while to eat. Do not put the spoon into your mouth or lick it again and again. When finish eating, chopsticks should be putted on the table neatly the bowl by the right side, all of the guests can leave only after the host indicates. You cannot leave with dropping your chopsticks after finishing your meals(Yangliu, Tian Dandan & Yuan Fushan, 2008).

The western people are likely to have a banquet in their own houses, which are different from Chinese etiquette. The guests should reply the invitation before attend the banquet. On formal dinner, a male clerk stand by the gate to help a guest to take off jacket. The host and hostess greets a visitor in the hall and expresses welcome. The guests always arrive late ten to fifteen minutes to let the hosts to prepare adequately, which is another difference from Chinese etiquette.

In Western-style banquet, the hostess always enters dining room in the last time. In fact, the hostess is the true host in the banquet, acting the most important role first and last in the banquet. The guests always notice her activity, lest miss appearance. After the banquet begins, when each dish comes up, guests also follow the hosts’ action. The guest cannot refuse any dish. If the guests do not like some food, they may take less as far as possible. The tableware of Western-style food is knife, fork and dish. People use the right hand to hold a knife and left hand to hold fork. Do not change knife and fork when eating. Knife can be used as cutting food and fork can be used at feeding(Song Guoshuang & Jiang Wenjing, 2008). In Western-style food banquet, take what course, distribute drink what wine, and deserve to use what mug are very strict. Western-style banquet often use seven kinds of wine and every dish should catch up with a kind of wine. Cold meats or choice seafood cup often follow spirited wine with spirited goblet. In deputy dish, people drink the claret with drink claret cup. Entree follows bubbly with bubbly cup and the desert follows Port with wine-cup.

When dining, people should be quiet and don’t make sound. The sound like burp and chew can be regarded as discourteous behavior. When the banquet ends, the host stands up first and announce the end of the banquet. The female guest leave place first. No matter be to leave banquet or take one’s seat, male guest should help female guest to pull chair. The guests cannot hastily leave. However, they should wait for the hostess to see the visitors off.

2.5 The Differences of Presenting Gifts

Presenting gifts is an important form of interpersonal communication. Both Chinese and westerners pay attention to presenting gifts to others, but there are some differences between them. First of all, it is the differences of gift. The Chinese attach importance to the practical value of the gift. For example, they may send quilt or household appliances to the new couple. The Chinese people also think highly of the price of the gift, so some people will leave the price label with the gift. In the reality, Chinese people like to present gifts with high prices due to their face or other compelled reasons. However, the westerners always send gift like a bunch of flowers or a bottle of wine. They attach the importance to the feeling of receiving gifts, not the gift itself. Generally speaking, they neither present too expensive gifts nor too cheap gifts but pay attention to the gift packaging. Even it is the very common gift, they will use color paper packaging with ribbon bandage to make it perfect as an expression of their deep friendship.

When accept the gifts, Chinese usually politely refused at first, they regard it as a politeness. After they accept the gifts, they will not open the gifts when the givers still stay nearby. However, the westerners accept gifts with no decline, they express their gratitude to the givers and praise the gifts after accept them. They believe that praise the gift is the same with praise the givers. “When you get a gift, sometimes you open it immediately, or the giver may think it’s rude if you don’t open”(George Y. Tang, 2006: 68).

III. Influences of Etiquette Differences on International Business Negotiations

3.1 Influences of Business Negotiations During the Whole Steps

Business negotiations should be mutually beneficial. There is no conclusive victory and a successful business negotiation is that each part is winner. Business negotiation should be a process that is based on the needs of two or more parties, to seek the best interests. During the process, each part is eager to meet the needs directly or indirectly. However, the opponents’ needs must be taken into account so that business negotiation can be successful. What strategy a successful business negotiator usually uses is making the opponent as a friend.

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First, the negotiators, the identity of the other negotiators and duties should be ensured before negotiation. Second, we should prepare the topic, content and progress well, and make plans, objectives, and negotiating tactics. Then, negotiating room should also be arranged, using rectangular or oval-shaped table, and the seat facing the door is for the respect, which should be given to the other side. Negotiators must also have good quality. Dress should be clean and formal. Men should clean beard up, wearing a suit and tie. Women should not be wearing too sexy.

The first impression between negotiating parties is very important, and it is as much as possible to create a friendly, relaxed atmosphere during a negotiation. Self-introduction should be natural. Asking questions should be polite. After the introduction, choose a topic that both sides have interests to talk about. A short greeting can create a mild atmosphere. Negotiating movements also play a major role in negotiation atmosphere, for example, when you look at the opponent, you should look into the eyes to make the other feel concerned. Gestures should be natural, avoid cross-arms at the chest, for it is extremely arrogant and rude. At the beginning of negotiation the most important task is to find out the other’s bottom line, and it is necessary to listen to the other’s speaking seriously, giving careful observation of the behavior and expression, and providing appropriate responses, so it is not only to understand each other’s intentions, but also to show respect and courtesy.

In the signing ceremony, all people involved in the negotiations of the two sides must be present. The two sides also have helping sign people, standing beside their own representatives, and the rest stand behind their respective party representatives. Helping sign people should help open the documents and point out the position where to sign. Representatives from both sides sign on owns document first and then exchange to sign on other’s document. After the signing, both sides should stand up, exchange the text, and shake hands with each other, congratulating successful cooperation. Other members should give warm applause and congratulations(Wang Fei, 2007).

3.2 Different Attitudes to the Time Orientation of Negotiation

Time in China is a lifetime commitment, and no long-term or short-term errors will be made through hasty and hurried decisions. All Chinese know the Confucian proverb “Think three times before you act”. They tend to do more than one thing at a time. Not being hasty is a sign of wisdom and sincerity. These sayings reflect the different time orientations. Sequential time stresses involvement of people and completion of transactions rather than adhere to a present schedule. As China has a history that dates back thousands of years, the Chinese find it normal to take a long-range view of events and are less likely to be rushed when they face decisions. Negotiators usually stress the process rather than how long it takes to get there. So they may make concession until the last minute of negotiations. Therefore, more Chinese negotiators prefer slower negotiations than western negotiators do.

According to Chiness cultural characteristics, in the business negotiations, Chiness people focus on “talk about the principles first and then talk about the details”, while westerners emphasize “talk about the details first and avoid discussing about the principles”. This difference often leads to communication difficulties in the West. Western negotiators are not adapt to such negotiations way, and the rusult of the negotiation is often more to help the Chinese negotiators(Wang Min, 2008). A basic assumption of western negotiation is that the faster that money or goods change hands, the greater the increase in value and the larger the profits. The western negotiators want to make a deal quickly, then the next. Short-term transactions are valued. They are known for their speed and strive for getting through the content of the negotiations as efficiently as possible. They always seem to be in a hurry and under pressure for results. Most westerners have very low tolerance for extensions and postponements. They welcome innovation and change and have less regard for past social or organizational customs and traditions.

3.3 Different Etiquette Culture reflections of Chinese and Western Negotiators

Different cultures have different etiquette. In hierarchical cultures, social status implies social power. Social inferiors are expected to defer to social superiors. Most Chinese people in subordinate positions are happy to place their trust in their superiors. They tend to feel that those above them in the hierarchy are truly their superiors and are looking out for their welfare from a broader perspective and a greater base of experience than they could themselves. Status brings with it great responsibility to do what is best for one’s subordinates. Those in positions of power are expected to use that power responsibly and to advance the interests of all those in their collective.

Chiness people focus on the respect and humble, that respect the senior and know how to give way to maintain the social order of hierarchy from top to bottom. For example, when meeting each other, they often used the title of “old” character. In the junior and subordinate are usually respect the views of their superiors’ and did not dare to express their personal views. While in the West, the Renaissance praised people’s value, the revision of equality is deeply rooted among Westerns, there is no significant difference between people and people(Cheng Yuanfang, 2008). The westerners believe that all people have the right to success in life. They treat others as equals when communicating. They do not attach great importance to the place of birth, family or other backgrounds. They find it is easier to interact with each other when there is at least the illusion of equality among members of the group. Western culture minimizes status differences and values equality over hierarchy and social class. They are proud of the equality nature of their society and assume that all people will appreciate being treated as equals.

In ancient China it had been put forward the concept of family, patriarchy existed long-term, while everyone should treat in the national interest as the starting point. In essence, people should maintain the emperor state. Today is also based on the principle of collectivism. In addition to call them but also should add Ge or Jie, which as regards unity and harmony. In the West, the Renaissance was started with individualism as the core and promoted personal freedom and independence. This individualism has permeated into the political economic, cultural and other aspects. It is generally non-interference in other people’s business, particularly in age, marriage, family, income, religious and other aspects. General when they meet there are just some the most basic hello “How are you?” In the UK, people often talk about the weather when meet. In China, “what are you going to do” “Did you eat?” These are regarded as interference in other people’s privacy in the West(Cheng Yuanfang, 2008). The westerners pay more attention to “I” rather than “we”. Individualists often prefer to put forth their own efforts and to be judged on the basis of these personal efforts. In terms of business negotiations, western negotiators tend to be more self-motivated and their business relationship is based on self-interest. The consequences for international negotiations are that negotiators from high-power-distance cultures may need to seek approval from their supervisors more frequently, and for more issues, leading to a slower negotiation process.

â…£. Suggestion to Effective Negotiations

4.1 Respecting and Reconciling Etiquette Differences

In international business negotiation, negotiators should respect the etiquette of the opposite side in the first place. Respect is most effectively developed once people realize that most cultural differences are in themselves, even if they have not yet recognized the differences. For example, westerners often think that the Chinese are mysterious, even unreliable. They never know what Chinese are feeling or thinking and Chinese always say “yes”, even when they are negative about something.

Then, in order to reach an agreement, they ought to reconcile the etiquette differences. In a word, a person is characterized by his own ways, and there is nothing good or bad, noble or humble when one is talking his own features. However, once he is in a culturally diverse circumstance, one should be flexible. Being flexible means that negotiators should be ready to change their way of attitude when required. To change one’s way or attitude has nothing to do with giving up one’s principles or standards for business. In fact, such a change is only for solving the problem or for building up some business relationship. People need to acquire the skills that will allow them to respond to various conditions. For example, behaving in an informal manner when encountering a culture that employs an informal style or speaking softly instead of loudly when talking with people who use a subdued communication pattern (Chaney, L. H. & Martin, J. S, 2000). In this sense, patience is an important attribute required for modern business people. Because they are in the business of creating wealth and value, negotiators need to share the values of buying, selling, of joint venturing, of working in partnership. It would be wiser for international business negotiators to take a neutral attitude when contacting people with various cultural backgrounds and deal with business in a professional way.

In order to better reconcile cultural differences,a good negotiator should keep in mind the following tips: There are no specific values or behaviors that are universally right. They must be flexible and accepting of differences in values, beliefs, standards and mores. Only in this way can they do a successful negotiation.

4.2 Conversing Etiquette Differences

Chiness and Westerns negotiators, are not only to stand on their own perspective of looking at the problems, but also to stand in the other’s position to consider, namely, empathy. Empathy means in the negotiations use more from the other side’s points of view, understand each other’s negotiating style, negotiating tactics, interests, preferences and interests of their best point. For example, the U.S. negotiators like to talk directly about the specific provisions. The Chinese negotiators have to adjust their overall after the first part of thinking and negotiation strategies, specific provisions from the beginning, finally talking about general principles. For example, at the beginning of negotiations, the U.S. negotiators always on the details, start with the Chinese negotiators, who, if trouble with their negotiations on the details, the negotiations not only very efficiency for the United States that will make sense of the Chinese side on their mode of thinking and pattern of negotiations to respect and thus they will respect China’s number of the corresponding negotiations different from their own. In this way, the relationship between the two sides will move toward a win-win, harmonious and friendly direction. In addition, the Chinese negotiators in the negotiations with the United States should behave directly, honest, resolute. The language in the negotiations, we have to be straightforward, and have a pragmatic way to politely discuss issues or calmly argue, avoid using terms such as “may be” “perhaps” or similar ambiguous answer. Language should be firm and polite, can say “must” will “definitely” when instead of “should”. When can not be accepted, you must clearly tell the other side, do not shy, or still hold partly concealed(Zhou Guiying, 2007).

Try to anticipate differences so that they can take advantages in intercultural negotiations. Be aware of cultural difference when encountering them and not make negative attributions about counterpart. Be careful of unchecked cultural assumption and do not impose cultural bias on the counterparts. Be Prepared for diffuseness in concern about punctuality, logic process and legal process. Be more flexible and adaptable when encounter conflicts. Be given more power to make decisions individually. To establish a warm, personal relationship with the counterparts. Get to know them even before negotiations. Avoid ethnocentrism to ensure the effective intercultural communication in negotiations process. Be patient. Hasty will almost certainly mean unnecessary concessions.

â…¤. Conclusion

With the rapid development of economic globalization and the prosperity of international business, international business negotiations are on the dramatic increase. However, negotiation is influenced by a set of variables, such as the nature of the initial problems and the general context of the negotiation.

Culture is one of the most important factors which cannot be neglected. Etiquette is one part of culture which plays a very important role in the internetional business negotiations.When all negotiators are from the same culture, reciprocity reinforces culturally normative negotiation behaviors. When negotiators are from different cultures,reciprocity may help negotiators adjust their strategies to each other. Chinese culture is different from western culture in terms of beliefs, values, lifestyles and world perspective, so negotiations failures often occur due to great differences of these two cultures. In an international business environment, negotiators with an understanding and respect of cultural differences, will have large advantage at the bargaining table.

Shaking hands, forms of address, greeting, banquet and presenting Gifts between Chinese and Western countries shows the differences etiquette in internetional business negotiations. Business negotiation should be a process that is based on the needs of two or more parties, to seek the best interests. During the process, each part is eager to meet the needs directly or indirectly. Therefore, in an international business environment, negotiators with an understanding can decide large advantage at the bargaining table. Thus, the purpose throughout this thesis is to examine the experiences of business negotiations between Chinese and western from the perspective of etiquette differences. Regarding the etiquette differences even the cultural differences, it is necessary to put forward some suggestions in the international business negotiations. The opponents’ needs must be taken into account so that business negotiation can be successful. In international business negotiation, negotiators should respect the etiquette of the opposite side in the first place. Both Chiness and Western negotiators should use more from the other side’s points of view, understand each other’s negotiating style, negotiating tactics, interests, preferences and interests of their best point.

In short, as the global economic integration deepening, business competition becoming more and more intense. In the internetional business, due to the impact of Western cultural differences at the negotiating table with their respective negotiating style shows a great difference. Therefore, understanding the differences between Chinese and Western business etiquette will help us find constructive channels of communication and make the full use of the advantages and overcome some of weaknesses. Try to manage the negotiation process, grasp the direction and progress of the negotiations, which is both Chiness and Western negotiators should be attention.


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