Chinese Culture 3 minutes spent reading
Working environments

Chinese Culture

Christopher Eberl
Holds editorial responsibility for career topics and for the apprentice website. His stories offer insights into the world of work at voestalpine.

Why is touching heads absolutely taboo in Asian countries, and why do some Chinese rejoice in the first name “Harley Davidson”? The series on business etiquette in South East Asia explains all! It begins with the People’s Republic of China.

Shanghaivoestalpine is actively driving forward internationalization in line with Group 2020 strategy. The key focus of growth is North America and, in particular, Asia. voestalpine currently has 64 companies and sites in the region, as well as a total of 3,600 employees, including joint ventures. This series explains the cultural differences between each of the countries in which voestalpine is present.

The People’s Republic of China is the most populous country in the world; a total of 1.349 billion people live in this land. The capital, Beijing, has more than 20 million inhabitants alone. The unique culture is a product of numerous influences, and of a civilization stretching back thousands of years. Carry on reading to discover what you should consider when visiting China:


Confucianism has created a mindset which is extremely hierarchical. Older people and superiors are always greeted first, as a matter of respect.

Dealing with criticism

The Chinese don’t warm to open criticism, instead often clothing criticism in praise. If an employee was incompetent, then it is said that he had too much to do.

Bowing rather than shaking hands

People greeting one another in China bow slightly before shaking their own hands; the left hand clasps the right, roughly at chest height. A handshake, a rather rare occurrence, should tend to be limp and not too tight, and made without looking one’s counterpart openly in the eye. Handshakes with women are rarer; however, exceptions are made for foreign guests.

Patience is required

Offers of drinks, food or presents should first be refused once or twice in order to avoid being regarded as greedy!

Foreign-sounding names

Chinese people who have frequent contact with foreigners often give themselves foreign-sounding first names, such as Michael, Jacky, Tom or even names such as Show, Sunny, Lucifer, Nokia, or Harley Davidson.


Many Chinese are superstitious and have a mystical disposition. Numbers and colors have great symbolic importance. Signing a contract on the 4th of a month would be a faux pas, whereas on the 8th of the month, ideally at 8:00 am, would be seen in a very positive light. Colors with negative overtones include white (the color of mourning), black and grey.

Offer visiting cards in two languages

Business travelers should certainly carry visiting cards in two languages (English and Chinese), because the Chinese form of the name (characters) is very important. Consequently, names should be translated by someone with a solid appreciation of the nuances of Chinese business.

Please smile!

Photos are very important souvenirs in China. Poses are tried out until everyone is satisfied with the result. Young people like to give the victory sign – holding up raised and parted index and middle finger.


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Christopher Eberl

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