Whether you are a Laowai (foreigner) or Chinese, doing business in China will require knowledge and training in the Olympic-style business card exchanges that take place in networking parties, meetings, conferences, and just about with anyone you ever meet.
I remember my first networking party organized by the American Chamber in Cotton Club. I landed off in China just fifteen days ago and did not even know what “gong bao ji ding” (peanut and chicken) was. This night I met several guys from multinational companies, hopefully most of them were fond of French people and newbies, fortunately I was 100% of both, so we kindly exchange French culture with Chinese business culture.
While exchanging business cards can be seen as an easy way to exchange contact information in most Western countries, in China, it is an introduction and ice-breaking tool given out sometimes before even saying hello. A person’s business card is their status, their company, and a brief introduction of who they are. Giving and receiving business cards, therefore, should not be taken as casually as in the western world on one should obey the strict cultural rules of exchange. To make it short, don’t forget your smile and when giving and accepting cards, use both hands and a slight bend-over posture (not bowing, but a simple nod of the head). Don’t just put the card in your back pocket; examine it; take time to look at the card front and back to show respect and put it in a “safe” place to show respect.
The first time as I did, you will probably have to dig in your pocket/wallet/bag before remembering that you left them in your jacket in the locker room, but you will soon learn to keep a small stack handy at all times. In networking parties where cards are coming in and out like passengers in the train station, there is a good chance that instead of giving one of your own, you give a card that somebody else already gave to you. So you will have the choice to smartly apologies with a joke-smile-laugh or proudly represent the company mentioned on the card. Dear reader, do not even try to find which solution is the best between both, just take attention to only give your card. With some time, practice, failure, and experience, you too can develop the extra-natural capacities needed to track down a card from your pocket and pass it without even loosing eye contact with your new potential business partner, all while keeping a smile on your face and without missing beat in the conversation…Or much more original but definitely the next step to reach is when your card magically slips out your suit sleeve in an elegant and discrete movement. Definitely the next step to reach!
By Nicolas Mespoulhé