While in China, you will certainly be invited to a meal. This is something to look forward to, so do not turn down invitations, even if they are issued last-minute. Shared meals and evening entertainment are a part of business in China.
Chinese cuisine is famous for its variety and you always have a choice! If you really do not like a particular food, a polite rejection is not an insult to your host. Say, for example, “I think that’s too special for me.”
The shared meal serves to build up the relationship and everyone should feel good while doing so. On the other hand, your Chinese business partners really appreciate it if you enjoy and praise Chinese food. For example, take photos!
It is good to know the following points: You start eating relatively early, between 6 and 7 p.m.
- The meal ends abruptly, by 9 p.m. at the latest. As soon as the host stands up the meal is over.
- As a group, you eat in a private guestroom at a round table. The food is served on platters and is placed on a turntable in the middle of the main table. All help themselves from that.
- All food – even the peanuts served at the start – is eaten with chopsticks. At your wish, you will be given cutlery but not every restaurant can help you in that regard.
- The idea of community is the goal of the meal; do not eat and drink just for yourself, but pay attention to your neighbours. Pour for them, circulate the food further, and propose toasts.
- While noises made while eating, such as slurping and smacking your lips, are quite common, blowing your nose is taboo.
Say thank you for the good food and the hospitality – and make a return invitation!
At evening activities the idea is to get to know each other better in a fun atmosphere. The Chinese want to loosen the tongue of their foreign business partner with a lot of alcohol.
Don’t be a spoilsport – and go along even if you’re invited to karaoke sing-alongs. The merrier the evening, the more constructive the talks will be the next day!
As a sign of their comprehensive hospitality, the Chinese will also invite you on sightseeing tours and weekend excursions. As a rule, the host will finance that, but it is expected that you will return the favour – an invitation to your home country would certainly be very welcome.