Thousands of foreign business people head to China every week. Most first timers and many repeat visitors make the same mistakes. Your trip can be significantly more successful if you make key decisions, before you get on the plane. It’s too late once you arrive.1. Expect to go many times
The time and resources needed for learning the Chinese market, finding the right opportunities, and then establishing and nurturing local relationships needs many visits – and a genuine commitment. You need to be in China more than once or twice. Get a visa that lets you achieve that.
2. Hire an interpreter
The Chinese companies you meet may have an English speaker or may hire an interpreter to liaise with you but they will be serving that employer’s needs. Not yours. If you don’t hire a Mandarin speaking business advisor (which you should do) then you definitely should hire an interpreter. A good interpreter can become a key part of your business in China because you will need to operate on a level of trust with them. More…
3. Get a car and driver
Forget about driving, catching subway trains and avoid taxis if your budget lets you. The best option is to hire a driver with car for a whole day or week. The drivers are semi-professional, speak some English and generally use vehicles that are less than 5 years old with air conditioning. Use it as a mobile office. Make calls, read and work while in transit. There will be plenty of transit time!
4. Get a local phone
Unless you or your company has an unlimited budget, buy a local phone and SIM card. It is a cheap and easy way to call people in China and may give you an advantage over foreign competitors. Most locals aren’t registered to call overseas phone numbers and even if they are, they avoid the expense. It is much easier for your Chinese contacts to call you or your translator on a local number. More…
5. Fight for the bill/check
You will probably eat for business at lunchtime and your Chinese host will pick a lunch venue. On arrival be guided on where to sit. When the meal ends, it is a bad omen for the host to insist you pay or share the bill. A waiter will bring the bill/check and you should gesture to pay. Not ‘fighting’ can appear as though you think that the host owes you the meal. So. Offer to pay, the host will insist that he pays, you can offer to pay again, and then acquiesce. Surrender.
6. Forget traveller’s checks/cheques.
Very few people in China have a credit card. None have a check book. In China, cash is king. The local currency is called the Renminbi (RMB). Visit your local bank before you fly and buy some Chinese cash to have with you on arrival. Taxicabs, limo drivers, small shops and many businesses only accept cash.
A full list of tips, tricks and advice can be found on our app, Nixon Toolkit.