When you exchange business cards in Japan or China, you are not simply exchanging names that are written on small pieces of card. You are exchanging important human emotions, which can take a business meeting from an ordinary first encounter to a fruitful long-term relationship.
If you have been to Japan or China on business, you will agree that a business card exchange looks more like a ceremonial ritual than a regular business encounter. The way you present your card and the way in which you receive the other person’s card must convey respect.
How exactly do you convey respect? Respect is best conveyed through your body language. Both Japan and China rely heavily on non-verbal communication. This means that your eye contact, head, shoulder and hand movements will all be closely watched and interpreted according to the other person’s cultural programming. They will be looking for signs of respect.
Follow these basic tips for a smooth business card exchange in Japan or China.
1. Use a Business Card Case
Gracefully taking your business card out of a professional looking case says that you are organised. I suggest a conservative, leather case with one section for your cards and one section for cards received. Also, make sure that their card will fit into your case: Japanese business cards can be 91 x 55 mm and Chinese business cards can be 90 x 54 mm.
2. Present and Receive With Both Hands
When you present your business card with two hands, you are humbling yourself and asking the other person to accept your card. When you accept a business card with two hands, you are elevating the other person and showing gratitude for receiving their card. This display of respect is essential in Japanese and Chinese business cultures.
3. Make Sure the Writing is Facing the Recipient
When presenting your business card, this will simply make it easier for the other person to read. If you have printed your card in Chinese or Japanese (which I recommend) as well as English, then present your card with the other person’s native language facing up. These two actions convey courtesy.
4. When you Receive the Other Person’s Card, Study It and Comment
Comment about their position in the company or simply repeat their name to show interest in them. If you are unsure how to pronounce their name, now is the perfect time to ask. Furthermore, don’t immediately assume the first name that appears on the card is their family name: they have probably already switched their given and family names around for you.
Finally, consider your business card as an extension of yourself. Just as you would never go to a meeting with your lunch all over your shirt or sit on that important monthly memo:
- Never hand out a stained, torn or bent business card.
- Never write on a business card.
- Never put a business card in your trouser pocket and sit on it!
Stick to these tips for your next business trip to Japan or China and you are well on your way to making a respectful first impression.
[Header image from www.asianbusinesscards.com. Graphics added by Kara Ronin]