Chindia and the cultured client

Canadians who do business overseas need to know the cultures and customs that they're dealing with. These 17 tips should keep your Chinese and Indian partners in line and ready to sign.

When Diane Craig moved her image consulting firm, Image International, to downtown Toronto from Ottawa she wasn't prepared for the sudden onslaught of requests for training in foreign business protocols. Now, when she sits at her spotless desk looking out the window of an office tower on Adelaide Street East, she can see the ignorance toward other cultures in the businesspeople walking by. They lack an understanding of other cultures' customs. And their foreign business deals often go sour as a consequence.

That's when they call on Craig. She, along with her partner Linda Allan, is a teacher of the customs and conventions of other cultures.

Of the 192 nations in the world, there are two that are coming to the forefront as important players in the business community: China and India. Craig calls them “Chindia”. Here are her tips on how to mind your manners in those countries, so you can sign the deal:

Dinner in Shanghai

? Don't forget to bow, and bow lower for people who are older, or higher ranking.
? Don't greet the youngest person first. Start with the oldest, and ask about his or her health.
? Don't shake hands yet. Wait for them to initiate the greeting.
? Don't forget your business card. Translate the information on the reverse.
? Don't ask about a person's spouse. It's too personal.
? Don't be late, but don't be upset if your hosts are up to half an hour late.
? Don't arrive without an array of gifts: nice pens, a souvenir from your home city, a paperweight with your company's logo. Don't be stingy with the managers. They get the most valuable presents. And beware the curse of clocks, handkerchiefs, and white flowers. Those items symbolize death, and they could kill the deal.
? Resist the temptation to graciously accept any gifts that are offered to you. Refuse them a few times. Then accept them.

Meeting in Mumbai

? Don't shake hands with the opposite gender.
? Don't address a person by his or her first name.
? Don't make continuous, direct eye contact. It's seen as intrusive.
? Don't offer your business card with only one hand: use both.
? Don't rush into business matters. Conversations here are started with small talk.
? Don't be late, but don't be offended if somebody else isn't on time.
? Don't choose a junior member of your team to communicate with your potential clients. Great emphasis is placed on rank.
? If you're giving a gift, don't offer it with the left hand. Never give alcohol or anything to do with pigs or dogs or cows, because there's a chance the person may be offended, depending on his cultural and religious values.
? At dinner, don't eat everything on your plate. Indians will think you're still hungry. And don't eat with your left hand. It's considered unclean.

From “Chindia” Etiquette 101 by Diane Craig