I am travelling to Asia on a business trip and I would love your pro tips please!
Well, Dear Traveller,
I’m speaking here, sadly, as “do as I say not as I do”, but I’ve had a few business trips to Asia and all have surprised me. Which, I know, is kind of why we love Asia but here, etiquette is everything. You’d better know how to sing. Always arrive hungry because you will eat, a lot. And honey, dress to impress.
They really do do business differently in Asia, which is a joy, but let me try and guide you. A lot of business is done over food, so eat up, it’s rude not to. And it’s super easy to offend here, yet you may not be aware of it at the time. Be prepared for some business meetings to take place over big meals that involve karaoke; just go with it – but hold your liquor. Keep in mind, you are there to maintain respect, so try and sit on a couple of drinks. Truly, just drink slowly – don’t shame the family name.
At my strangest meeting in Asia I was taken to a bar and women with numbers came out to dance. Initially, we didn’t understand what was going on, but my male colleagues sure did and we shut that down immediately. You’ve got to know when to fold ‘em.
Always have your business card ready, even better if it has English one side and the local language on the other. And it’s pretty much common knowledge now to always accept and offer the card with both hands, then take the time to read the card and be respectful.
When it comes to the actual flight over, you want to triple-check that you have the correct details on your visas, flights, passports, etc. Have a spare page ready in your passport for a visa page and you’ll want a multi-entry visa for China.
Pack lightly, avoid check-in luggage, if possible, and know that most hotels have good laundry systems. I always pack my own preferred medication, plenty of tissue packs (not everywhere provides loo paper), wipes, adaptors and chargers.
When you do book your hotel, look for a good gym as you’ll need that to avoid your jet lag. Definitely learn a few words before going: in China, ‘ni how’ for hello, and ‘share share’ for thank you are a given (I’ve written that phonetically).
Don’t drink the water from the tap and avoid washed salads. My sister In law had a salad on her first trip to Hong Kong, got sick, and drank the water from her bathroom tap to recover. Let’s just say she missed the business meeting and never left the hotel.
Ultimately, I ask that you be culturally sensitive, do your homework on where you are going, be a good guest, have an introduction letter in the local language if possible, present yourself well, allow time for silences – as in allow your words to be digested, be aware of your positive body language, just be respectful…
And good luck with your business trip, Dear Traveller. Do let us know how you go.
Bon voyage! ?