How to present and receive a Red Envelope Ang Pow or Business Card to a Chinese person?

The giving and receiving of a Red Envelopes and a business card is considered a strict traditional custom and must be adhered to. This is especially so if intending to give to Chinese business man or women. When giving a Red Envelope or business card, you must present the Red Envelope or card with both hands holding the top of the envelope. The receiver should then accept the envelope with both hands on the bottom. This will allow the Red Envelope to be upright when the receiver accepts it. Both parties should make eye contact during the interchange and it is polite for the receiver to nod their head and offer their thanks. In Mandarin thank you is ‘Xie Xie’.

In Cantonese thank you when receiving a gift is ‘Dor-Jeh’. In Hokkien thank you is ‘kam siah’. It is also conserved very rude to place the red envelope or business card in your back trouser pocket as this is close to your bottom and to not even look or study the card before putting away is also frowned upon. It is also considered an insult by offering a business card at the wrong moment, in China seniority is seen as very important so a perceived subordinate offering a business card to a senior executive is seen as inappropriate and extremely rude. If you are from a western country and really want to make an impression you should have your business translated into Chinese.

There are many age old traditions that should be adhered to and whilst China has changed so much in recent years and it is strongly recommended to take into consideration some of the tips below. Some valuable tips and advice…

  • Offer a handshake when greeting and departing, and it is considered very polite to nod of your head.
  • A person title is very important and it is wise to address people directly by using their professional title, or Mr, Mrs or Miss.
  • It is a good idea to translate your business card into Chinese.
  • Present your business card with both hands.
  • When receiving a business card, examine them carefully to show interest. Never write on or fold a business card you are given.
  • Never place a card in your wallet or pocket especially aback trouser pocket. Most Chinese will have a good quality card holder to place the card into.
  • Gifts are not usually exchanged at a first meeting and a good quality pen is considered a very favoured gift but you must NOT give knives, letter openers, scissors, clocks, straw sandals, a stork or crane, handkerchiefs, anything white, blue or black, and anything in groups of four.
  • Your gifts should always be nicely wrapped.
  • • Gifts are not to be opened right away unless prompted to do so.
  • • Receive and give gifts with two hands. It is polite to refuse a gift several times before accepting.
  • • Chinese tend to stand a little less than arm’s length from one another.
  • • Chinese like direct eye contact.
  • • You should never signal with the forefinger, but extend an arm and make a scratching motion with the fingers.
  • • Do not point using the index finger, but use an open palm.
  • • Do not use your feet to move something or put your feet on furniture.
  • • You should never whistle or snap your fingers at anyone.
  • • Do not stick your chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice as it is reserved for funerals.
  • • Avoid personal contact at all costs. It is highly inappropriate for a man to touch a woman in public.
  • Avoid playing around with your chopsticks and do not place them inside your mouth unless you are using them to eat, if you drop your chopsticks this is conserved very bad luck and I have heard of deals falling apart because of this.
  • • Never rub your chopsticks together as it suggests that you have been given poor quality chopsticks that may have splinters.
  • • Do not blow your nose at the table or in public.
  • • Do not refuse to drink. Even if you do not drink, accept it.
  • • Women should not shake legs while sitting, snap fingers, or whistle.
  • • It is common in China to show one’s surprise or dismay by sucking air in quickly and loudly through the lips and teeth.
  • • It is considered very rude to be late in business situations, but a boss may be late as a show of how busy they are.
  • • Business discussions begin with small talk, and then the host begins the business discussion.
  • • The most important member of your company should lead important meetings.
  • • Chinese value relationship building and harmony so avoid a hard sell as this will work against you’
  • • Most Chinese will want to consult with a Feng Shui Master or wait for a lucky day before they make an important decision decision. Our Feng Shui software’s were developed for this reason as it is taken so seriously.
  • • It is courteous that you should taste all the dishes you are offered although I have to admit some of the food in China will not be to everyone’s taste.
  • • You should not eat all of your meal. If you do, they will assume you did not receive enough food and are still hungry.
  • • Do not discuss business at meals unless they do which would be unusual.

There are a lot of customs and etiquette to follow and there will be some Chinese that will not follow this as the growth of business between the east and west has grown so much in recent years that some traditions will be lost but in my experience it is far better to be safe than sorry as I have seen and heard of so much business being lost in what seems such a small act of a genuine mistake. You will find a much more comprehensive article on Chinese etiquette by following this link 

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