If you do business in China you will soon experience the way business is done here.  Most decisions are made during dinner banquets after the vast majority of the participants are no longer able to stand correctly.  Let me give you a few pointers so you can survive this without having to be carried back to your hotel room by a quite proud host.
 

So here we go…………..

As the guest of honor you will be seated in the place facing the door. The position is traditionally reserved for the most senior person by age or position in the family or organization.  Don’t fight this or try to be humble and give it someone else cause you’ll end up there no matter what.  You should know by now who the highest ranking person is who is attending from your host company and pay attention to them.  Ignoring the “big guy” is a pretty big insult so try to avoid that at all costs.  
 
Someone from your host company will be doing the ordering and may or may not ask for your input.  I’ve found that it’s pretty normal for them to pick a few shocker items just to see how you’ll react to them.  Drunken Shrimp and deep fried whole baby bird are a couple of my all time favorites.   You can Google the shrimp and see what it is and the other you just have to use your imagination.  I’m an Iowa farm boy from a family with nine children so when it comes to food it wasn’t what it was, it was how much of it was mine.  So I’m pretty good when it comes to eating just about anything and figure if my hosts are eating it,  I will too.
 

The dreaded Chop Sticks

 
If you are going to be doing business in China and plan to visit more than one time figure out how to eat with chop sticks. It’s really not that hard after you work on it a little and they’re great for avoiding all that orange cheese stuff on your fingers  when eating a bag of Cheetos. If you just can’t figure it out you can ask for a fork and knife. 
 
One point to remember; it’s normal at some point during the dinner for small bowels of rice to be brought for everyone. It’s sticky rice and not a huge problem to eat with your chop sticks.  You may think that the rice bowel is a handy place to stick your chop sticks when you’re not using them.  That would be a big “wrong” as it resembles how incense sticks are placed when being burned while praying for the dead.  Traditionally the rice should be eaten until there is not one grain left. It’s considered the staple food and Chinese parents used the ole “starving people in America” saying to encourage children to eat their rice (just kidding about that). Leave your chop sticks lying against the plate or chop stick holder not flat on the table.
 
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As you are ponder how that person you are negotiating with across the table might consider things, think about China’s recent history. If you’re puzzled, then you haven’t done your homework. When you consider my 20 something staff member’s grandfather starved to death during the “Great Leap Forward” then you might better understand why that has influenced her thinking and certainly her father’s thinking. The following is a very brief timeline showing what experiences a person in their 60s, 50s and so on had during their lifetime, and then again consider the influence their parents and grandparents had on each generation. I’ve listed a book at the end of this post that I suggest you read for additional understanding. (more…)

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Ghost Day

10 Aug
15

Chinese Tombs Photo by Byunguh Yu on 1978

This weekend marks China’s annual celebration of Ghost Day.  Celebrated on the 15th day of the 7th month in the Lunar Calendar, it is a time when your ancestors leave their graves in search of food.  Relatives are required to prepare food and wait their arrival.  It is said that it is a time when strange happenings take place and one should be very careful. Pretend money will be burned as a way to send money to ancestors who might prefer Pizza Hut or some other restaurant. (more…)

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  • Author: Peter DeVries
  • Category: Culture

Since coming to China, I’ve always tried to eat foods that are prepared locally. I find Chinese food is healthier generally as well as a welcome change from American quick foods that are also now widely available in China. You can now see chubby Chinese kids munching on McDs fries which cost their parents a day’s wages. (more…)

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  • Author: Peter DeVries
  • Category: Culture

In China function is the main factor used to assess quality and the Chinese are a proud people who work very hard to make good products. Historically to the Chinese, how the product looks or is packaged is a secondary consideration at best. For instance, Chinese scissors are black, sharp, cut wonderfully and are inexpensive. However, because American marketers may want the handle to be a particular color and have some unique packaging requirements, production costs can get crazy. (more…)

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  • Author: Peter DeVries
  • Category: Culture
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