Taiwanese people are generally courteous and polite and emphasize form and ceremony. To do the “right“ thing is very important. Almost all adults growing up, at one time or another, are influenced by Confucian traditions and values. Chinese and Western cultures are not only different but often opposite. Understanding the differences may help to make life in Taiwan more interesting and less frustrating.
Some of the tips for understanding the general business etiquette:
- Exchanging name cards – Names and titles are very important to the Chinese and it is customary to exchange calling cards upon introduction. Keep them in your wallet at all times. Best to have the cards with Chinese and English at both sides. After shaking hands, present your business card with both hands. Do not throw your card down on the table. Always give a card if you have received one.
- Punctuality is appreciated, but being a few minutes early or late is acceptable.
- A nod of the head or a slight bow is considered polite for the first meeting. Handshakes are generally only for males who are friends.
- Introductions are important. Always wait to have a third person to introduce you. At a party or business meeting, wait to be introduced by the host.
- Business people in Taiwan are hard bargainers and may try to gain concessions by wearing the other party down. Be patient. Do not push too hard or too fast in business.
- If possible, bring a team of two to four people (one senior person with decision-making power). This enhances the status and image of executives and reflects on the seriousness of the meeting.
- Decisions are made collectively and can be a lengthy process during negotiation. Once facts are established, agreements can sometimes be reached quickly.
- Guan-xi means connections/personal relationships. Guan-xi is vital for business success in Taiwan. Taiwanese business people will want to know you personally before they do business with you.
Yes = “maybe” or “got it”
The Taiwanese are anxious to please people. Rather than disappoint another, a person will often agree to do something that he or she is unable to execute. They will generally not say “no” and instead say, “Understand and we’ll try”. The Westerner may become frustrated when he learns too late that “yes” really meant “maybe” or was just a polite substitute for a realistic “no”. The westerner considers this dishonest, whereas the Taiwanese person thinks it is polite.