Mastering Chinese Guest Reception: Key Points and Essential Etiquette to Avoid Faux Pas!

Mayumi Folio
Mayumi Folio

The impression that “you are special” is very important in business with the Chinese, who value face value.

In particular, the key to success in entertaining Chinese guests is not only to respond in a rude business manner, but also to treat them in a more exceptional manner.

This article introduces business entertainment etiquette when in Japan and examples of entertaining Chinese guests at Japanese cultural experiences with a special touch that we recommend for entertaining Chinese guests.

This guide also includes points to keep in mind when entertaining Chinese people and business manners for entertaining Chinese people, so it is worth reading if you have decided to entertain Chinese people.

Please read this article to get some tips for successful business entertainment with Chinese people.

Points to keep in mind when entertaining Chinese guests

Here are some points to keep in mind when entertaining Chinese nationals for business.

 

To “face” Chinese customers.

It is said that the most important thing in doing business with the Chinese is to “set the other party’s face.

Make sure that you face any situation.

In the same sense as the important Japanese custom of “reading the air,” there is a Chinese custom of “making faces.

In Japanese, “menshi” is a sense of pride, but in China, it is something much deeper.

Self-worth is the core of face value, and face value is essentially the self-worth one has in the minds of others and the interest one has in one’s status.

Therefore, being face down is such an important value that it is not just a wound to one’s pride, but it is also the very value of one’s existence.

This aspect also exists behind people saying that Chinese people do not apologize or that Chinese people like money.

With money, you can make more face and attract more people. And to apologize is because they think it will damage their face.

Therefore, when apologizing or refusing, we must always consider the other party’s face.

If you are entertaining as a guest and organizing a reception, always respond in a way that respects the other party’s face.

Thus, it is important to think of Chinese hospitality as entertainment based on masks.

Face is important, so it is not a good idea to help your boss when he is drunk.

If you find yourself in such a scene, be sure to secretly ask one of your subordinates at the other company for help.

See: SIJIHIVE LOCAKIZATION, “Chinese ‘Face’ is Japanese ‘Air’?!” https://www.thesijihive.com/post/understanding-the-concept-of-face-in-china ( viewed May 2, 2023)

Baidu Encyclopedia (Chinese Wikipedia), “Face”, https://baike.baidu.com/item/%E9%9D%A2%E5%AD%90/14579?fr=aladdin ( viewed May 2, 2023)

 

Chinese Values about Eating


There is a saying “Min yi shi wei tian”, which means “Eating is the most important thing for people”, and there is a phrase in the Han book “Wang shimin wai tian, min yi shi wei tian” (King is heaven because of his people, and his people are heaven because of their food).

In China, the most important thing is to deepen friendship by sitting around the table together, and dinners are very important for family, friends, and business.

In China, it is considered good manners to leave a little on the plate. and it was customary to ask for more and leave more when entertaining.

With the current Chinese hospitality situation, which has been gradually changing with President Xi Jinping’s ban on leftovers, change is also coming within China.

Therefore, it is not necessarily true that they are always left out, but the reason behind this is that it includes the meaning of “to entertain guests so lavishly that they cannot finish eating.

For the Chinese, food is quite an important part of their culture.

When entertaining Chinese people in Japan, it is not necessary to order so much food because you have heard that the Chinese order so much that they leave out a lot of food, but it is more important to make them feel special.

See “No. 2 What is Chinese people’s commitment to “food” = Duan Wengui,” Mainichi Shimbun, 9/13/2017 https://mainichi.jp/articles/20170908/org/00m/070/002000d (viewed 2023) (May 2, 2006)

Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism About China https://www.mlit.go.jp/common/000116954.pd ( viewed May 2, 2023)

 

How to choose a restaurant that Chinese people will enjoy

When choosing a restaurant and considering the content of your entertainment, it is recommended that you prepare a place that is special in location and content.

Basically, when Chinese people receive entertainment, they tend to base their decisions on how the person providing the entertainment evaluates them.

They try to find their value in all the details of the entertainment, such as the rating of the restaurant, whether it is a private room, the quality of the food, the price, the food ordered and the drinks prepared.

In Japan, it is considered a moral hazard to provide expensive entertainment, but if it is a Chinese person with a very important business meeting or person, prepare a dinner at a famous restaurant as much as possible, while keeping in mind the budget for the entertainment.

We tend to prefer busy and popular restaurants to quiet ones. In any case, we recommend restaurants that are sparkling and gorgeous.

And many people are also concerned about whether the restaurant is well-known or not.

It is best to take your guests to restaurants that are not so well known to those in the know, such as hidden gems or hidden restaurants known only to food connoisseurs, only after getting to know them very well.

A large percentage of people have a favorable impression of the status of having been entertained at a famous restaurant, so we recommend that Chinese business entertainment be at a famous restaurant as much as possible.

Recommended Related Articles: 17 Restaurants and Izakayas in Tokyo Recommended for Entertaining Foreigners

 

Payment

And payment is not always split, but the person who invited the guests should pay the bill.

It is said that the way a person pays for a meal determines whether or not the relationship will last, so much so that an atmosphere of stinginess is frowned upon anyway, and generosity in acting big is preferred.

And since there is a belief that mutual exchange deepens the relationship between the two parties, they are sure to reciprocate in equal measure any treats or hospitality they are given.

For guests from China, it is said, “If you invite people over, don’t be stingy, even if you are lonely at the time,” and stinginess is frowned upon anyway.

Be aware that even in business, a cheapskate is often judged as not being a trustworthy partner.

The key to Chinese hospitality is not that “luxury is good enough anyway,” but rather to make people feel that you have gone to great lengths for them and that you care about them that much.

See: more important than “drinking alcohol” at a Chinese banquet: https://xtech.nikkei.com/dm/article/COLUMN/20111215/202643/ ( viewed on May 2, 2023)

 

Important Alcoholic Beverages for Chinese Entertainment

Alcohol plays a very important role in Chinese entertainment.

It is said that the Chinese always finish their drinks after a toast is made. However, presidents and executives in their 30s and 40s at recent venture companies do not seem to place as much importance on the toast as in the past.

However, among presidents and executives of traditional companies or those who value Chinese customs and culture, the custom may still be in place today, so we should make a judgment based on the situation.

The toast is anyway an act of getting to know each other in a pleasant way by being frank with the other party.

There are also some Chinese people who cheerfully make toasts over and over again.

If you can’t drink alcohol, it is better to take a sip or a glass to avoid spoiling the atmosphere. If it is difficult for you to do so, tell them first that you cannot drink for health reasons.

The height of the glass used for the toast also depends on one’s status. It is considered polite to make the toast with the hand slightly lower than the other person’s. Subordinates participate in the toast from a lower position than their superiors.

And since there will be a lot of drinking, be sure to arrange for a cab home.

 

Business Etiquette for Entertaining Chinese

It is said that real business meetings occur at dinner receptions, as some executive bosses who would not appear at a business meeting may be present.

So often, decisions made once at a business meeting are changed after the entertainment.

Here are some business etiquette tips for entertaining Chinese guests.

 

punctuality

In Chinese business entertainment, time etiquette is extremely important.

It is rude to arrive too early or too late, so be sure to keep your appointment on time.

If you are the one who is entertaining, never be late. It makes a very bad impression.

In China, business entertainment often takes longer than expected.

It is especially important to allow plenty of time for meetings, especially when meeting with business partners for the first time or negotiating important contracts.

A schedule with plenty of time to spare will allow for unexpected problems.

And reading time cues is another important business skill.

For example, it is a signal for the host to take his or her seat or toast the table. It is common for the meeting not to begin until the other party has signaled the time.

Waiting for these cues helps build trust with the other party.

 

About Seats


In Chinese business entertainment, seating arrangements also have manners.

In Chinese culture, the seating position of the host and guests is very important.

The host should sit in a superior position to the guests. Typically, the host sits in the center of the table and the guests sit around the host.

In traditional Chinese seating arrangements, as in Japan, there is a concept of kamiza (upper seat) and shitaza (lower seat).

The upper seat is the most important seat and is generally located on the north side. The lower seat is located on the south side and is lower than the upper seat.

Seating for elders and persons of high rank: Elders and persons of high rank are generally seated in the upper section. If they are not present, the host will sit in the upper seat.

In business entertaining, it is important to arrange seating based on the business relationship.

Important clients and partners should be seated close to the host, and the other party’s president and senior executives should be seated at the same table as their own president and senior executives.

See 沪江沪江网hujiang “接待礼仪” at https://www.hujiang.com/zhichang_s/jiedailiyi/ ( viewed on May 2, 2023)

 

About Alcoholic Beverages

Alcohol is an important value in Chinese entertainment.

This is because the culture is one of communication and trust building over drinks.

When pouring alcohol, pour before the other person’s glass is empty. Also, when the glass is empty, ordering immediately after yourself before the other person orders may cause discomfort to the other person.

In China, the toast is called “ganbei” (dried cup). However, ganbei means to drink the same amount as the other person in one gulp, so if you think the other person is weak, toast with a smaller amount so as not to inconvenience them.

Try to match the amount you drink with the person you are drinking with. Also, if the other party is about to get drunk, deal with it skillfully by getting up and leaving the table before you do.

Also, drinking every time you make a toast is quite a lot, so be aware of your alcohol tolerance while attempting this.

In recent years, it has been said that it is not necessary to drink up every toast, so it is advisable to make a judgment based on the situation.

As mentioned above, it is important to pay attention to detailed manners when serving alcoholic beverages for business entertainment with Chinese people, taking the other party into consideration.

 

Tobacco Manners

Although the non-smoking trend is being reinforced in China, there tends to be a fair number of smokers.

Therefore, when entertaining, if the other party is a smoker, choose a restaurant that allows smoking or has a smoking area.

If you are both smokers, it is rude to decline an invitation to smoke.

However, if you do not smoke, you can tell them you are a non-smoker and politely decline.

In China, when you smoke a cigarette, it is good manners to offer your own cigarette to the other person before lighting it.

In addition, when the other person smokes, he or she will be offered cigarettes in opposition, so do not offer your own cigarettes but accept them.

 

Souvenirs for Chinese


China, like Japan, has a souvenir culture.

We recommend souvenirs that would be appreciated by Chinese visitors to Japan.

There are occasions when you give not only souvenirs, but also corporate souvenirs and image items.

In doing so, please note that there are taboo items that should not be sent as gifts to Chinese people.

Here are some taboo items that should not be given to Chinese people.

 

Place clocks and wall clocks

Clock is pronounced “bell” or “chong” in Chinese.

The word for “present a clock” is “send a bell,” and the same pronunciation is used for “send an end” to mark the end of a person’s life.

Therefore, table clocks and wall clocks are items that are never given as gifts because they are associated with mourning death.

Since watches are common in Japan as souvenirs, care should be taken here as well to avoid inadvertently sending them.

handkerchief

Since Japan has wonderful handkerchiefs and hand towels, handkerchiefs are often chosen as small gifts even among Japanese people.

Although you might choose it as a light souvenir, a handkerchief is considered an unsuitable gift because it is said to be associated with sadness.

socks

Socks are another taboo item, although they may not be given often among business people.

Many socks are popular among Japanese foreigners, such as Japanese motifs and toe socks, but socks have the meaning of “good riddance,” so refrain from using them.

purse

Chinese people basically do not give wallets as gifts. Because of the belief that wallets are a source of wealth, they choose their own wallets.
And it is best to avoid the gift of a purse, as it sends the message that you are not in control of your finances.

umbrella

Sending an umbrella means, “I want you to get away from me.

Umbrella is pronounced “san” in Chinese. Therefore, it is not chosen as a gift as it is pronounced the same as the word for scattering “sun” and evokes the image of parting.

Green or white hat

In China, during the Ming Dynasty, there was a law that a person who was unfaithful to his wife had to wear a green-colored dressmaker’s hat, so there are still vestiges of green hats today that mean a person has been unfaithful.

White hats are also not very popular because they remind people of the dead, and white hats remind people of death costumes.

Avoid giving either of these gifts, even if they are company memorabilia.

 

Example of Japanese cultural experience entertainment with a special feeling suitable for Chinese business entertainment

A more effective and successful way of entertaining Chinese guests, tailor-made Japanese cultural experiences.

Here we will show you how to prepare a Japanese cultural experience for your special entertainment.

Why Japanese cultural experiences are recommended for Chinese business entertainment

If you are looking for a way to entertain Chinese people in a way that preserves their face and makes them feel special, we recommend planning a Japanese cultural experience for your entertainment.

This is because you can tailor the plan to suit the person you are planning to entertain, making it a “special” entertainment plan full of “specialness” that will help them save face.

We can then prepare the lively and luxurious content that many Chinese prefer and the experience that you can savor because you are special.

Here, we would like to introduce the details of the Japanese cultural experiences that Motenas Japan has organized for the entertainment of many wealthy Chinese people.

Please take a look at it for reference.

Recommended related article: Japanese cultural experiences popular among foreigners! Recommended 12 Experiential Sightseeing & VIP Entertainment

 

Chinese entertainment with professional geisha who make a good face

Japanese geisha are professionals in hospitality. It is still a popular Japanese cultural experience for Chinese business entertainment.

The reason for the popularity among the wealthy Chinese is, again, the attractiveness of the beautiful geisha and the opportunity to enjoy Japanese dance.

A decade ago, the image of geisha was that they were popular among men, but today they are very popular among women as well.

Geisha entertainment is still very special, and we can provide special entertainment for your important Chinese guests.

Geishas are skilled at putting up a good front, so you can leave the entertainment to them with peace of mind.

It is also popular for birthday parties and kanreki celebrations.

Recommended related articles: [Geisha play experience for first-time visitors] 4 examples of custom-made entertainment for important foreign guests

Kabuki viewing in a private room popular with VIP Chinese

I would recommend the Kabuki experience to VIPs and wealthy Chinese.

A popular Kabuki experience at Motenas Japan is the plan to dine while viewing Kabuki in a private room.

Kabuki is a traditional Japanese performing art that people usually go to places like the Gionza Theater to watch. There is something special about having a meal while watching such a prestigious kabuki performance.

If this is an important occasion for entertaining important Chinese clients, it is still important to deliver a VIP feeling of a special experience in a prestigious atmosphere.

So, the Kabuki tailor-made entertainment is what I would recommend to the very important Chinese people.

Recommended related article: What is Kabuki from a foreigner’s point of view? Why it is popular overseas and why it can be used for entertainment

Gorgeous Ooku-style kimono dressing experience popular among Chinese women

Many foreigners are interested in wearing the kimono, the traditional Japanese folk costume.

A photo studio where visitors can have their photo taken in kimono is a popular tourist experience, especially among tourists from China.

If you are preparing such a kimono experience for entertaining wealthy Chinese, choose a kimono that is not usually available.

Motenas Japanese Ooku-style kimonos, oiran (courtesan) kimonos, and other gorgeous kimono experiences are very popular among wealthy Chinese women.

You will all look like princesses in your expensive kimonos.

Recommended Related Articles: [History and Basic Knowledge of Kimono] How to Explain to Foreigners and Experience Traditional Japanese Culture by Dressing

 

Welcoming reception entertainment at Ninja, where a spectacular presentation is appreciated.


The combination of ninja and entertainment in a show is the perfect plan for a celebration.

This is because the ninja is a Japanese icon and a Japanese image that many people admire.

The ninja entertainment will offer a spectacular show, with state-of-the-art light and sound effects added to the acrobatics of the ninja.

The combination of the recognizable ninja and a spectacular show will enhance the entertainment of group guests, welcome parties, celebrations, and other glamorous occasions.

Special entertainment at Ninja is a great way to enliven the entire venue.

Recommended related article: [Explaining the Ninja in English] 5 Recommended NINJA Experiences

 

summary

In this issue, we have introduced some pointers on how to entertain Chinese people.

The Chinese are a proud people who value face value.

With important guests, it is important to remember their names, know their preferences, and always remember how “special” they are to each other.

Entertainment also plays an important role as an opportunity to express how special and important a person is to you.

It is said that character and personal relationships are important in any business, and in order to deepen friendships with Chinese people, it is necessary to pay careful attention to details without being rude. At Motenas Japan, we are happy to provide you with a tailor-made Japanese cultural experience.

Please feel free to contact us at any time for a consultation on planning the perfect special entertainment for your special guests from China.