Other countries, other manners. Especially in the APAC region, there are many different tips for how to behave on business trips, in business meetings and at networking events, so that your business trip is definitely a success. And, in this post, we have put together an overview of the APAC region and some of the most visited countries for business travel.
What is APAC and the APAC region?
APAC stands for Asia Pacific and describes an economic area that extends across Asia and the Pacific. Economic areas are classified this way because they lie in stock exchange trading time zones in which stocks are traded on the stock exchanges at approximately the same trading opening times. In terms of area, China is the largest country in the APAC region, followed by Australia, India, Indonesia and Mongolia.
DID YOU KNOW?
The smallest APAC country is Nauru with an area of just under 21 km².
What to keep in mind when traveling for business to APAC?
The Asia-Pacific region covers a vast area and includes more than 40 countries and 4.3 billion people. The APAC region is an attractive entry market for many companies and includes both global superpowers such as China and emerging economies in the so-called “tiger states.” Many countries are characterized by a high level of industrialization and dependence on exports.
The sheer size of the APAC region makes it difficult to consider it as one market. Geographical size alone means that many countries do not have much shared history, especially not compared to their European counterparts.
Each country has its own customs and traditions, and the APAC region is even more diverse than other groupings such as EMEA or MENA. This means that before you go on a business trip, find out exactly what the business etiquette is in the countries you are traveling to. We’ve put together a short list to help you get started.
APAC general things to keep in mind
The business culture in China is probably very different from the business etiquette you are used to in Europe. Virtues that are very popular in China are respect for older and higher-ranking people, patience, politeness and modesty, and saving face.
Business success in China depends heavily on good personal relationships. Market research won’t necessarily get you very far. It is the personal relationships with key business contacts and relevant government officials that make the difference in China. Therefore, you should invest a lot of time in networking events for your industry and in following up and maintaining personal contacts and introductions.
The Chinese attach great importance to punctuality. It’s best to come to meetings or other events on time or even a little earlier. If there is no dress code, it’s worth staying formal – this way you convey respect and seriousness.
Always address your business partners by their title and in order of seniority. Chinese people always refer to their company first, then their title, and then their name.
Meetings start with handshakes. If the meeting is going well, it may happen that your hand is shaken for longer. You should reciprocate this and not just let go. To make an additional impression, you could also give yourself a Chinese name. This name is a way of showing respect towards their culture. Here you should seek advice from a local contact person or a native speaker.
Australia stands in stark contrast to China. Australians tend to be straightforward and relaxed when it comes to business transactions. You don’t have to build long-term relationships to do business. Australian business partners are usually open to new ideas.
However, Australians value modesty. You should definitely avoid aggressive sales tactics and complacency. Get to the point and stay objective and friendly. If you are challenged about a controversial discussion during a meeting, it is completely normal and not something you should take personally. Australians love debate. The best way to respond to this is with humor.
Decisions in Australia are made in a collaborative and non-hierarchical system, so you should be patient and not push for a decision.
Australian business people don’t place much emphasis on formal greetings. A handshake and a quick smile are enough. It is also common practice to address each other by their first names at the first meeting. As for the dress code, men should wear a dark, conservative business suit. Likewise, women should wear an elegant dress or a business suit.
Punctuality is also very important in Australia. Offering gifts is not part of Australian business etiquette, but it is acceptable to bring a small gift from your country. If you receive a gift, you should open it on site.
If you are invited to a bar for a drink after the meeting, it is customary for each person in the group to do a “shout”, i.e. hand out a round of drinks for everyone in the group. Anything else is considered rude. You should also definitely not talk about business ideas in the bar unless the person you are talking to initiates the topic of conversation.
Although punctuality is not generally a high priority in Malaysia, it is still expected in the business environment. However, meetings can start later than planned even when everyone is present because people tend not to rush.
Hierarchy also plays a major role in this Asian country. In Malaysia, participants in a meeting enter in order of importance, with the most senior person arriving first and so on. Be sure to adhere to the seating arrangement provided. You are also expected to personally greet every single person in the room.
Personal relationships are very important in Malaysian business culture. Trust is an important basis for good business. Business networks often consist of relatives and colleagues, as nepotism is considered a guarantee of trust in Malaysia. You may well be asked a lot of questions about your family and private life. Don’t let this put you off and feel free to ask back.
If you want to return the favor or thank a business partner, you must clearly explain that nothing in return is expected for the action. Malaysians can feel compelled to reciprocate acts of kindness, even if it causes them great stress because the gesture may be beyond their means.
Singapore is one of the tiger economies in the APAC region and meetings are generally formal, low-key and slow. If you remain patient, calm, and polite, you are likely to be successful in your negotiations.
Here too, great importance is attached to punctuality. And business cards are a must. Asian culture interprets the respect you give a business card with the respect you give the person on a business level. Use both hands to receive a business card and examine it carefully before storing it.
At the start of a meeting, take a few minutes for general conversation before discussing business topics. You should also approach senior people first and ask them for their opinion to show respect.
Suggestions or criticism should not be rejected outright as this could be interpreted as a personal affront to an individual. If you need to correct, do so indirectly so that the person saves face.
Moments of silence are also quite normal in meetings in Singapore. Sometimes Singaporeans take 10 to 15 seconds to respond. Do not interrupt this process under any circumstances, as this time is needed to reflect on what has been said and think about a response.
Over the years and through trade with the outside world, Japan has established itself as a true economic power. In much of Asia, there are cultural and business etiquette rules that must be followed and respected. But in Japan, people turn a blind eye if you only hand over your business card with one hand or stand in the wrong place in the elevator. Japanese businessmen are sophisticated and understand that the Western approach can be different.
Meetings in Japan always start on time and your own punctuality should not be taken for granted. Therefore, you should try to arrive early if possible and eliminate possible reasons for delay by planning ahead.
Many business partners in Japan do not speak English and you should definitely take an interpreter with you to meetings. You should also speak slowly and clearly and avoid regional phrases, colloquialisms and idiomatic expressions and humor.
Here too, hierarchy plays a major role. Respect for older people and/or those in higher positions is a fundamental aspect of society, which of course also affects business interactions.
More business etiquette tips in the APAC region
While we’ve compiled the most important business etiquette tips for you above, there are also some special and unusual practices that we didn’t want to miss.
In Japan, for example, it is common to take short sleep breaks in the office. This reflects the special commitment of employees and is often observed, especially in management positions.
In China, it is customary to give gifts at the beginning of a business meeting. However, out of politeness, these can be rejected up to three times before they are accepted. Therefore, you should re-offer your gifts even after rejection.
And in both countries, hosts feel compelled to keep their guests heavily intoxicated. However, as a woman you should never lose control through excessive alcohol consumption. Therefore, you should only drink moderately, if at all.