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Business etiquette in China

One of the many challenges you will face while interning abroad is getting to grips with the new customs and culture. Whether you have a good command of the language or not, there are certain aspects of everyday life that will still seem completely foreign to you. Getting these things right in the workplace could be the difference between impressing during your internship and offending your co-workers. Chinese culture is differs greatly from Western culture. It is important to learn as much about those differences as possible before going to reduce the risk of unintentionally offending someone. Cultural understanding is very important, so here’s The Intern Group’s guide to business etiquette in China.

Personal Interactions:

– Seniority is very important in China. On entering a room, it is important to greet the most senior person first and to use their title.

– Handshakes may seem longer than usual, don’t get weirded out by this. In the Western world, a strong grip is seen as a sign of confidence, but this does not translate. In China, handshakes are often a lot less aggressive and a prolonged handshake is a sign that things are going well.

– When meeting new people and someone else is making introductions, it is considered very disrespectful to try to introduce yourself. You should stand and smile while others are being introduced and wait for them to introduce you.

– When you receive business cards, take them with two hands. In China, using two hands when giving or receiving anything is a sign of respect. Small gestures like this will help you make a good first impression.

– The Chinese don’t tend to gesticulate while speaking as much as other cultures, so if you gesticulate a lot
this could be potentially distracting.

– Do not point when speaking, and when pointing, instead of using a finger, use an open palm.



– Learn to use chopsticks! (This will be extremely useful in avoiding embarrassment). You should always return your chopsticks to the chopstick rest when you are not using them.

– At a restaurant, no one should look at the menu before the most senior person as a sign of respect and on arrival you should wait to be told where to sit.

– You should try everything that is offered to you as a sign of respect.

– When being hosted at a restaurant, it is considered rude to finish all of your food. This gives the impression that what you have been served is not enough for you. It is best to leave a little at the end.


Hong Kong dress


Dress Code:

– Both men and women should dress conservatively.

– For women, short skirts and high heels should also be avoided and dresses should have a high neckline.


Although Hong Kong is often seen as separate to Mainland China, traditional Chinese customs can still be found mixed with modern British customs. This is why it is so important to understand and respect other cultures. If you follow our advice, you should be able to avoid too many awkward social interactions while interning in Hong Kong.


Photo 1. based on Hong Kong, by Barbara Willi, CC-by-2.0

Photo 2. The Intern Group

Photos and blog by John Monahan

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The International Internships Blog is a collaboration by The Intern Group staff, alumni and current participants to give you career advice & tips, program information, & so much more!