Taiwan and the Czech Republic - what are the main differences between the Taiwanese and Czech ways of doing business?
Each culture presents a unique set of traditions and customs. But when East meets West, the cultural differences and rules might easily clash and lead to miscommunication or conflict. So how to effectively navigate the different cultural settings to meet your goals?
Thanks to its cultural influence, a Japanese-style bow (with your arms kept by your sides) or even a simple nod is a well-received greeting alongside the more western type of hands-shaking. Food-related phrases such as “have you eaten?” are more of a courtesy similar to "how are you doing" than an actual invitation. Responding simply, for example with just “yes, thank you” is recommended and well-appropriate.
2. Addressing Names
Unlike in the West, names in Mandarin start with the surname. Therefore, in the name Hsiao Jie-fu, Hsiao stands for the surname and Jie-fu is the first name. There are different ways to address your Taiwanese business partners, such as using the whole name (Mr. Hsiao Jie-fu), surname-only (Mr./Mrs. Hsiao), or function/position title (Director Hsiao).
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3. Business Attire
Taiwan's weather is rather warm and humid all year round. Lightweight materials yet modest, formal designs are recommended. Be that a darker-colored pantsuit, dress, skirt, or suit and tie, Taiwanese prefer more conservative, moderate modern clothing to the latest fashion trends. High-quality and high-end clothing brands are also very popular.
4. Business Cards
Exchanging business cards is a necessity. Their visual appearance also plays a significant role in the perception of one's company. Using gold ink, which is linked to prosperity, wealth, and success, can score extra points. A common practice is to have one side translated into Mandarin Chinese, using Traditional Chinese characters, and one side in English. It is also recommended to include the exact name of one's position in the company.
A standard way of exchanging business cards in Asia is by using both hands. Exchange business cards with the Mandarin side facing up and toward the recipient, preferably accompanied by a slight, gentle bow while saying thank you. Make sure to exchange business cards with each member on a given occasion.
5. Business Gifts
Exchanging gifts during business meetings is a standard practice and should be delivered beautifully wrapped. Gifts are to be opened in private. Opt for an item of value without being excessive. A no-go is any object connected to any form of cutting, such as scissors or a knife letter opener. You might receive traditional Taiwanese products such as tea porcelain. Alcohol is not considered a suitable gift, consult gifting your business partner a bottle of liquor in advance.
6. Business Meetings
Despite the ongoing digitalization, the preference for face-to-face meetings and gatherings remains robust among Taiwanese business people. Expect the negotiations to be rather of a serious nature, with a firm stance. Observe and let your Taiwanese set the pace, remain patient, and keep your cool. Avoid being too pushy or speaking too directly when discussing negative topics. Replace firm "no" with more subtle wording such as "we will try, we will let you know" which helps to keep formal discussions friendly-like, as friendships are highly valued in Taiwanese business culture.
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7. Business Dinners
Another essential part of Taiwanese business culture is business gatherings, such as business dinners, receptions, or banquets. The guest is expected to taste and compliment the dishes served before the rest of the party. Toasting is very common and expected, executed in a hierarchical order, starting with the host. Toasting with the host might require drinking the liquor of the choice in its entirety followed by placing the glass upside down on the table. A common practice is to reciprocate the toast to the host. These toasts can be rather frequent throughout the whole evening, so switching to half-pours or a lighter beverage might be an effective way to moderate your alcohol intake.
Tea is served at the end of a meal and represents the end of the gathering. Enjoy a cup and set to say your goodbyes, declining polite invitations to stay. Traditionally, the host always pays the whole bill without splitting, but offering to pay yourself is perceived as a polite gesture, even though the host will turn your offer down.
8. Taboo Conversational Topics
There are no strict taboo topics in Taiwanese society, however, staying away from sensitive topics is highly recommended. The most sensitive subject is Taiwan's independence and Sino-Taiwanese relations. Excessive human touch and body contact, such as hugs or kisses on the cheeks, are not welcomed. Other sensitive topics are conversations about money, especially salaries or bonuses.