Asian Culture 101: Tips for Your Next Business Trip to Asia

When it comes to culture or trade etiquette, Asian countries are often grouped together. However, it is not necessarily true that cultures or ethnicities in the same area of ​​the world share the same traditions or values. While there are some similarities in history and culture in Asian countries, each country and the way its people conduct business is unique.

The most important thing to remember is to be respectful of everyone you meet. If you don’t know the right thing to say or do in a business or casual setting, ask instead to make an inaccurate assumption and offend your guests.

Demonstrating that you are interested in learning and respecting their standards is one way to show respect. However, even if you can’t learn or adapt to all the traditions of these many countries, here are some key things to remember when traveling for business.


In Japan, it is common to bow down when meeting someone new. However, your guests can learn about Western traditions and offer to shake hands. Be prepared for one or both forms of greeting and follow your host’s guidance. To bend properly, keep your spine straight and your hands at your sides. Avoid putting your hands in your pockets or crossing your arms. As is true in American culture, this is a sign of boredom or disinterest.

Business cards are a bigger deal in Japan than in the United States. When presented with a card, accept it with both hands and read the card. This shows respect and care for the card and the person who handed it to you. If you are sitting, leave the card out on the table or on your card. Do not put the paper in your pocket or purse. It’s best to keep your cards in a nice place so they don’t get folded or dirty when you deal them.


  • pointing with fingers or any object, such as sticks or pens.

  • It is not usual and can be considered rude.

  • indicating the error of someone. Always be respectful of your guests and your business partners.

  • be late. In fact, they are 15 minutes early.


As in America, he offers a handshake when he meets someone for business. Similar to Japanese culture, business cards are a big deal. He offers and receives cards with both hands. If possible, print your information in Chinese on one side and English on the other.

Patience and proper follow-up are very important in Chinese business culture. No big decision is made quickly and you have to prepare for longer meetings and speeches. You may be asked to speak as well but keep your observations brief and avoid “taking” the conversation. Follow up after a meeting with an email highlighting the positives and decisions, but don’t get too broad with your observations.

Businesses are often conducted during meals. Learn how to use chopsticks and where to put them when eating. It’s better to put them back on the holder rather than putting them in or on the cup or plate. If a second meal or meeting is requested, offer to host.


  • be late. Be punctual, fast if possible.

  • speaking too loud or too fast. Corresponds to the tone of your host.

  • interrupting vacations or being ignorant of superstitions. Respect for tradition is important.

  • indicating with your figures or other objects.


Fortunately for Americans, the most common business language in India is English, although Hindi is widely spoken in other areas of the country. Greet your host by saying “Namaste” with your palms together in front of your chest. It offers a slight arch or nodule.

Agreeing is often a sign of understanding rather than agreement. Be careful not to confuse the two when talking in business meetings.

As is true in China, be aware and respectful of the holidays. In the Hindu religion, holidays can last more than a day or two, so plan your trip accordingly.


  • shaking hands, especially with women, unless the guest offers his hand first.

  • decreases food or drink in a meeting. Accept what is offered so as not to cause any offense.