WORKING ABROAD / SEP. 12, 2014
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How to Master Business Etiquette in Taiwan

After flirting with communism, the nation of Taiwan embarked upon another direction: capitalism and free markets, which ramped up in the 1980s. This has led to the formation of the entrepreneurial spirit and has produced plenty of market successes.

Today, Taiwan enjoys trade relations with numerous countries around the world, various industries and a business-friendly political climate. Although Taiwan does suffer from mild political chaos, the government has embraced the policy of deregulation and enhanced market functions that have created an abundance of business opportunities.

With a near $1 trillion gross domestic product, a four percent unemployment rate and only one percent suffering from the ashes of poverty; Taiwan appears to be the place for both domestic and foreign investment. If you’re seeking out new lucrative business investments then perhaps Taiwan is the place to visit.

Here are five things to know about business etiquette in Taiwan:

Communication

Mandarin Chinese is the official language of Taiwan, while Taiwanese is the second-most spoken language in the country. There are also other dialects of Hakka.

Taiwanese aren’t as direct in their conversational tones like some other Asian cultures. They tend to avoid confrontation but will also be honest in their remarks when discussing matters such as politics, religion, finance and other issues.

During conversations, people are rather comfortable when they stand at less than an arm’s length away – the normal level of personal space is at most two feet. It should be noted, however, that initial meeting of strangers should consist of a greater distance of space. There is a small amount of touching between members of the same gender, but relatively little or no touching at all between members of the opposite sex.

Regarding eye contact, Taiwanese prefer as much direct eye contact as possible. But in the company of seniors and those with positions of authority, there is very little eye contact because this is viewed as a sign of respect.

Dress Code

In Taiwan, there is a mixture of both style and conservatism relating to the clothing. Whatever clothing you decide to wear, it is absolutely crucial to be well-groomed and to avoid wearing casual attire, such as jeans and a T-shirt, during a first meeting. Men will usually wear a conservative dark suit, while women will sport conservative business attire that is loose.

Greetings

Similar to other cultures with conservative values and conventional customs, Taiwan’s form of greeting is adapted to modern times. Men will often greet other men with a handshake and a nod of the head. Women will greet other women with a nod since handshakes are not required. Men and women will simply nod, but men should wait for a woman to initiate a handshake.

Professional Titles & Business Cards

When traveling to Taiwan, it is imperative to understand that titles are very important to this culture. It is always advisable to address others as Mr., Miss and Mrs. followed by their last name.

It is crucial to follow these steps when distributing business cards: be sure to have one side of the card translated into Mandarin, give your card with two hands and the Mandarin side facing the recipient and look at the business cards with two hands to ensure others think you’re examining it. Also, respect the business card, which means do not write, fold, crumple or misplace the cards you are given.

Punctuality

Agendas, schedules, times and deadlines are of the utmost importance to Taiwanese. The entire society places a great deal of emphasis on punctuality and diligence – if you arrive late to a scheduled meeting then this is viewed as a sign of disrespect.

The nation of Taiwan operates on a foundation of tradition, hard work, education and respect. Its dedication to whatever they put their mind to will be a common theme when traveling across the country. In other words, if you mimic their behavior and be just as respectful to your surroundings then your visit to Taipei and other places will be fantastic.

Have you previously conducted business in Taiwan? Let us know in the comment section.

Photo by Luke Ma via Flickr.

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