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Chinese Culture

April 8, 2009

When you start to do work with China, you may find that communication is a little difficult, but manageable. You may be fortunate enough to find that your Chinese business partner has an English-speaking person who is quite fluent and communication flows more smoothly. However, we have often found that cultural differences can still have a significant impact on your business, even in the face of what seems to be good verbal communication.

While there may be no intent to mislead, if your company does not have a fluent Chinese speaker representing you, what you said and what your business partner in China thought you said may not be precisely the same.

We have seem on numerous occasions where a Chinese company will employ the services of an external translation company and that translation company does not always accurately convey the meaning of spoken words. Sometimes it is due to misunderstanding that happens as a result of not being knowledgeable on a particular subject. Sometimes it is due to what might be called "perfect translation" where grammar is translated perfectly, but the meaning is not accurately conveyed. For example, how does one translate "a month of Sundays" or other such idioms into Chinese? English and Chinese are both filled with phrases that do not translate perfectly.

There are other occasions where the translator would translate words so as to be favorable to their employer. In fact, if the translator is not your own, you can almost be guaranteed that you do not have a neutral third party present. For these reasons, it is very important to have a person in your corner to ensure that your message is accurately conveyed and your expectations will be met.

Language is not the only cultural difference you will encounter. It is impossible to put into just a few words all of the differences between American and Chinese cultures, but without a doubt, making the right moves socially in China can make a difference in the success of your business.

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