Chinese New Year: 3 Relationship-Building Tips
Unless you live under a rock, you will probably have realised that Chinese New Year celebrations are in full swing for 2016.
As I mentioned in my last blog, for people of Chinese heritage around the world, Chinese New Year is a milestone event with far greater cultural significance than the New Year of the Western calendar. It’s also an occasion to strengthen your relationships with Chinese colleagues, clients and suppliers. But how? Here are three really easy ways to get started.
Learn how to say “Happy New Year” in Chinese
If you’re in China during the festival, you can make a good impression by greeting people with ‘Happy New Year’ (‘Xīnnián kuàilè’ (新年快乐) in Chinese, which you’d pronounce as shin-nian kweye-ler). Even if you don’t speak Mandarin or Cantonese, just making the effort to learn and this phrase will earn you brownie points.
Get an understanding of why people celebrate, and how
People around the world love sharing their customs and traditions with foreigners. So, if you have the opportunity to spend time with Chinese people over New Year, use it to connect with them! Get curious – find out which bits of New Year are most significant for colleagues and clients, ask them how they celebrate, join in if its appropriate.
Be generous … just make sure you choose the right gift
Chinese New Year is a major season for gift-giving in Chinese culture, and another opportunity to show that you are culturally tuned-in.
If you are giving gifts, be aware of Chinese taboos around gift-giving. This is particularly important at New Year, because the celebration is all about good luck and giving a gift with an unlucky connotation has the potential backfire badly.
Red envelopes containing money (honbgbaos) are a traditional gift that is always well-received. If your Western brain is screaming “this is so crass”, just remember that this is a gift that can never go wrong, especially if the recipient is a child or youth who has not any earning capacity yet. Gifts incorporating the lucky number ‘8’ are also sure to be a hit.
Alcohol and tobacco are safe bets as personal gifts, providing you know the recipients taste in these categories. Tea is another good gift, albeit a less personal one. Just make sure it’s good tea, beautifully wrapped. Fruit baskets are another good-looking, substantial gift, as long as no pears (which are associated with death) get into the mix.
Definitely avoid anything that symbolise death, including chrysanthemums – highly associated with funerals; handkerchiefs, which symbolize crying; black and white objects items and any item given in fours (the number “four” sounds like the word “death”). Also stay away from sharp object which symbolize the cutting of ties and the infamous green hat, which symbolizes having an unfaithful partner.
Chinese New Year is a great time to discover the depth and vibrancy of Chinese culture … don’t miss it!
Author: Cynthia Dearin
Cynthia Dearin is an international business strategist, advisor, keynote speaker and author of Amazon best-seller Camels, Sheikhs and Billionaires: Your Guide to Business Culture in the Middle East and North Africa. With 18 years of international experience, as an Australian diplomat and management consultant, she is the Founder and Managing Director of Dearin Associates and the International Business Accelerator that helps clients to access opportunities in fast-growing international markets around the world.