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Consider telephone or video remote interpreting with Chinese business partners

Consider telephone or video remote interpreting with Chinese business partners

As with all relationships, business partnerships are built on trust and mutual appreciation. Even if all those involved come from the same cultural background, this is not always easy and for business partners from different cultures, small misunderstandings are inevitable.

There are quite big differences between the Chinese and European cultures and the way differences are handled can determine the success of the negotiations.

Ranking is still very important in China, and the highest-ranking person is always mentioned first and introduced to the other participants. For the Chinese, calmness and composure in a conversation is synonymous with respect.

In Europe, business negotiations are usually approached very directly, with facts discussed openly, and partners confronted with existing problems. However, Chinese business partners see such a direct approach as an affront and this can quickly jeopardise any success.


The Chinese culture of conversation in brief

Politeness is the basis for every conversation in China and the Chinese are not so keen on transparency and openness, preferring not to express opinions directly, and to read between the lines.

While in Europe people like to call things by their names, the opposite is true in China.

The proverb: "Listen with your heart, for which the other person has no word" describes what is important for communication with Chinese business partners.

Often, the way that a statement is formulated and delivered is as important as the content of a statement. Remote interpreters therefore like to work with modern video tools, because facial expressions and posture helps to underline and clarify each statement.

In China, being able to read and write in a foreign languages is more important than listening to and speaking a foreign language. It is considered to be inappropriate to ask questions directly if an oral statement has not been completely understood in terms of content. For meetings in which complex topics are to be dealt with and specific technical terms are used, a written agenda is sent for review in advance and can be advantageous for all participants.


Virtual Meetings: Small talk and personal matters create trust

In China, the concept of virtual meetings is not unusual; the size of the country has meant that people have faced each other on screens for some time now. Remote interpreters are used as a matter of course at virtual meetings with partners in other languages, and trust can also be built up through these channels.

While managers and leaders in Europe primarily build mutual trust through competence, reliability, and dependability, in China, trust is seen more as a matter of the heart. Chinese people like to build more personal relationships with their business partners which transcend the purely business content of a conversation.

An experienced telephone or video interpreter is therefore not content with just translating relevant facts, but also tries to convey the emotional aspects in order to reflect a personal interest in the other person.

It is common for Chinese business partners to chat about family and holidays at the beginning of a meeting and this small talk can easily be relayed by video remote interpreters to create a relaxed atmosphere.

Self-control is important in tough negotiations in a virtual meeting. In China, partners will remain outwardly relaxed, and calm and level headed, even when faced with big differences of opinions etc.

In online meetings, too, calmness and composure are more likely to lead to successful outcomes.

Even the best distance interpreter cannot compensate for overtly obvious gestures with friendliness and calmness, and the person opposite will want to end a tense situation quickly and, if necessary, even without achieving the desired result.


Guide for online meetings via telephone or video remote interpreting with Chinese partners

  • Prepare a written agenda with the most important key points, explain specific technical terms
  • Observe the order of precedence, the highest ranking person is introduced first
  • Use experienced linguists as interpreters
  • Listen carefully to the video or telephone interpreter
  • Create trust, show interest in your business partners and start conversations with small talk
  • Remain calm and relaxed, avoid grand gestures as far as possible