Many years ago, the company I worked for at the time was negotiating terms with a partner firm in China. Given that my boss had three children and a wife I was sent over to China for a 4 day trip.
Young and excited, I had been abroad with business before, but this was China. This was huge. My first big opportunity to show my boss that despite my age I was an asset to the company.
We flew business and I enjoyed all the luxuries, complimentary drinks a comfy seat and a huge banquet of food. The flight was long and I was glad to reach my slumber when we touched down.
I arrived at the meeting a fraction of a second late and to my amazement almost everyone was seated and ready to begin - first mistake.
Flustered I lurched for the nearest seat, at that exact moment a small Chinese woman was also going for the same chair, bulldozing her out the way I began to apologise empathetically and touched her shoulder in a sign of my deep regret. A hush fell over the board room - second mistake.
I sat and listened to the proceedings of the meeting. As I had been working predominantly independently on this account my colleague and I had organised for me to speak on behalf of the company. I spoke fluently and explained our plans just as I had rehearsed in the mirror - third Mistake.
After the events of the day we were invited for a meal with the company. Given that I was pushed for time the last time we met I hadn’t properly introduced myself to the host. Making light of my fluster and slight lateness that morning, I shook his hand violently and laughed - fourth mistake.
After pleasantries, we sat down to eat. After all the travelling and the meeting I was absolutely ravenous and excited about trying out the Chinese cuisine everyone had been banging on about. As soon as the dishes came out I rushed in, eager to try the many dishes - fifth mistake.
I’m a big guy and I like my food so I polished off every last bit, apart from what I could only assume to be an eyeball or a claw - sixth mistake.
Despite what I had assumed to be relatively normal behaviour, I was informed that the Chinese were ‘less than impressed’ by my presence. Needless to say I was not invited back to China and the account eventually fell apart. Thankfully I had left the company before this happened so I wasn’t the only one to blame.
The only advice I have to people travelling on business for the first time is research your destination. Culture differences across countries can be huge, so make sure you don’t put your claw in it
First Mistake - It is polite to always arrive on time or early if you are the guest.
Second Mistake - Contact with a woman in public is highly inappropriate.
Third mistake - It is rude to use large hand movements or point when presenting in China.
Fourth mistake - Never offer your hand, wait for the host to offer it to you, traditionally bowing is a more common greeting.
Fifth Mistake - Never start a meal before the host.
Sixth Mistake - It's rude to finish your whole meal in China, and it is expected for guests to sample all dishes given to them.