On Taiwan, Part 2: Meeting Etiquette, Seating, Banquets & Drinking

The Taiwanese usually take their vacations in the beginning of the year, encompassing Chinese New Year, so it would be best to schedule business meetings after March or April, but unless you’re a fan of rain, try to avoid the June through August monsoon season. So we have addressed that Taiwan has elements of both Japanese and Chinese culture, follows Confucian philosophy, the idea of harmony, and the use of indirect communication. The use of indirect communication adds to the persona of Taiwanese as low-key people who rarely display emotions (e.g. anger or open frustration) and consider a display of strong emotions as a loss of control. Business cards have been exchanged and translated into the Taiwanese variant of Chinese so we are just about to head into the meeting room, a couple pointers first…

The Taiwanese business organizational structure is one that demands impartiality and obedience. Decisions are made by the consensus of the group and are deferred to the oldest. They also tend to rely on their gut or immediate feelings as the primary source for making decisions, so your first impression on them is vital! Younger Taiwanese, however, are using more facts to make decisions (whew!). They also tend to think associatively and stress wholeness over fragmentation, so present them with plans for the big picture.

Meeting etiquette, seating, and purpose are the similar to practices in both China and Japan. Though the Taiwanese want to save face and preserve harmony, they are inherently Chinese and enjoy a good bartering process…so be prepared to make concessions. The basis of Taiwanese relationships, whether they are professional or personal, is respect and trust, and any breach of these will not be taken lightly. When presenting your proposal touch on major points, while being prepared to discuss all of its aspects. You may want to consider sending some of your materials before your arrive, so that your Taiwanese colleagues have the opportunity to look over them first. Breaking up your presentation into segments, allowing time between for any questions, may be something to consider as well.

If you think that after the meeting is done you are free to go….Wrong! Be prepared for the traditional Chinese banquet, where basic rules of Chinese banquets apply. If sitting at a roundtable, the honored guest will be facing the door, so that if ninjas attack your business dinner, the guest will be the first to know and the host the last. It is considered polite to try all dishes offered, but do not leave a full bowl of rice, it may be considered as rude. Resist discussing business at dinner, unless your host brings it up. Remind yourself to send a thank you note to your host when you return to your office or accommodations, for the banquets are usually just the start of a long evening of drinking and other forms of merriment. You may have to revisit your karaoke playlist from Japan.

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