The Difference between Chinese and British Business Practice

Based on Alice's personal working experience in both countries.

The article primarily discusses the differences between Chinese and British business practices in the UK and China from the perspectives of time management, marketing tactics, and relationship building.

Dec 7th, 2023 Notes:  I noticed a significant number of queries landing on this page, prompting me to enhance its content. I’ve added a section assuming your familiarity with digital tools such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Quora, and more. Additionally, I will be incorporating information about digital business platforms commonly used in China. This addition aims to underscore the distinctions between Chinese and British preferences in terms of popular online tools. Having conducted business in the UK for almost two years, we have refined our focus on Chinese services. We are dedicated to supporting British businesses in expanding into the Chinese market. Our primary services include Chinese website development, WeChat marketing, company registration services in China, and book publishing and distribution services in China.

My 2022 notes: I am a Chinese who is now launching a business in the UK. In the UK, there are residents from every nation. So I serve clients from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. I have worked in both nations and have travelled extensively throughout China and to countries like Malaysia, Germany, Norway, Thailand, and Turkey. I found that business cultures in various countries varied greatly. And today, I’ll talk about the differences between Chinese and British business practices that I discovered.

Dynamic vs Scheduled in Time Control

My experience indicates one of the most significant differences between working in China and the UK is the level of time control. Throughout my time working in both countries, it’s apparent that the Chinese have tighter control over their business and lives. Especially for a business, the Chinese respond fast and direct if customers come as the Chinese believe ” Customer comes first”. On the other hand, even for small businesses, the British prefer to keep everything on a schedule, so they require an appointment before conducting any business.

Business culture in the UK is more like Germany and America, very planned and organized. People will keep their word and have high value for time. They like to schedule everything in advance, whether meeting or project kick-off.

Business culture in China is more like India and Brazil, very dynamic and spontaneous. People will change their decision at the last moment, but they are confident they are right. Moreover, they are humorous and love to joke around.

You must become accustomed to the business culture when conducting business in these two nations. For example, the UK will schedule everything down to the last minute, which can cause unnecessary stress if things don’t go as expected. On the other hand, when conducting business in China, you might not get off to a more relaxed start, and your partner might decide to change his mind at the last minute or make a new suggestion before you are ready.

WeChat vs Email Newsletters in Marketing

Email is a quick and convenient method of communication. Thus, we tend to write lengthy, detailed emails in the UK. However, Chinese people prefer face-to-face conversations instead of long emails. While the West view Emails as a major component of e-commerce, statics shows that 81% of B2B marketers consider email newsletters the most popular type of content marketing. On the contrary, the Chinese have different business habits for communication.

While the key distinction is a preference for face-to-face interactions whenever possible, WeChat Official Marketing is China’s answer to the email newsletter model. According to statistics, only 5% of Chinese people today open their emails. , But whether a small or large business, WeChat Official Account is a source for their marketing efforts.

Another thing to note is that while Gmail is more prevalent in the UK that business people may make auto-forward for Gmail and company emails, the Chinese use QQ emails more. Chinese prefer Email via QQ. The reason is that they don’t have a habit of checking all their mailboxes. WeChat and QQ are both a part of Tencent. So when an email is sent to their QQ email boxes, they will be immediately alerted there, where they are constantly active.

Zigzag vs Straight Mindset in Relationship Building

Chinese and British Business Practices: Bristish & Chinese Mindset Difference

A major difference between China and the UK is that in China, there is more emphasis on relationship building (guanxi) or relationship building. In contrast, the UK business culture is more individualistic and focused on meritocracy.

In China, the qualifications of those in charge of a project and all the resources they can manage and coordinate determine whether it will be successful. The reasoning holds even within the business. An employee who knows his boss better than anyone else can quickly get a promotion in China because of the hierarchical nature of the corporate structure. On the other hand, a British person needs to be aware of the task at hand. To earn the team’s respect, he must be a professional in his field. Chinese mentality is zigzaggy, while British mentality is straight.

 

Chinese and British Business Practices: Online Business Tools

I have discussed the different marketing channels and marketplaces in the article How to Enter the Chinese Market. I will provide an overview of all these tools in which the Chinese are actively engaged in this section.

  1. Most popular social media in China: Chinese TikTok, Redbook China, Watermelon Video, BilibiliKuaishou
  2. Business Verification Platform: Qichacha, Tianyancha, Dingding.
  3. Popular marketplace: Pinduoduo, JD, Taobao

 

Many Westerners think that Chinese people always respond “yes, we can” even when they cannot fulfil the request. Furthermore, they cannot “lose face” and acknowledge their mistakes. The issue here is that the project team is being led by a representative swiftly promoted but didn’t fully grasp the nature of the business. Or, if they did manage to reach the right person, that poor Chinese guy feels pressure from his superiors to accept a project by saying “Yes.” As a result, you must assess the proven experience to decide whether working with the Chinese will allow the project to proceed as planned.

Final Words

Even the shortest flight between China and the UK took more than 12 hours. Business culture differences are equivalent to the distance separating the two nations. The dialectal differences between the two languages result in minor differences, such as how Chinese people prefer to express their opinions compared to British people. I might need to write another blog to explain the key differences fully. Additionally, if you are interested in learning more about marketing and selling to China, just write your request to my email: tao.sheng@easymarketing.uk.

 

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