Country Profile - Taiwan
By McElroy Translation,
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The people of Taiwan value hard work, patience,
humility, friendliness and respect for others. They are
highly motivated and centered around the extended family,
their most important economic resource. They dislike loud,
showy and unrefined behavior. Bringing shame on anyone ("loss
of face") brings shame to the entire family.
Meeting and Greeting
- A nod of the head or a slight bow is
considered polite for the first meeting. Handshakes are
generally only for males who are friends.
- Introductions are important. Do not introduce
yourself. Instead, have a third person introduce you.
At a party or business meeting, wait to be introduced
by the host.
- Do not touch anyone, especially a baby,
on top of the head.
- Affection for the opposite sex is not
shown in public.
- Never use your feet to move an object
or to point at an object. Feet are considered dirty.
- Place your hands in your lap when sitting.
- Men should not cross their legs, but
rather place both feet on the floor.
- Putting an arm around another’s shoulder,
winking and pointing with your index finger are all considered
rude gestures. Point with an open hand.
- Palm facing outward in front of face
moving back and forth means "no".
- Placing your right hand over your left
fist and raising both hands to your heart is a greeting
of respect for the elderly.
- Punctuality is appreciated, but being
a few minutes early or late is acceptable. Businesspeople
might be late or even miss a meeting.
- Business cards should be printed in English
on one side and Chinese on the other. Make sure that the
Chinese side uses "classical" characters, the
written form of Chinese used in Taiwan, and not "simplified"
characters, which are used in the People’s Republic of
- If possible, bring a team of two to four
people (one senior person with decision-making power)
to Taiwan. This enhances the status and image of executives
and reflects on the seriousness of the meeting.
- Businesspeople in Taiwan are hard bargainers
and may try to gain concessions by wearing the other party
down. Be patient. Do not push too hard or too fast in
- Allow your counterparts in Taiwan to
set the negotiation pace. Don’t set deadlines; if you
do, don’t disclose them. Decisions are made collectively
and thus are slow, particularly in the early stages. Once
facts are established, agreements can sometimes be reached
- People in Taiwan often state their ideas
clearly and without hesitation. However, they will generally
not say a direct "no." Instead, they may say,
"We’ll try." "Yes" may mean, "I
- Friendship is valued in business. Taiwanese
businesspeople will want to know you personally before
they do business with you. Show commitment, sincerity
and respect for Taiwanese counterparts. Visit often and
invite business counterparts to the United States.
- Guan-xi (qwon-she) means connections/personal
relationships. Guan-xi is vital for business success in
Taiwan. It is developed over a long period of time and
influences social, political and commercial relationships.
- Lawyers are not part of negotiations.
Conflicts are expected to be settled by arbitrators and
not in the courts.
- The spoken word is the contract.
Dining and Entertainment
- Entertaining is required to be successful
in business in Taiwan and should never be regarded as
a waste of time. Choosing the right restaurant and entertaining
well can greatly enhance your chances of success.
- Dining in Taiwan can be elaborate and
exhausting with as many as twenty courses at a banquet.
Business entertainment can last late into the night. Reciprocate
with a dinner of equivalent value.
- Be sure to arrive on time or early for
- Do not discuss business at dinner unless
your hosts bring it up.
- Toasting is common. Toasts are often
made before and during meals.
- Toasting is done with wine or liquor.
The host starts by raising his/her glass with two hands,
one hand supporting the bottom of the glass.
- The glass should be drained after the
toast. Turn your glass upside down to show you have drunk
the entire contents.
- If your Taiwan hosts drink a toast to
you and pass you an empty glass, it will be filled by
one of the hosts. You are expected to toast your hosts
and drink the contents of the glass.
- Pace your drinking. The drinking and
toasting can go on for hours.
- The guest of honor samples any dish brought
to the table first. Be sure to taste the food immediately
as everyone else will wait for you before they eat.
- The hosts will place food on the guests’
plates. Each person helps him/herself to additional food
by placing a small amount of food from a variety of dishes
in his/her individual rice bowl.
- Leave some rice in the bowl when you
are finished. Always leave a little food on your plate
- Place your chopsticks together on the
table or on the chopstick rest when you are finished.
- Don’t be surprised if the Taiwanese spit
bones on the table or floor. This is considered more sanitary
than removing them with their fingers.
- Never place bones or seeds in your rice
bowl. If a plate is not provided for this purpose, place
them on the table.
- A belch may be considered a compliment
at the end of a meal.
- Tea is served at the end of the meal.
This signals the end of the party. Leave even if your
host, out of politeness, invites you to stay longer.
- The host (person who invites) always
pays the bill. It is polite for the guest to offer to
pay, but don’t insist.
- Men should wear suits and ties. Men often
remove jackets during meetings.
- Women should wear conservative suits
in blue or gray, dresses, pantsuits, blouses and skirts.
- Gift giving is common in business. Suggested
gifts: scotch, ginseng, desk attire.
- Present and receive a gift with both
hands. Gifts are not opened in front of the giver.
- Recipients may refuse a gift to be polite.
Politely persist until the gift is accepted.
- Custom requires people to reciprocate
with a gift of equal value.
- Gifts should be wrapped with great care.
The container of the gift and its wrapping are as important
as the gift itself.
- Speaking even a few words of Chinese
is greatly appreciated.
- Revere the elderly. Hold doors, rise
when the elderly enter a room, give the elderly your seat,
- Refer to the People’s Republic of China
(PRC) as "Mainland China."
Especially for Women
- American women generally can do business
easily in Taiwan, though it may take time for some businessmen
in Taiwan to accept women in business roles.
- Most Taiwan businessmen will invite a
businesswoman to dinner, but normally not to after dinner
-- Excerpted from the "Put Your
Best Foot Forward" series by Mary Murray Bosrock. These
publications are available for the U.S., Asia, Mexico/Canada,
Russia, Europe and South America.
International Education Systems
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