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 How Customs Differ in Asia

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Danai
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PostSubject: How Customs Differ in Asia   Mon Mar 26, 2012 9:58 am



It may seem obvious to say so, but based on the many faux pas by westerners in the past, it seems worth repeating: customs differ from country to country in Asia. While there are similarities, there are also major differences.

For example, the color red is good luck in China but considered bad luck in Korea.

While a nod and a slight bow is an appropriate greeting in Taiwan, Singapore has three major ethnic groups: Chinese, Malay and Indian with each having its own traditions. Malays may practice a salaam, a salutation meaning “peace,” with a very low bow; Indians may bow slightly with the palms of the hands together.

Being punctual and on time for appointments is a good idea in any country, but be aware of “Jam karet” (“rubber time”) in Indonesia which refers to a casual attitude towards time. You should also be aware that Taiwanese traditionally nap between the hours of 1:30 and 2 p.m. and that, without introductions, it maybe very difficult to meet with decision makers in the Philippines.

Introductions will also vary from country to country with the family name listed first in South Korea and Taiwan, while the traditional Malay forms of Mr./Mrs./Miss are Encik for Mr., Puan for Mrs. and Cik for Miss. Titles are important to business people in the Philippines and Indonesia since employers often reward employees with titles instead of pay.

In most cases, you should always wait to be invited before hosting an event yourself; however, if you do host an event, remember not to print invitations on white or blue paper since these colors are associated with sadness among the Chinese.



For the most part, Asians take entertaining very seriously so you should know how customs vary from country to country. In Taiwan, expect an invitation every night, in South Korea, you should refill your neighbor’s cup and soy sauce bowl when empty and expect the same. If you do not want more, do not empty your glass. Government officials may not be permitted to attend social events in Singapore since anti-corruption laws are very strict. In Indonesia, always wait to be invited before you host an event and with Hindus and Muslims, always eat with the right hand.

In business negotiations you should know that brutal honestly is not appreciated in Taiwan, the word “no” is considered rude in Malaysia, and 10 to 15 seconds of silence before giving a reply is golden in Singapore and Indonesia. A person who loses his or her temper will not be trusted or respected in Malaysia or the Philippines and “Yes” can mean “I agree” or “Maybe” or “I hope you can tell from my lack of enthusiasm that I really mean No.”

Thoroughly confused yet? You should be. This post could not hope to explain all of the differences in customs in all of the countries of Asia. It should, however, illustrate why a one-size fits all plan of doing business in Asia will never be successful. Therefore, understanding that customs vary from country to country is one of the most important concepts business people should learn before going into business in Asia.

cr.blogofasia.com

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