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A Guide To Exchanging Business Cards in Asia

Tips when exchanging business cards in Asia.

Tips when exchanging business cards in Asia.

As with most practices in Asia, when it comes to business etiquette dealing with Asians can be very confusing to those who are not familiar with the inhabitants from this part of the world.

Let’s take the practice of exchanging business cards, for example. In Asia, this initial phase in a formal, introductory business meeting can almost be an elaborate ritual! To the people you met, your business card helps to form initial impressions they have about you, and in many Asian cultures there are certain protocols – some of it unspoken – to follow that exhibit the proper respect when swopping business cards.

Although such protocols may differ depending on an individual’s culture, here’s a general guide to help you navigate the pitfalls when exchanging business cards during your first meeting with Asians:

– Always bring enough cards for a business meeting (or networking event)! Not having enough cards shows that you’re ill-prepared.

– Stand when exchanging business cards.

– It’s polite to give each person a slight bow, or a nod of the head, before or after you exchange your cards. The more senior or higher-ranked, the deeper the bow.

– Offer your business card first, especially if you’re more junior.

– Follow rank protocol by present your business card to the highest-ranked person first, followed by the next most senior, and so on.

– In Asia, it’s a sign of respect to exchange gifts with both hands, and it’s no exception for business cards, so try to keep your hands free.

– You can use your right hand if you’re encumbered, but never use your left hand especially when dealing with someone from an Islamic culture.

– Exchange cards with one individual at a time.

– Once you receive a business card, spend just a bit of time to pick out the person’s name, position and status.

– It’s good to read and acknowledge the full name of the other person. It’s perfectly alright to ask for the person’s surname, as it’s easy to confuse an Asian’s first and last names.

– It is considered bad form to scribble on name cards in their presence.

– In formal meetings, address a person by his last name. First names are seldom used except among close friends.

– It’s acceptable to lay the cards on the table in front of you in an orderly fashion, or keep them in your card holder. Don’t stack them up on the table, or worse, throw them around.

– Never, ever forget to take the business cards with you when the meeting ends. Leaving their cards behind signifies that you’re not interested in working with them.

– When in doubt, use common sense.

This post was first contributed to and published on Singapore Kopitiam, an online content portal about Singapore life. It is slightly adapted for publication here.

Daniel Goh is the founder and chief editor of Young | Upstarts, as well as an F&B entrepreneur. Daniel has a background in public relations, and is interested in issues in entrepreneurship, small business, marketing, public relations and the online space. He can be reached at daniel [at] youngupstarts [dot] com.

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