Written by Chinese Language and Cultural Advice Managing Director Leonie McKeon

“Gan bei”
Business in China is mostly conducted restaurants instead of the boardroom. Even though there is a lot of eating, chatting, laughing and drinking it is important that you keep your focus on the business deal. Doing business in China is a game and just like any game you need to know the rules.

“Gan bei” means ‘bottoms up’, meaning you don’t leave anything in your glass.

The Chinese phrase “gan bei” is often used when your Chinese host is proposing a toast at the dinner. When the host offers the guest “gan bei”, the guest is expected to say the same back and then empty their glass. This may happen for a few rounds during the meal. The guest is expected to toast the host and say a few words of appreciation about the food and their friendship. There is a saying in Chinese business:

“Friends before business”

Many of our clients ask us “If I am put in the position of being a guest and I need to make a small speech, what is the culturally appropriate thing to say?  Here is an example of what we suggest you can say:

“We feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to visit your wonderful country. Thank you for your beautiful food and generous hospitality. We are looking forward to continuing to develop a long-term relationship. Your friendship is important to us and we wish you and your families’ good health and a happy life. China has really exceeded our expectations. You have such beautiful architecture, friendly people and delicious food. We would really like you to visit us in Australia, as we would like to return this wonderful hospitality we have experienced in China.

A couple of tips:

  • If the Chinese person you are toasting is an important person, you need to to place the rim of your wine glass below theirs to show respect.
  • Prepare your interpreter so they can translate your speech of appreciation to your host appropriately.

Understanding the Chinese social etiquette not only eliminates the possibility of offending people unintentionally, but more importantly with this knowledge you will feel confident and aware of what is happening around you.

Amcor Glass Australasia said the following after getting cultural training by CLCA.

“Following visits to China, our team had a desire to learn more about the Chinese language and culture. This training has now been an essential part of the way we go about doing business there. Also as a team, we are always on the move and we appreciated the flexibility shown by the CLCA team to train us at times and locations that suited us. They have shown great customer service and an ability to deliver the training in a way that builds our confidence.”
Tim Johnson
Group General Manager

You can contact Chinese Language and Cultural Advice for advice on doing business with Chinese people. Phone: (08) 8352 6128 ,
email: info@clca.com.au

web: www.clca.com.au