Hotel Online  Special Report

Etiquette Tips for Biz Travelers to Asia
April 29, 2003 - Throughout the Pacific Rim, business opportunities abound. In order to make the westward journey to Asia a successful and lucrative venture, savvy business travelers are honing their international relations skills by learning proper etiquette so that they can gain an edge over the competition and build important, lasting relationships. 

Pacific Rim cultures value respect and appreciate efforts taken by their North American counterparts to learn their customs.  In order to help pave the way, associates from several of Pan Pacific Hotels and Resorts' properties offer tips for first-time business travelers to Asia.

· Pan Pacific Bangkok alerts business travelers that at all levels of social interaction, Thai demand the same level of perceptiveness from foreigners as they do amongst themselves.  If an associate disagrees with an opinion or idea, it will not be spelled out, but will merely be implied so gently that there is no "loss of face."  In addition, it is recommended that business travelers check with their concierge before departing the hotel for an appointment, as there are times when the entire city "turns into a huge parking lot" and cars simply don't move.

· Pan Pacific Kuala Lumpur advises business travelers that if they attend a function hosted by a Malaysian it is not wise to leave without eating something.  The guest will offend the host if they say they are not hungry or have already eaten.

· Pan Pacific Singapore recommends that business travelers bring a sufficient number of business cards as associates in Asia expect them.  The absence of cards implies that business people are disinterested in doing business.

· Pan Pacific Glenmarie, Kuala Lumpur confirms that English is the language of commerce, banking and international trade but business travelers may want to hone up on general greetings and common terms in the native Bahasa Malaysia/Malay language as this is the national language. 

· Pan Pacific Yokohama recommends that business travelers print business cards with all the pertinent contact information in Japanese on the reverse side and also suggests arriving at meetings five minutes before the appointment as Japanese are very punctual.

· Pan Pacific Pangkor Island advises business travelers who extend an invitation for a meal to pick up the tab, unless the guest "strongly insists" on paying the bill. 

· Puteri Pan Pacific, Johor Bahru suggests that business travelers entertaining Muslim guests be reminded to look for restaurants that serve food, which is halal (free from pork) as Islam forbids Muslim from eating pork.  Business travelers should also know that Indians who practice the Hindu faith and Chinese who follow Buddhism do not eat beef.  Always review menu options before selecting a restaurant!

· Palau Pacific reminds business travelers to present their business card with two hands, with the written material facing the recipient, and provide a slight bow when presenting the card.  In addition, when speaking through an interpreter, continue eye contact with the person you are doing business with and always look interested when foreign business associates are talking among themselves in their own language.

· Pan Pacific Sonargaon, Dhaka recommends that first time business travelers to Bangladesh respect the local protocol of hierarchy, as "rank" is very important and highly valued.  The first person to enter a room is the head of the group and North Americans should follow this practice to avoid confusion.

The First Impression:  Asian cultures tend to honor formality as a sign of respect, so addressing your host correctly will enhance a first impression. It is traditionally acceptable to call the host by his/her surname, together with a title such as "Director Wang," or " Chairman Cheng." Avoid the Western tendency to become too friendly too soon. Asians generally accept the western custom of shaking hands, but business travelers should not necessarily mistake a weak handshake or lack of eye contact as a lack of assertiveness. Rank is important and highly valued. Do not interrupt during a presentation, wait until your host is finished before posing questions. 

Gift Giving:  Gift giving shows good manners and respect in many Asian cultures and indicate that you are interested in building a relationship.  However, in Malaysia, a business contact would not expect a gift, and in Japan, gifts are exchanged once a relationship is established. The wrong gift or gift-wrap can insult the recipient. A bottle of premium liquor would be appreciated in Thailand but disfavored by Muslim cultures and religions in Malaysia or Indonesia where liquor is not acceptable. A lovely clock, wrapped in elegant white paper would be a thoughtful gift in America but in Malaysia clocks symbolize the passing of time (death) and the colors black and white connote mourning. The gift of a designer pen, a scarf or a book of art might be appropriately wrapped in red paper.

It is unwise to give knives as they represent the severing of relationships, this is particularly true in Singapore. Always give and receive gifts with both hands and do not expect gifts to be opened in your presence.  Small Talk:  While Americans often enjoy political debate, discussing politics is a sign of poor taste in most Asian cultures. Small talk is a common way to launch successful meetings and is customary in many Asian countries. Favorable topics include family, health and the local cuisine. Discussing television and sports is also a good way to break the ice.

Body Language:  In most of Asia, shoes and feet are considered "unclean" so it is offensive to sit cross-legged pointing the soles of your feet toward your hosts. To be safe, always sit with your feet on the floor. Avoid pointing with your index finger. Instead, gesture with your whole hand, palm down. Never touch your host's head, or pass objects over it, particularly in Thailand, where gesture taboos abound.

Steve Halliday, Director and Senior Vice President of Pan Pacific Hotels and Resorts, comments, "As a veteran traveler I've seen many changes over the last few decades however, the most important etiquette tip I can recommend has been an important consideration from day one. In Asia, the first step in business
relationships is to develop respect and trust with your associates.  Once you learn this time-honored tradition, business will come much easier."

Take time to learn about the customs and culture of your Pacific Rim business destination. The possibilities are limitless when strong relationships are forged. Respecting the local customs shows a sincere interest in developing a meaningful business relationship and can result in greater success. 

Pan Pacific Hotels and Resorts currently encompasses 18  hotels (15 managed properties & 3 marketing affiliates) in 11 countries in Asia, the Pacific and North America.

Molly Cahill
Pan Pacific Hotels and Resorts

Also See: Expecting Nearly Half of Business Travelers to be Women, The Pan Pacific San Francisco is Fine Tuning Amenities / Feb 2000
Pan Pacifics' President, Ichigo Umehara Holding True to Tradition of Differentiating Hotels and Resorts by Celebrating the Diversity of Each / Aug 2002

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