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10 Networking Phrases In Chinese

Networking isn't easy, much less so in a different language. Ten introductory phrases to make your networking conversations in Chinese flow better.

Networking is important to any professional who wants to make the most of work experience in China, where connections, or "guanxi," are the cornerstone of doing business effectively. As networking events are becoming more popular in major Chinese cities, so are the more relaxed or open networking practices of Western culture, especially among the younger generation. Although Western business practices are outwardly embraced by in China, it is worth noting that people respond to interpersonal communications both consciously and subconsciously. Embracing Chinese cultural communication styles is likely to help you connect with Chinese attendees, especially those of senior status who might not feel comfortable speaking English. The following 10 Chinese networking phrases will better prepare you to engage potential Chinese business connections at your next networking event.

Related: How To Find A Job In China

"Let's Exchange Business Cards"

我们交换名片吧 (Wǒmen jiāohuàn míngpiàn ba)

The exchange of business cards is an important part of self-introductions in China because business cards (名片 míngpiàn) are seen to be an extension of the individual. If you are attending a networking event, it is a good idea to have plenty on hand. Chinese custom dictates that the most senior attendees present exchange business cards first, so it might be best to humbly wait your turn if there are many lined up to talk to the same person you want to approach. If that person is of senior status or famous, you can say, 您好,这是我的名片 (Nín hǎo, zhè shì wǒ de míngpiàn) to introduce yourself and offer your card formally. Hold out your card with two hands, and have the side with Chinese printed on it facing towards the person you are giving it to.

When you receive a business card, treat it ceremoniously, taking it with two hands and carefully studying it before putting it away gingerly in a safe place or on the table in front of you. The custom of exchanging business cards is not only a great way to break the ice, but is also an opportunity to gather additional information about the person you are about to speak with. Say, 谢谢,非常高兴认识您, or "Thank you, very nice to meet you," and mention something that you have learned from studying the other person's business card. 

Your own business card should be Chinese on one side and English on the other. It should have your job title, company name, e-mail address, mobile number, and WeChat id or QR code. Make sure you prepare a suitable Chinese name before you start printing your business cards, as this name will be easier for Chinese attendees to remember you by.  

"What Business Are You IN?"

你做什么样的工作? (Nǐ zuò shénme yàng de gōngzuò?)

Social psychologists say the best way to engage others is by listening and trying to provide insight from an empathetic point of view. Professionals all like to talk about what they do, and when people talk about themselves,  they subconsciously feel closer to you by virtue of your being invested in their story. While you can't always listen first and talk second, it is important that you actually listen to the other person you are talking to. Use any information you may have to your advantage in getting towards a genuine connection with that individual. If you already know what company the person you are talking to works for, you can ask, 你在什么部门工作, or "What department do you work in?" If you are talking to someone who is still pursuing a degree, you can ask them 你读什么专业, or "What's your major?" Note that while eye contact is important in establishing interpersonal connections, in China you should avoid being overly aggressive in making eye contact. 

"I Really Liked Your Speech"

我非常喜欢你的演讲了 (Wǒ fēicháng xǐhuan nǐ de yǎnjiǎngle)

Compliments are an important part of giving face (给面子 gěi miànzi), and make for good small talk in Chinese professional settings. If you are approaching someone with senior status or some degree of fame like a keynote speaker, specific and well-thought-out compliments are not only a useful approach, they are sometimes expected. If you have the opportunity to look up the background of the speakers of the event you are attending on LinkedIn or by using a simple Internet search, you will have a better opportunity to impress whoever you are complimenting. Look for ways you can relate to them or their work, and your efforts will be more genuine. Compliments are often politely declined out of modesty in Chinese culture, and it is likely that you will also be the subject of compliments, which you should respond to with humility. 

"I understand... What you are saying is...." 

我明白。。。你的意思是。。。(Wǒ míngbái... Nǐ de yìsi shì...)

The best way to smooth over the parts of the conversation where you are not sure what to say is to avoid talking about yourself, and instead, demonstrate your understanding of the other person's perspective. Repeating what someone has said in an appropriate way will make the other person feel what they have said has resonated with you. You can also say, 我理解, or "I understand," to demonstrate your empathy with their viewpoint. 

Related: 7 Chinese Phrases For Business To Make You Sound Humble

“Have You Eaten Yet?

你吃饭了吗?(Nǐ chīfàn le ma?)

Small talk is very important in Chinese business culture, and one of the most common phrases you will hear at a Chinese company is 你吃饭了吗?or "Have you eaten yet?" This phrase doesn't always imply the intent to eat together, and sometimes just means, "How are you?" However, it is a convenient way to strike up a conversation about food, a topic almost anyone enjoys talking about, and at a networking event that happens to serve food, it provides the opportunity to invite someone to stroll over to the snack (小吃 xiǎochī) table with you. After a long day at work, it is likely that most people in the room are hungry, meaning that there will be plenty of chances to strike up new conversations with the crowd that has gathered around the appetizers. 

"Are You A Local?"

你是本地人吗?(Nǐ shì běndì rén ma?)

Another standard conversation starter is to ask where someone is from. While it seems like an elementary question that might not lead anywhere, there is actually a lot of significance to it. Not only does it make your conversation more personal, as most people have a strong emotional attachment to where they come from, but it is also a professionally-relevant question, as you are now both professionals working in the same city. Asking a Chinese person about their hometown is a great opportunity to learn something more of China's geographic and cultural diversity, and it is always interesting to learn the story of how someone came from a certain background to where they are today. Many people in major cities came from another province or municipality for career or educational opportunities, but if they are local, that can be even more interesting because you can talk about how much the city has changed since they were young. Asking, 你是本地人吗? or "Are you a local?" is an indirect and better way of asking, 你是哪里人? or, “Where are you from?” Learning something new from each person you meet can help take the pressure off, and will make you a better conversationalist in the long-run as you accumulate knowledge and new perspectives.

"Our Main Product Is..." 

我们主要产品是。。。 (Wǒmen zhǔyào chǎnpǐn shì...)

While it is important to have modesty and humility, one should also avoid being too reserved and cool, as that would be off-putting in the Chinese networking sense. Chinese business relationships call for a certain degree of enthusiasm, as everyone is meant to treat each other like friends and family. Eagerly demonstrate what you have to bring to the table, or what the company you are representing has to offer. Networking experts will tell you that it is to your advantage to talk less about yourself and to listen to more about what the other person has to say. While this is as true in China as it is elsewhere, at the end of the day, someone has to start the conversation, and Chinese professionals will be curious to hear about your purpose in China and what is exciting about what you or your company are doing.

Related: How To Introduce Yourself In Chinese

"We've been around for 20 years, and Have Great Brand Recognition"

我们公司已经成立二十多年了,在美国很有名 (Wǒmen gōngsī yǐjīng chénglì èrshí duō niánle, zài Měiguó hěn yǒumíng)

Established brands, especially Western ones, are well-respected in China, so introduce your company confidently and give a little background information. Chinese people tend to perceive representatives of famous brands as knowledgeable and well-connected to resources in their industry. If you are only representing yourself, try your best to represent your own personal brand, emphasizing your strengths and playing down your weaknesses. For example, even if you don't have access to significant financial resources at this stage of your life, sharing your knowledge of investment can compensate for that, and might have others thinking you are actually really well-connected. 

Whether you are introducing your company or your own personal brand, the key is to always keep in mind what the other party's interests are so you can avoid of being too forward about your own business intentions and focus just on building the relationship. If there is an area of growth where you can help them overcome difficulties, let them know that they could benefit from you. Some research on LinkedIn prior to attending a networking event might be necessary to know how you can apply your value for your audience. You should treat the networking environment as you would a job interview in that you want to play up your strengths and demonstrate that you are committed to doing business in China without losing your credibility or giving away too much information.

"It was Really Nice Talking To You" 

我先走了,下次再联系吧 (Wǒ xiān zǒule, xià cì zài liánxì ba)

Not every person you meet at a networking event is going to be best friends with you, and it is a good idea to manage your expectations so as to lower the pressure on yourself. Don't expect to meet everyone in the room, but rather aim to have several choice, meaningful conversations. If you feel yourself getting caught up in a conversation that isn't really going anywhere, you can opt to exchange contact information and then say, 我先走了,下次再联系吧, or "Excuse me, I have to go now, let's catch up next time."

You also want to be able to recognize when someone may have lost their interest in talking with you through their body language. If their eyes, hands, or stance hint at discomfort, just say, 认识你很高兴, or "It was very nice to have met you," and move on.  

"Let's Keep In Contact" 

我们再联系吧 (Wǒmen zài liánxì ba)

Social media can be your friend in the job search in China, helping you electronically follow up with everyone you have met. Exchanging WeChat contacts is standard at networking events in China, as WeChat is a great app for everything from personal life to professional communications. On it, you can share or directly communicate with whoever has added you to their contacts, making it one of the best ways to electronically follow-up with whomever you have met. If you want to be WeChat friends with someone, say 加我的微信, or "Add my WeChat," and allow them to scan your WeChat QR code or give them your ID. LinkedIn (领英 Lǐngyīngis also a great networking tool in China because it is widely used by recruiters. If you get someone's business card who you weren't able to exchange contact information with during the event, consider looking them up on LinkedIn. People who have difficulty remembering names might feel even more lost with Chinese names, but thanks to social networks, this information is readily available for those who take advantage of it. 

"Let Me Introduce My Colleague"

这位是。。。,公司的。。。(Zhè wèi shì..., gōngsī de...)

This phrase can have great significance if the right person says it on behalf of you. One of the best ways to be get connected in Chinese culture is to have someone who knows the other party introduce you. If a connection is really important to you, let someone who can vouch for you do the introduction. Due to the sense of mutual obligation that guanxi relationships entail, it is easier for Chinese business people to place trust in those with whom they have a mutual connection. The more interconnected in the web of guanxi relations two people are, the more they can trust each other, for the simple reason that it is less likely that one person will fail to reciprocate a favor if they are risking their relationship with a community rather than just one individual. Remember that relationships in China take time to build, but knowing the right people beforehand can only help set things off in the right direction.  


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