2 MAJOR Cultural Quirks When Importing from China (Mianzi & Guanxi)



When working with Chinese suppliers, there are 2 major Chinese cultural quirks you need to know about when importing from China.
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When working with Chinese suppliers and importing from China, there are two major cultural quirks and differences that you need to know about. These cultural differences can cause a lot of problems and can sometimes result in our cultures being at odds against each other:

* They can result in delays.
* They can cause communication mishaps/breakdowns.
* They can result in low-quality orders.
* And they can impact the price you can successfully negotiate with your supplier. Instead of getting the lowest possible price you can could, you end up paying a higher price.

Cultural Quirk #1 when Importing from China: Mianzi (i.e. Face)

In China there is a concept called Mianzi. The word Mianzi roughly translates to honor in English. It is the concept of “having face.” It is a complex element on their culture and it can make or break business deals.

In Western countries, we use the phrase “losing face” a lot – it means that someone was embarrassed. It a phrase that we adopted from China. In Western nations, no one likes to lose face, but the results of it are much more severe in China.

The reason for this is that Chinese society is built on a strong hierarchal system. People expected to be treated a particular way based on their standing in their hierarchy.

Something else to keep in mind is that, in China, if you cause someone to lose face, it is not just them that is humiliated and embarrassed – you are too. If you cause someone to lose face by embarrassing them, then people will potentially view you as a “dangerous” individual to interact with, since if you caused one person to lose face, then your disregard for social norms means you will likely cause others to lose face – with makes you risky to interact with. It can cause you to be socially ostracized.

When it comes to working with Chinese suppliers, if you want to keep communication lines open, then you should avoid doing anything that would cause this. Here are 2 tips:

Tip #1: Avoid saying no

In China, individuals and businesses will avoid saying “no” as this is considered embarrassing to both parties and would cause both to lose face. Instead of saying “no” suppliers will give you answers like “maybe” – which essentially is a polite way of saying no.

Tip #2: Avoid getting angry

If you encounter something frustrating with your supplier, sending an angry email is not going to help the situation – it is going to hurt it. Try to keep your communication with them positive. If you get angry, you risk having them avoid you.

Here are 2 tips for helping people gain face and thus increasing communication and trust between you and your supplier:

Tip #1: Complement regularly

Compliments are expected when doing business, so if given the opportunity compliment both your contact you are working with and the company itself.

Tip #2: Exaggerate a little

In Chinese culture, “great” means “good”, “good” means “okay” and “okay” means not OK. This is because in communication, people exaggerate as a compliment to others. Try to keep this in mind when communicating with your supplier.

Cultural Quirk #2 when Importing from China: Guanxi – i.e. Relationships

In English, the word “guanxi” roughly translates to “relationship.” It is another complex yet important element to Chinese culture, and it results in business deals being handled very differently to how we handle them in the West.

In Western countries, we tend to choose our business relationships/partnerships based on who will give us the best ROI. If we were looking for a manufacturer, we would go to each supplier, get proposals and quotes, and select the best supplier based off of that data.

In China it is extremely common to choose your business partnerships based off previous relationships as priority is given to contacts you have built guanxi with. Building guanxi doesn’t just involve having successful business relationships with someone: it involves building a personal relationship with them.

If you try to build this with your contact at your factory, you’ll have a much easier time negotiating prices, deals and contracts. Here are 3 tips to help you do that:

Tip #1: If you get the chance, try to talk to your contact about more than just business.

Tip #2: Try to open conversations with small talk.

Tip #3: Avoid negative language so that you don’t cause them to lose face.

If you have any questions, please be sure to leave them in the comments section.

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37 thoughts on “2 MAJOR Cultural Quirks When Importing from China (Mianzi & Guanxi)

  • October 14, 2020 at 8:06 pm
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    interesting since i recently asked a manufacturer in china if i could pay by paypal and they actually said "no".

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  • October 14, 2020 at 8:06 pm
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    Watched video all the way through, and all through and EVEN AT THE END, i was mesmerized by Sarah's blue eyes. Sarah's outstanding content equals her good looks. 🙂

    Reply
  • October 14, 2020 at 8:06 pm
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    Great info, great tutorial. Funny thing is, I am an American, watching a New Zealander, give info on Chinese customs.

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  • October 14, 2020 at 8:06 pm
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    unlike   the  west?  no  the  west has the italian way  of  'la figura'.

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  • October 14, 2020 at 8:06 pm
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    Holy shit I am Chinese and I can’t read or write chinese… I think that’s a dead end on my part… because in China you are almost not considered Chinese if you can’t read or write it. Speaking it doesn’t mean shit…

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  • October 14, 2020 at 8:06 pm
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    你太懂中国人了,你适合来中国做生意。你漏了一个没说:"拍马屁"! 深入了解中国文化,你应该好好学习这个词语。
    You know the Chinese culture too much. You are suitable for business in China. but you missed one of them.Read after me: "Pai ma pi".importment things say 3 times, please.
    In a deep understanding of Chinese culture, you should learn this word well.

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  • October 14, 2020 at 8:06 pm
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    Funny how the author refers to her POV as of the West while being to the east of China geographically. It puts the Eurocentrism upside down 🙂

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  • October 14, 2020 at 8:06 pm
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    I enjoy your videos. They are extremely informative. Your presentation is always upbeat. Good job!

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  • October 14, 2020 at 8:06 pm
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    Thank you, Sarah. Thanks for your great videos about selling in Amazon. They helps me for the preparation of being an Amazon seller.
    I've watched nearly 10 videos since last week. All of them are useful and interesting.
    Indeed, I'm from Hong Kong. Your messages gave me a huge remind about the differences between Western and Chinese cultures. Even Hong Kong is now part of China, Mianzi & Guanxi sound strange for me, who received Western education from the colonial era.
    Well, not only China, very similar social cultural quirks are in Japan. I feel even frustrated to deal with Japanese than people in mainland China. LOL
    We look like monsters in their eyes if we speak straight forward to them in our sense.
    I will keep it in mind when I seek my first supplier from China.
    Thank you again! Thanks for your efforts in making these awesome free educational videos.

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  • October 14, 2020 at 8:06 pm
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    My supplier hadn't responded to me in 3 days and I was getting quite impatient as I wanted to start my shipment right away. I was getting to the point where I was going to go to my plan – B suppliers to get quotes, but it turns out my contact fell ill for a few days and had just returned to health. I learned that sometimes patience can maintain current relationships.

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  • October 14, 2020 at 8:06 pm
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    hearing Sara speak chinese is adorable. I also love how tailored so much of this content is to my new importing venture. I love this channel so much. Wholesale Ted for the win.

    Reply
  • October 14, 2020 at 8:06 pm
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    Hello! I want to buy from aliexpres or alibaba and sell on amazon but i have one question, do i have to get the items first to me at home or send them from first to amazon warehouse?

    Reply
  • October 14, 2020 at 8:06 pm
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    If you have the free shipping option for all the products in your woocommerce store but you want to attract traffic with the free+shipping technique, wouldn't it be weird when customers come to the store and see that all other items have free shipping? have you had that problem?

    Reply
  • October 14, 2020 at 8:06 pm
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    Would love to see a video step by step about setting up a VA to handle order processing and other things a VA might be hired to do.

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  • October 14, 2020 at 8:06 pm
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    I did know politeness was important but not the details. Thank you

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  • October 14, 2020 at 8:06 pm
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    我是中国人,看了这个视频,非常赞同Sarah的观点。完全正确。I am a Chinese, and after I watched this video. I cannot agree more. Sarah has a vast understanding about Chinese Culture. It is very impressive.

    Reply
  • October 14, 2020 at 8:06 pm
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    Great video, Sarah, but I think there is a misprint in the title of he video. It says "Minazi" instead of "Mianzi"

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  • October 14, 2020 at 8:06 pm
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    Great advice. This goes for Thailand and many other South East countries as well even if you go shopping in a mall, talking to your family, boss or if you are going to buy a car. To make someone loose face can in worst case get you killed.

    Reply

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