The people of Taiwan value hard work, patience, humility,
friendliness and respect for others. They are highly motivated and
centered around the extended family, their most important economic
resource. They dislike loud, showy and unrefined behavior. Bringing
shame on anyone ("loss of face") brings shame to the entire family.
Meeting and Greeting
- A nod of the head or a slight bow is considered polite for the
first meeting. Handshakes are generally only for males who are
- Introductions are important. Do not introduce yourself.
Instead, have a third person introduce you. At a party or business
meeting, wait to be introduced by the host.
- Do not touch anyone, especially a baby, on top of the head.
- Affection for the opposite sex is not shown in public.
- Never use your feet to move an object or to point at an
object. Feet are considered dirty.
- Place your hands in your lap when sitting.
- Men should not cross their legs, but rather place both feet on
- Putting an arm around another's shoulder, winking and pointing
with your index finger are all considered rude gestures. Point
with an open hand.
- Palm facing outward in front of face moving back and forth
- Placing your right hand over your left fist and raising both
hands to your heart is a greeting of respect for the elderly.
- Punctuality is appreciated, but being a few minutes early or
late is acceptable. Businesspeople might be late or even miss a
- Business cards should be printed in English on one side and
Chinese on the other. Make sure that the Chinese side uses
"classical" characters, the written form of Chinese used in
Taiwan, and not "simplified" characters, which are used in the
People's Republic of China.
- If possible, bring a team of two to four people (one senior
person with decision-making power) to Taiwan. This enhances the
status and image of executives and reflects on the seriousness of
- Businesspeople in Taiwan are hard bargainers and may try to
gain concessions by wearing the other party down. Be patient. Do
not push too hard or too fast in business.
- Allow your counterparts in Taiwan to set the negotiation pace.
Don't set deadlines; if you do, don't disclose them. Decisions are
made collectively and thus are slow, particularly in the early
stages. Once facts are established, agreements can sometimes be
- People in Taiwan often state their ideas clearly and without
hesitation. However, they will generally not say a direct "no."
Instead, they may say, "We'll try." "Yes" may mean, "I
- Friendship is valued in business. Taiwanese businesspeople
will want to know you personally before they do business with you.
Show commitment, sincerity and respect for Taiwanese counterparts.
Visit often and invite business counterparts to the United States.
- Guan-xi (qwon-she) means connections/personal relationships.
Guan-xi is vital for business success in Taiwan. It is developed
over a long period of time and influences social, political and
- Lawyers are not part of negotiations. Conflicts are expected
to be settled by arbitrators and not in the courts.
- The spoken word is the contract.
Dining and Entertainment
- Entertaining is required to be successful in business in
Taiwan and should never be regarded as a waste of time. Choosing
the right restaurant and entertaining well can greatly enhance
your chances of success.
- Dining in Taiwan can be elaborate and exhausting with as many
as twenty courses at a banquet. Business entertainment can last
late into the night. Reciprocate with a dinner of equivalent
- Be sure to arrive on time or early for a banquet.
- Do not discuss business at dinner unless your hosts bring it
- Toasting is common. Toasts are often made before and during
- Toasting is done with wine or liquor. The host starts by
raising his/her glass with two hands, one hand supporting the
bottom of the glass.
- The glass should be drained after the toast. Turn your glass
upside down to show you have drunk the entire contents.
- If your Taiwan hosts drink a toast to you and pass you an
empty glass, it will be filled by one of the hosts. You are
expected to toast your hosts and drink the contents of the glass.
- Pace your drinking. The drinking and toasting can go on for
- The guest of honor samples any dish brought to the table
first. Be sure to taste the food immediately as everyone else will
wait for you before they eat.
- The hosts will place food on the guests' plates. Each person
helps him/herself to additional food by placing a small amount of
food from a variety of dishes in his/her individual rice bowl.
- Leave some rice in the bowl when you are finished. Always
leave a little food on your plate when finished.
- Place your chopsticks together on the table or on the
chopstick rest when you are finished.
- Don't be surprised if the Taiwanese spit bones on the table or
floor. This is considered more sanitary than removing them with
- Never place bones or seeds in your rice bowl. If a plate is
not provided for this purpose, place them on the table.
- A belch may be considered a compliment at the end of a meal.
- Tea is served at the end of the meal. This signals the end of
the party. Leave even if your host, out of politeness, invites you
to stay longer.
- The host (person who invites) always pays the bill. It is
polite for the guest to offer to pay, but don't insist.
- Men should wear suits and ties. Men often remove jackets
- Women should wear conservative suits in blue or gray, dresses,
pantsuits, blouses and skirts.
- Gift giving is common in business. Suggested gifts: scotch,
ginseng, desk attire.
- Present and receive a gift with both hands. Gifts are not
opened in front of the giver.
- Recipients may refuse a gift to be polite. Politely persist
until the gift is accepted.
- Custom requires people to reciprocate with a gift of equal
- Gifts should be wrapped with great care. The container of the
gift and its wrapping are as important as the gift itself.
- Speaking even a few words of Chinese is greatly appreciated.
- Revere the elderly. Hold doors, rise when the elderly enter a
room, give the elderly your seat, etc.
- Refer to the People's Republic of China (PRC) as "Mainland
Especially for Women
- American women generally can do business easily in Taiwan,
though it may take time for some businessmen in Taiwan to accept
women in business roles.
- Most Taiwan businessmen will invite a businesswoman to dinner,
but normally not to after dinner entertainment.