Relationship Between UK and China


The research on how does the culture influence the people's live on gift give between UK and china

Abstract: With the quick development of the world economy, the relationship between the different countries becomes much closer than ever before. However, the world has always been a diversity place. So it's not surprise that each country has its own culture of doing business. Therefore, it is quite important to know the different culture in different country. China is one of the largest developing countries, while the UK is one of the largest economic countries in the world. So it is meaningful to discuss some different business culture between them. Because the business culture always contains a lot of aspects, so this paper put the emphasis on the culture of gift giving.

KeywordsCulture; international business; gift giving  

Literature Review

1. Views of Western Scholars

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When talking about the business culture and intercultural communication, we must know what is culture and intercultural communication. There are hundreds of definitions of the culture in the academic books and articles. However, it is difficult to define because it is a large and inclusive concept. “Everything you need to know in life to get along in a society” is not as useful a definition, however, as one that focuses on what culture's characteristics are. Culture involves learned and shared behaviors, norms, values, and material objects. It also encompasses what humans create to express values, attitudes, and norm. A culture is not usually discussed by the members who share it. Mr. Charles Mitchell—a key researcher into cultures writes the book International Business Culture. In this book, he gives us the definition of culture: “Culture those deep, common, unstated experiences which members of a given culture share, which they communicate without knowing, and which from the backdrop against which all other events judged.” (2000)

For us, when a person who has one culture produces a message for consumption by a person who has another culture, intercultural communication will occur. More precisely, intercultural communication always involves interaction between people whose cultural perceptions capability, and symbol systems are distinct enough to alter the communication event.

First, in most examples, communication problems will take place for an assortment of reasons. If a person can not control his temper while talking to a friend, a little introspection will reveal that it was not solely your friend prompted the anger but an accumulation of events and that your friend was merely a handy aim. So while we discuss potential problems one at time, they often occur in combination. Second, common sense often tells us that the complex nature of human behavior produces many more communication problems. Third, although our discussion of potential problems and solutions need base on a strong theory, nevertheless, it is colored by our personal and cultural background. So there are many potential problems in intercultural communication, that worth us discussing.

Intercultural Communication in the Global Workplace—the Professor Linda Beamer and an Professor Iris Varner who are the experts of the Britain culture and business communication. They co-authored the book Intercultural Communication in the Global Workplace with a lot of examples, to expose the different geographical cultural identity and the means of communication of the different countries comprehensively. This is the first book to combine the pure cultural communication theory and the international business practice together, which formed a new idea on intercultural business communication and a series of effective communication principles and techniques. This book focuses on the communication skill's training and upgrading, so that I have a whole understanding of the international business culture to help us rest a good foundation for my paper.

2. Views of Chinese Scholars

In addition, Mr. Chen Dongkang's book—Modern International Commercial Custom occupies a very important position in my paper for the selection of the subjects and content of reference. This Book has six chapters, introduced 93 different countries' natural features of the human landscape by the country in different continents around the world. It focuses on national etiquette and practices, aims at introducing the world economy and trade developments in developed countries to the readers in a simple, innovative, clear way. It is very practical, including the national geographical location, business custom, and the latest trade with China. As my paper is focus on the different business culture between China and the United States, I have studied the book focus on the introduction of Chinese and Britain business custom presentation. 

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Of course, I spent a lot of space for the aspect of the culture of gifts between the two countries. Because gift is considered a social gesture that may be expected in some countries, while could be considered a bribe in others. Knowing the gift guidelines for the country we will be easier to make business successful. And some multi-national firms and some governments have quite strict policies regarding with their employees accepting gifts. To avoid having these problems, it's important for us to learn the policies for the companies you will do business with. Therefore, because the different country has different culture, when you have decided to give a gift, you must know the culture and custom of the local place. So in my paper it also accounted for a very important position

In order to analysis that the comparison of gift giving in business relationship between China and US more profound. I mainly consult Mr. Yang Dongsheng's Chinese Business Culture and Mr. Wen Quan's International Business Etiquette. Chinese Business Culture emphasizes the Chinese culture. The Chinese culture has characteristics of coherence, inclusiveness and diversity; Chinese characteristics embodied in the humble Chinese people, focusing on harmony, moderation and collectivism; How to establish business relationships correctly and effectively and what is the Chinese favorite color, number and the gifts of taboos and preferences, the book has done a detailed exposition. International Business Etiquette emphasizes the introduction of foreign cultures. The author of this book, Mr. Wen Quan expounds the concept and practice of international business etiquette comprehensively in pragmatic spirit, heuristic language, the pure and smooth writing and visual chart. Especially in the book —“visual beauty's creation”, “the manners of meeting and seeing off”, “the requirements of appearance and clothing” “the conventions practice of food and drink, entertainment and conversation” —directly touches the shaping events in the international business and maintain a good personal image. What is more, the book also made a detailed presentation about details in a business feast. For example, before the arrival of the guests, the hosts should arrive first, and leave the best seats for the guests; women generally sit by the men's right hand side; people who sit at the left side should take care of the people who sit at his/her right side; when shaking one's hand, woman should initiatively reach her hand to man, older person reach hand to young person, and the superior reach hand to the subordinate; when you are negotiating with the customers, your boss is coming, you should first introduce the customers to your boss-- the most important person was always first introduced; when you are making the self-introduction, if you have a title, please do not mention it initiatively.

Meanwhile, Professor Jin Zhengkun is a famous ceremonies expert in China, and his articles always representative. His book International Etiquette gives us a source of inspiration. This book first introduces the sources of international etiquette in detail, which is an important source of the definition of business culture in my paper. There is also an important chapter in the book to introduce some important national customs in some countries. When we are making international exchanges and cooperation, we must first know what kind of international etiquettes and standards must comply with. Only observing these etiquettes and standards, the foreign people can feel that you are envoys from ancient civilizations, and you are a very polite person. For that, the other people will respect you, and exchange information and communicate with you zealously. I mainly study in the introduction of the United States in this book. The survey of the United States, Britain' social courtesy, food customs and convention taboos, the book all has done a detailed full presentation, which enriches my paper.

Questionnaire Report

A questionnaire is a research instrument consisting of a series of questions and other prompts for the purpose of gathering information from respondents. Although they are often designed for statistical analysis of the responses, this is not always the case..

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Questionnaires have advantages over some other types of surveys in that they are cheap, do not require as much effort from the questioner as verbal or telephone surveys, and often have standardized answers that make it simple to compile data. However, such standardized answers may frustrate users. Questionnaires are also sharply limited by the fact that respondents must be able to read the questions and respond to them. Thus, for some demographic groups conducting a survey by questionnaire may not be practical.

Being interested in the gift giving culture in business relationship between China and UK, and in order to make some comparison between them, we constructed a questionnaire.

1.) The research content and methods:

It is a 12-question questionnaire, which have 2 editions-Chinese questionnaire and English one, including the questions as following: what's the purpose of gift giving, which kind of gifts is appreciated, what's the elements for choosing a gift, when is the best timing to send gift, whether culture difference influence gift giving and so on.

The Chinese questionnaires were sent to 30 Chinese respondents as well as 30 foreign respondents (mostly Britain or European), and the English questionnaire were sent to 30 British respondents and 30 Chinese respondents in the UK. In order to gain more genuine and general results, the people we chose were of different ages and from various walks of life, education, administration, finance, transportation, hygiene, clothing and so on. Female respondents were also nearly equal to male ones.

2.) Summaries:

  • Question 1 asked respondents: “In a commercial setting, if you wish to establish business relationship with another company, would you take a gift to the first meeting?” A clear majority of Britain people said “No”, while a majority of Chinese people said “Yes”.

  • Among chocolates, flowers, alcohol and other items, relatively a large percentage of Chinese preferred alcohol, while most Britain people chose locally produced products from their home countries or gifts with their company logos or symbols on it. That has something to do with another question: “How would you assess the value of an appropriate gift?” Fifty percent Chinese respondents thought the value depends on if he or she expecting a long term business relationship, while nearly 50 percent (48.5%) British people would like to give a token gift with their company logo or symbol on it.

  • When being asked to place the following choices--- age, gender of nationality of the recipient--- in order of importance in gift-giving, Chinese respondents as well as British people put the nationality on the most prominent place, and they also agreed that all of the elements should be taken into consideration. Moreover, both Chinese people and British people thought that the value of the gift is the primary consideration, and then is the color, number and shape.

  • Question 4 asked: “Would you expect any of the following benefits when you give a gift to a business partner?” Both Chinese respondents (75.9%) and British ones (73.2%) stated it would build a relationship with your business partner and ease the opening discussion, only a small minority's toke politeness into consideration.

  • All respondents (either Chinese or British) can't reach common views on what is the best timing for giving a business gift. Some may prefer the time before the first meeting, some may prefer the time when the business is successful. But one thing is unquestionable, that is it depends on the specific business settings.

  • The majority of both Chinese and British respondents thought that the best way to present a business gift is giving it on behalf of their company. But when coming to the question who do you think would be the appropriate recipients---individual (such as a leader) or the team as a whole, 62% Chinese ticked the box of individual and thought it is the important people that make the decision and achievements. Coincidentally, 61% British respondents chose team as the recipient with the intention to show the respect for the efforts of all team members.

  • On the question:” Do you think different national culture influence the custom of giving gift? ”, nearly everyone chose “Yes” without hesitation. They do think different culture influence the gift giving customs.

Discuss on the gift-giving cultures in business between China and UK

Gift giving in the business relationship can be a coin that has two sides. On the one hand, gift giving can be an excellent method to establish a long business relationship. In fact, most business men do not care the actually use the gift, and just have a good feel well when they are receiving a gift. Consequently, it is true that makes us feel good about the person who has given us the gift.

However, on the other hand, if a gift is not appropriate in content or the way of gift giving, it may come into being misapprehend or even break relationships between each other as fast as any other kind of negative action. Inappropriate gift giving usually connects with the form of bribes, or apologies. In a business relationship, any way to gift giving is will look for something in return from the recipient of the gift indirectly or directly. So when one come into contact with the detrimental effects of gifts, it is necessary to avoid them to the one's best abilities.

The following paragraphs will give some suggestions for the successful gift-giving.

If everyone are not familiar with each other, please don not send a group gift. However, if one's business partner is a large company and one work with large numbers of people at that company, giving a group gift is correct. But it is necessary to notice that the recipients should know and work with one another, and then the gift should be sent to a neutral place.

Check serious for mistakes in personal gifts. Personal gifts is great, but there are always has mistakes about the spelling of people's name in the business meeting, so make sure to check --including when the order is being sent out and when the gifts come in. There is nothing more disappointing than a misspelled name even when the employee is given the gift.

If a person is accepted a gift, there is no need to give in return. But do make sure to acknowledge the gift and thank the giver for his (or her) thoughtfulness.

If the business partner is in other countries, that means, the gift will be sent overseas, at the first, be sure of knowing the local customs and company poilcy first. It is better than you realize to casual give someone or send the wrong gift. In addition, to make sure the recipient would not to pay a tax on the gift, giver should consider ordering their gift locally.

Pay more attention to client's religious, ethical, or medical restrictions in their diets, when give the food as a gift. For example, there is a minority in China; pig is a venerated symbol, so pig is forbidden as a food.

Do not forget the assistants, in particular the clients' assistants will appreciate the fact that will be remembered, and so will their bosses.

Do not give gifts to former clients. Doing so will undoubtedly be seen as an attempt to win back their business. If one must send something, send a card, but not for more than one year after the termination of the relationship.

Keep a detailed list of gifts that one has presented, and the names of recipients. Duplicating gifts shows lack of thoughtfulness. At the same time, keep a detailed list of gifts which have received. This is very helpful when preparing acknowledgement letters and it is a good way to evaluate relationships.

Provide cultural training for employees who are responsible for making gift selections, and work with cultural experts that can make suggestions, or review the corporate gift giving programs. 

Finally, it is need to admit that gift giving in the workplace is a truly art. To give gifts mindlessly is to risk damage to a career. But to master gifts that send appropriate signals---that can carry intelligence and warmth---is to leave impressions that can only serve to improve relationships in the workplace.


As explained throughout the paper, every country and organization faces certain universal problems. A nation's culture is expressed in the way people within it approach these dilemmas. This part explains how Intercultural competence can be got by knowing cultural differences, respecting them and reconciling them. People can stop intercultural conflicts by learning about cultures that they come in connect with. This knowledge can be obtained through training programs, general reading, talking to people from different cultures, and learning from past experiences. The important part of cultural education is understanding one's own culture and developing cultural awareness by acquiring a broad knowledge of values and beliefs of other cultures, rather than looking at them through stereotypes.

1.) Knowing Cultural Differences

Cultivating awareness of cultural differences is the first step to harmonious cultural dilemmas.

Cultural awareness, then, is the understanding states of mind of one's own culture and those of the people one meets. One can never be fully informed, since there is an infinite range of potential errors, but the five dimensions of culture explained above provide a frame of reference for analyzing ways in which people attribute meaning to the world around them.

2.) Respecting Cultural Differences

An initial step towards developing respect for cultural differences is to look for situations in which people would behave like a person from another culture. This is what helped a member of the purchasing department of a big Britain company who will exchange a gift with a Chinese company.

Respect is most effectively developed once people realize that most cultural differences are in themselves, even if they have not recognized the differences. For example, Britains often think that the Chinese are mysterious, even unreliable. They never understand what Chinese are feeling or thinking and Chinese always say “yes”, even when they are negative about something. But Britains do have situations in which the same happens to them. If their own child has given a rather nervous and halting performance in her first perform in a school concert but must go on again after the interval, Britains might well say “Wonderful, darling” to give her confidence, even though they do not actually believe her performance was good.

The globe has become a village, and like a village, its citizens can communicate with one another quickly and inexpensively. But for all technological advances in communication, people still have miles to go before they resolve cultural barriers to do business abroad. In short, they may share much of the same information and technology with other nations, but they do not share the detailed knowledge of other cultures. Unlike rapid changes in chip technologies, cultures based on thousands of years of development are slow to change. When people do business in foreign countries, they will be dealing with others rooted in a different cultural tradition as we have showed in this paper.

However, it should be mentioned that not all people in a culture behave the same way. Therefore, values and behaviors of a particular culture may not be the values and behaviors of all the individuals within the culture. The cultural characteristics presented in this paper are only general tendencies.

Moreover, culture is not unconditionally stationary; it is developing constantly over time, as people learn and know the words, languages, and ideas of other cultures. In the context of global economy, more and more culture is being impacted by the increased opportunities for interaction between different cultural groups. Therefore, a successful businessman should be flexible when dealing with those from different cultures.


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