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Visiting Taipei and Business Etiquette in Taiwan

Over its history, Taiwan has had strong ties with both Japan and mainland China. This connection is seen in many Taiwanese business customs and manners, but Taiwan also has its own unique etiquette. From body language to dining manners, learn the proper rules to avoid embarrassing missteps.

At Planet Depos, an international court reporting agency, we cover depositions and arbitrations in Taiwan, including Taipei. Our team can connect you with someone to help with translation and cultural insights when visiting Taipei and other cities in Taiwan.

Visiting Taipei

Taiwanese Business Attire

The Taiwanese place an emphasis on dressing neatly and conservatively. Men tend to wear suits. Women wear conservative business attire, such as a loose skirt and blouse.

Making a good first impression is vital. Avoid wearing t-shirts, jeans, and other casual attire to first meetings.

Even if you are attending a casual activity, dress modestly. Your clothing should be neat, clean, and unwrinkled.

Be Mindful of Your Body Language and Etiquette

  • Do not touch anyone on the shoulders or the top of the head, even a child.

  • Pointing with your index finger is impolite. Instead, point with an open hand.

  • Nervous movements, such as tapping your foot, are considered rude.

  • Winking is considered inappropriate in any situation.

  • In Taiwanese culture, feet are considered dirty. Do not use your feet to point or move an object.

  • When sitting, place your hands in your lap.

  • If you are a man, do not sit with your legs crossed. Instead, place both feet flat on the floor.

  • Showing affection for someone of the opposite sex is inappropriate in public.

  • Accept food and other objects with both hands to indicate respect.

  • Be humble if you receive a compliment.

  • Since family is central in Taiwanese culture, it is polite to inquire about someone’s family.

  • Always act in accordance with saving and giving face. To learn more about saving and giving face, read our article on Korean business etiquette.

Introductions When Visiting Taipei

Visiting Taipei

Introductions are vital for making a good first impression and are also very important in Taiwanese culture. Nodding your head or giving a slight bow is considered polite at a first meeting. Have a third person introduce you, rather than introducing yourself. At a business meeting, you can count on the host to introduce you.

  • If you are in a group, assemble in order of rank. Let the most important or most senior person be introduced first.

  • Greet the person in the most senior position first.

  • Taiwanese people often greet foreigners with a handshake. However, a polite handshake in Taiwan is not as firm as in many other countries. Also, men should wait for women to initiate a handshake.

  • When greeting someone, many Taiwanese look at the ground to show respect. You do not need to follow their example. They understand that westerners tend to smile warmly during introductions.

  • Most greetings include the question, “Have you eaten?” as a polite inquiry.

  • Once the initial introductions are completed, business cards are exchanged.

Taiwanese Names

  • In Taiwan, one’s surname comes before their given name.

  • Titles are vital in Taiwanese culture. If a person has an academic, corporate or government title, address them by that title, followed by their surname. Address people without a title by Mr., Mrs., or Miss followed by their surname, unless you are invited to use their first name.

  • Younger Taiwanese business people might introduce themselves with an English name. Usually, this nickname is a direct translation of their Taiwanese name or a name that sounds similar to their Taiwanese name.

  • Many Taiwanese women keep their maiden name when married. However, children tend to take their father’s surname.

  • Many Taiwanese names have a significant meaning. It is polite to inquire about the meaning of someone’s name.

Business Card Rituals in Taiwan

The ritual of giving and receiving business cards after initial introductions has specific steps that you need to follow to be polite.

  1. Give your card to the recipient using both hands. Make sure to face the Mandarin side toward the recipient.
  2. Receive business cards with two hands and take time to examine them.
  3. Place the card on the table next to you or in a business card case.
  • When you make your business cards, have one side of the card in English and the other side translated into traditional Mandarin, using the traditional script.

  • Respecting a business card shows that you respect the relationship you have with that person. Do not write on, fold, or misplace the cards you are given.

Communication in Taiwan

The Taiwanese value the effect their words have on others. They take great care to avoid saying anything that would hurt a colleague or case them to “lose face.” If they disagree with an idea, they may remain silent.

An in-depth, well-crafted message is vital in Taiwanese culture and business practices. This message may take time to say and is accompanied with gestures and facial expressions.

Unlike countries like the United States and Germany, brevity is not valued. Instead, brevity may be perceived as rude, especially if you provide a lack of context. Since these cultures do not use many hand gestures, the message may be difficult for your Taiwanese counterparts to understand. Be patient and prepared for questions.

Business Meetings

Unlike many other Asian countries, meeting schedules are not highly structured. Although there may be an agenda, it is generally used as a loose guideline. Since relationships are highly valued, some of the meeting might be devoted to discussing families and other non-business topics. Since the Taiwanese care about completing a satisfactory meeting, meetings may go over the scheduled end time.

Gift Giving Etiquette in Taiwan

Like in most countries where you travel for business, it is appreciated if you bring a small gift for the people you are working with in Taiwan. Food, a bottle of high-quality alcohol, or something with your company logo on it are all acceptable gifts. Here are some things to consider when giving gifts in Taiwan:

  • Give gifts to the recipient with both hands to be respectful.

  • When a gift is offered, it might be initially declined. If this happens, politely offer the gift again. But, don’t force the person to take the gift.

  • Gift wrapping is just as important as the gift itself. Take great care when wrapping the gift. Do not wrap gifts in black, blue, or white paper.

  • Do not give an expensive gift unless it is to reciprocate an expensive gift you received.

  • Do not give knives, scissors, or other sharp objects because they can be viewed as wanting to server the relationship with the recipient.

  • Odd numbers and the number four are considered unlucky. So, do not give gifts in these numbers.

  • Do not give white flowers, chrysanthemums, clocks, handkerchiefs, or straw sandals because all these items are associated with death and funerals.

  • Do not give anything that is made in Taiwan; it could be considered a slight.

  • It is rude to open gifts when they are received.

Visiting a Taiwanese Person’s Home

Usually, Taiwanese entertain in public places rather than at home. Being invited to someone’s home is a great honor. Here are some tips on how to behave politely in a Taiwanese person’s home:

  • Bring a small gift to communicate your gratitude.

  • Take off your shoes before entering the house. Wear slippers if the host offers you a pair.

  • Offer a compliment towards something in the host’s home to be polite and “give face.”

  • Always address the people in the house with respect, especially the eldest member of the household.

Dining Manners

Visiting Taipei

  • The oldest person will begin their meal first. The youngest person should not start their meal until everyone older than them has begun eating.

  • Your host may choose food for you and place it on your plate without your request.

  • Place your rice bowl close to your face while eating. Leave plates on the table.

  • When the meal is complete, place you soup spoon on the table, rather than on your plate or bowl.

  • Place chopsticks on the table or across the top of a bowl. Never stick your chopsticks vertically into a bowl.

Learn more about visiting Taipei and the rest of Taiwan. Check out our tips for traveling to Taiwan and depositions in Taiwan.

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