How to ensure your business cards are ready for an Asian audience | Asian Business Culture

Ensure that your business cards are ready for an Asian audience with these three tips.

Must read: Why business cards are essential in Asia
1) Localise, localise, localise

If there’s one way to impress, it’s to hand your counterpart a business card in their own language. It shows that you’ve made the effort to cater to them, which in any culture is always a positive trait.

While companies are always looking to cut costs, having a professional translator provide you with a proper translation is essential. While Google Translate may be tempting and free, you do get what you pay for, with the internet providing plenty of examples where the tool (and indeed any automated tool) has failed hilariously and miserably.

At a bare minimum, translate your rank and department. Again, this will provide your Asian counterpart with the context in which they can determine your place in the hierarchy, and how important you are.

A professional translator will be able to use the right words to accurately describe what most closely corresponds with your roles and responsibilities in that culture. Again, we may be tempted to reach for a dictionary, but without the context, we may be choosing the wrong word.

First and last names are not always easy to transliterate – Japanese and Thai is easier, but there could be challenges with Chinese transliterations given that the characters used, put together incorrectly, could have unintended consequences. Be practical and keep it in English if your translator recommends you do so.

From a printing perspective, a double sided name card works best as they automatically become dual use. During my tenure with Toyota, I had two sets of double-sided name cards – one in English and Thai for use in Thailand, and one in English and Japanese for use in Japan. Both could be used for English speakers.

2) Don’t be cute: use your real title

There is a trend in Western business culture to flatten the hierarchies and downplay one’s rank. This would probably backfire in an Asian context. Rank inflation is plentiful, and I have seen companies create additional ranks so that people feel good that they are being promoted on a regular basis.

Humour does not translate well across cultures.
Using playful titles, such as “Chief Entertainment Officer”, while friendly in some Western business cultures, will most likely not translate well to those who are not well versed in Western humour. Recently, there was a case of an Australian business owner visiting a Chinese company to discuss business. When visiting China, he handed out his name card which gave his name and the position of “Truck Driver”. While this works in the Australian culture of mateship and lowering one's status, this would be lost on the Chinese and you would risk leaving a bad impression.

Use your real title. If you’ve been given authority to act as a director and make decisions, make sure the title on your name card reflects that even if it requires some artificial rank inflation.

3) Have a professional and conservative design

It’s always safer to go for more a more traditional design with safe fonts and colours. Your translator may be able to assist you with this in order to recommend appropriate and inappropriate colours – each culture has a different affinity and meanings to the same colour. Black, while in the West may signify prestige, actually signifies death and mourning in Chinese influenced cultures (such as Japan and Korea, in addition to China itself).

Business card sizes are also slightly different around the world. While not essential, it’s always nice to have a card which matches the size normally expected in that country, for ease of storage. Wikipedia has a good section on standard sizes in multiple countries.

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With these tips, you should be well prepared to doing business in Asia. Don’t forget to bring more than you think you need: you’ll be giving out a lot more than you would normally do at home.

Photo credit: Urs Jaudas



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K Bulsuk: Full Speed Ahead: How to ensure your business cards are ready for an Asian audience | Asian Business Culture
How to ensure your business cards are ready for an Asian audience | Asian Business Culture
Ensure that your business cards are ready for an Asian audience with these three tips.
K Bulsuk: Full Speed Ahead
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