How To Do Business In Asia: Business Card Tips

Posted on May 3, 2016 | 0 comments

How To Do Business In Asia: Business Card Tips

Business cards are the primary tool of introduction, exchanging contact information in the business world, and maintaining networks and customer links. Business cards, in various forms, have been a part of society for over 400 years. Some sources claim that business cards originated in China in the 15th century, but the earliest recordable “visiting cards” were used in Europe in the 17th century.


Business cards are used all over the world and there are basic expectations as to the content that should be on a business card. Nevertheless, there are regional—and often country-specific—differences in both the content details and even more importantly, the etiquette, protocol and customs regarding the presentation of a business card.


Many Western countries casually toss a business card across a table or hand it over and receive the other and stuff it in a pocket or notebook. However, it is significantly different in Asia, and following business card etiquette in Asia is of utmost importance.


Exchanging business cards in Asia

In Asia, business cards are of great significance and convey status. The exchange of business cards is an important formality and it is common practice to exchange them in both formal and informal settings, usually after the initial introduction. Because of their frequent exchange, it is important to carry business cards with you at all times, even if you are seeking volunteer or education opportunities. It is often considered poor form to appear at a social or business event with no business card to share.

What to include

Business cards in Asia, in general, should include your name, title, company affiliation/logo (if you are employed), and contact information, such as address, telephone numbers, fax, email, and web site. References to any acquired academic qualifications, for example, “Dr.” or “Ph.D.” after the name are common in all career professions since titles are very important in most Asian countries.


If you are not currently employed and looking for a job, it is acceptable to give yourself a professional title that reflects your career field on a business card. It can be easy to develop a title by simply listing “consultant” or “specialist” after your career field, such as “Management Consultant” or “Environmental Protection Specialist.”


It is important to have one side of your business card translated into the local language, as a sign of courtesy to potential business partners and those you meet who cannot read your native language.  This implies that you are sincere about respecting their language and culture, and it further demonstrates your intention to have a professional business relationship with them.


Etiquette and protocol for exchanging business cards in Asia

People in Asia respect status and the symbols associated with business cards. Business cards are typically exchanged after the initial introductions and after a little small talk and relationship development.


Always present your business card and receive their business card with both hands (never with just the left hand) and with the local language version side facing up and the typeface towards the recipient. The card should be placed in the hand of the recipient rather than left on a desk or slid across a table to someone. Significant emphasis is placed on the business card and you will be expected to examine it after accepting it and before putting it neatly away – preferably in a cardholder, as this is a sign of respect and an indication as to how you will develop the relationship. Never place it in your back pocket, as this is extremely disrespectful.  At meetings the cards are normally kept in front of you on the table.  Always make sure your cards are in perfect condition as this is a reflection of your character and a mark of respect. It is not usual to write on business cards, especially in front of the person who gave it to you as it may be seen as disrespectful.


Not planning to work? You still need cards!

If you are moving to an Asian country and do not plan to work, such as with a spouse or partner, on an internship, or with a study abroad or volunteer program, you should still have personal “contact cards” made. At the very least, the information on a personal contact card should include your name, email address, and phone number. However, you should research the standard content on contact/business cards in your destination country.


The above information applies especially to China, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand. Additionally, in China, outside of the traditional content, the business card can include a blog address and Skype handle. Due to the strict social hierarchy in Korea, it is usual for business to be discussed and business cards exchanged among people of similar rank. In Singapore, it is also becoming popular to include a photo of yourself on the card.


It is possible to have quality business cards printed in all large Asian metropolitan areas. However, it might be a good idea to have your card translated professionally in order to bridge any cultural gaps your business card might contain.


If you are interested in more detailed additional information about business cards in Asia or about the job search in China, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong or Thailand, please go to




Passport Career provides more detailed career information and extensive resources about networking, finding a job, internship, alternative career opportunities as well as information on writing CVs, cover letters and interviews. If your organization, embassy, university/college, library, or other institution would like access to our country portfolios (15,000+ pages of expert content for 80+ countries and 250+ cities) to share with your students, employees, spouses/partners, and others managing a national or international career transition, please contact us (or email regarding a free, live, online demo and details on how to obtain a license to access Passport Career.

Susan Musich, Executive Director and Founder
Edited by: Anna Sparks, Expert Global Career Consultant

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