BSI - Business Strategies International

Business Etiquette Tips for the Asia Pacific Region

Tips on how to handle names, business cards, small talk, local interest, and self-promotion.

David James


Tips on How To Handle:



Many young Westerners, especially Americans, have the habit of addressing everyone by first name. Businesses should train their people to avoid this practice. In a business environment, even in Western societies, it is better to address people by their family names, or with a suitable honorific such as “Sir” or “Madam,” unless invited by them to use a given name.

Business Cards

Westerners who travel often to Asia, especially Southeast Asia and China , and who have advanced academic degrees should list their degrees on their business cards after their names. Asians should omit their degrees on business cards that they use in Western countries unless the degrees are relevant to their business.

Small Talk

Westerners making small talk with Asians in correspondence, on the telephone, or face to face will find that topics relating to their own education or that of their children will strike a responsive chord. On the other hand, Asians will find that such topics soon wear thin with Westerners.

Local Interest

In your communications with others in the Asia-Pacific, look for opportunities to show that you know and appreciate some distinctive attributes of their countries. For example, in a visit to a Singaporean, Malaysian, or Indonesian, you might comment that you are interested in the opportunities presented by the Riau Island group’s three-country “Growth Triangle”


Asians are uncomfortable with people who “toot their own horns.” One way of communicating your achievements without bragging about them is to let others sing your praises. When arranging an introduction to a person with whom you hope to do business, make certain that your introducer is well briefed on the accomplishments of you and your organization. Also, supply copies of favorable news articles and commentaries about you and your organization.  

–This excerpt is reprinted, with permission, from The Executive Guide to Asia-Pacific Communications

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