Business cards are treated with great respect. To Asians especially, they reflect the dignity and importance of a person and the person’s organization. They are often carried conveniently in a special case in one’s coat pocket, where they stay neat and clean. They should not be carried where they will become soiled or crumpled, or in a place from which they cannot easily be produced.
If the first language of a country you plan to visit is not your own, it may be a good idea to arrange to have your cards translated and printed on one side in that language. While English will often be sufficient, the country’s own language is recommended in particular for China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam .
You should arrange for the translation and printing of your business cards long before a trip. Although cards can be printed quickly and inexpensively in an overseas city after your arrival there (your hotel could assist you in finding a translator and printer), you might be able to obtain better printing and a more accurate translation at your home base. If your home is in or near a large city, you will easily find printing and translating firms that can provide these services.
If not, you will need to obtain the cards from firms elsewhere, but you can order and review proofs of the cards by telephone and fax. Your efforts might cost you several hundred dollars, but it will be a worthwhile investment in establishing valuable Asia- Pacific business relationships. Moreover, unless you change the name or location of your business, the translation costs will be a one-time expense.
Apart from size, which is quite uniform throughout the region, business cards come in all sorts of styles and quality. Some are printed on thick paper, some on thin paper, some on white paper, some on colored paper – although the standard color is white. Wide varieties of typeface are also used, and while some cards are engraved, some are of standard print, and others have raised type.
Logos often appear on Asia-Pacific business cards, if the person’s organization has a logo. Titles are especially important and should be stated clearly. If you have positions in different organizations, you might need more than one card. However, in Taiwan it is customary to indicate positions with other organizations on one card, the card of your primary organization. Academic degrees should be indicated, if appropriate to the person’s work or helpful in suggesting a proper honorific (for example, “Ph.D.” indicates that the person should be addressed as “Dr.”). For cards used in those less developed Asian countries where educators are held in high regard, such as China, Indonesia, and Thailand , academic degrees are indicated even if they have no relevance to the person’s work.
In selecting a business card, you should not scrimp on quality. Use expensive paper and an expensive printing process. Stick with a white heavy stock paper (a thicker paper will convey substance and quality) and black printing ink, except for any colors associated with your logo. Expensive touches, such as engraved printing, gold edging, or embossing, will also be appreciated (raised print, however, is now recognized to be inexpensive).
This excerpt is reprinted, with permission, from The Executive Guide to Asia-Pacific Communications