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Indiana University

Business Card Etiquette

IU Professor Scott Kennedy exchanges business cards with Jin Deshui, Chinese Communist party secretary and vice governor of Zhejiang Province

“Bring lots of business cards. You’ll be handing them out like candy.”

This point was emphasized in the pre-trip reminders before we left – “bring at least 200 business cards.”

In Chinese professional society, it is customary to present your business card – extended out ahead of yourself – when introducing yourself to anyone important. I learned this first-hand on the airplane as we flew between Chicago and Shanghai.

Wearing a hoodie from IU’s Kelley School of Business, waiting to use a lavatory near the back of the plane, I was approached by a gentleman who is the general manager for new projects and “key clients” at company based in an industrial park in Ningbo, a seaport city in northeastern Zhejiang Province.

He wanted to know about Kelley’s online degree programs and more about the school in general.

After answering some fundamental questions, I knew he wanted to exchange cards. I also knew my colleagues at Kelley always appreciate hearing about prospective clients.

In Hangzhou, as we were to introduce ourselves to our hosts from Zhejiang University at a dinner, several of us realized that we’d forgotten our cards in our rooms and rushed to get them. The next day, many cards were exchanged as well.

It simply is what is expected. No one expects to return to Indiana with more than a few business cards.

Even our hotel gives business cards to its guests. They say, in English and Chinese, “Please take me to Hangzhou Jinxi Hotel.” They are for guests to hand to taxi drivers and have a map on them.

One member of our group, while sorting through business cards in his pocket in advance of an important meeting, found the hotel’s card mixed with his own business cards. Thankfully he realized this in time.

We think the people around here likely know where our hotel is.


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it’s good that the chinese provide both language business card. good tactic for my business too

Comment by Joanne on August 4, 2011 6:15 am

Thanks for the introduction to how business cards are used in China. Nice tip from the hotel industry: Make your business card useful to your prospects and clients. Can’t go wrong there.

Thanks and have a great day!
Mark Meyers
Publisher of

Comment by Mark Meyers on September 22, 2011 3:22 am

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