The Culture of Business Cards in Asia

When I was in the US a couple of weeks ago, I noticed very few people willingly exchanged business cards, and on a couple of occasions when I offered my business card, people looked at me like I was a little bit weird – not unusual for me :). Then I noticed this article doing the rounds on social media this week – “The Era of Business Cards Is Dead” – which was featured on .Inc. It made me wonder if this is still the case in Asia?

From what I am seeing, I don’t believe it is – not yet at least.

Handing out business cards in most of Asia is still a very ritualistic process, and it’s a deeply respectful part of doing business – which is why you never EVER throw it across the table at someone – something I’ve seen people do and it always makes me wince. You not only hand over your business card flat, name facing up, while holding it with two hands, but you also receive another person’s card with two hands at the same time. But it’s not over yet. Once you receive a card, you must spend a moment actually reading it and even better – offer a compliment about the information you are reading.

When I first came to Asia, I found the physical hand-over quite difficult to manage, so I watched and learned. I discovered the trick is not to have anything in your hands, which can be hard when you’ve just arrived and everyone wants to hand you their card before you disrobe or even have time to set up your laptop/tablet/notebook/get-your-pen-out-of-your-bag, etc..! Tip, don’t be late, which is also important in much of Asia… but not in Singapore, everyone is late in Singapore.

Content marketing AsiaHowever, it’s not only the giving and receiving of cards that is important, you must then place them on the table – usually aligned with where the people are sitting. When the meeting is over, you collect the cards and respectfully place them in a suitable card carrying device and please, don’t go stingy on your card holder – quality brands always get the nod of approval in Asia.

The important thing here is do not randomly shove them in a pocket when the meeting is over – it’s very bad form.This isn’t just me, I found this article and this one which is essentially saying the same thing and speaks more about the protocols.

I haven’t seen this culture change in the last decade working in Asia and I wonder if it will? Yes people can find you online easier than ever before, but there is something significant around business cards in this region that doesn’t seem to be changing – a culture with respect very much at its core.

So my question to you – do you think Asia is changing in regards to business card traditions? Or like most change, perhaps we have to wait for the younger generation to discover an equally respectful process for new meeting introductions (if they want to stick with formality of course, which I think they will) and in the process, they can contribute to environmental concerns as well? If we look at how smart phones are evolving, this could certainly be the answer. I can see us bowing as we NFC each other’s details.

With all that said, there is a bonus to business card culture that I really appreciate – it’s great to be able to see people’s names, in writing, when I’m meeting them for the first time. In this region, the names are often so complex, the added guidance is definitely appreciated.

What are you seeing – do you think the era of the business cards is dead in Asia?



Business card template courtesy Shutterstock

3 thoughts on “The Culture of Business Cards in Asia”

  1. I think it is alive and well. Ironically enough when I was in the US earlier this month I handed over a business card with two hands (13 years working in Asia has to rub off) and was surprised to get told that I must spend a lot of time in Asia, so even in the US there still may be life in the business card yet

  2. Pingback: Asia-Pacific customers’ different needs demand different AR

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