Dressing Abroad: Tips for Designing a Custom Uniform for Chinese Markets

[caption id="attachment_1324" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Chinese Employee in Orange Uniform Image source: Advanceconsultingforeducation.files.wordpress.com[/caption]   Many entrepreneurs are in for a rude awakening when they take their business overseas for the first time. There's a reason why they call it "culture shock" and not "culture comfort." It's hard to pick up on the subtle differences between cultures, and that's especially true for the world of business. We get a pretty good idea of what foreign cultures are like from movies and other media sources, but how often do you get to see board room meetings and business deals between Chinese or Spanish CEOs? We aren't going to get into the subtleties of how low you're supposed to bow to your Japanese business partner, or whether or not it's appropriate to send your Dubai clients thank you cards on the holidays, but we can help you with business attire. Is your blue suit and tie suitable in India? Will your red company uniforms take on a different connotation if you open a franchise in Japan? Let's find out.  


  We'll start with the new kid on the business block. China is so huge right now that your business is probably associated with China in one way or another -- more than likely, your business either uses Chinese parts, relies on Chinese customers, struggles against Chinese rivals, or you've got your eyes set on the lucrative Chinese market.   [caption id="attachment_1325" align="alignnone" width="2834"]Chinese Commerce Infographic Image source: Strangeloopnetworks.com[/caption]  

Be Conservative

  Dressing for a business meeting in China is honestly pretty easy. Don't go overboard, don't break the mold, and don't go for a bizarre fashion statement. Chinese businessmen prefer conservative fashion styles that favor stable blues, blacks, and greys. Dressing correctly is absolutely imperative if you want to become a strong corporate leader and make a winning presentation to Chinese business partners. Sharp formal dress shirts are a must-have for your employees in Chinese office jobs.   [caption id="attachment_1326" align="alignnone" width="4200"]Chinese Businessmen Image source: English.xm.gov.cn[/caption]  


  The Chinese absolutely adore the color red. It's considered a symbol of good luck, happiness, and long life. You can tap into this cultural connotation with your company uniform, but it's important to understand that red isn't always welcome. As I mentioned before, don't ever use red business suits or flashy red dress shirts. You'll stick out like a sore thumb and give potential business partners the wrong impression.   [caption id="attachment_1380" align="alignnone" width="1750"]Dragon at a Chinese Festival Image source: Blog.uchinatravel.com[/caption]   Red is a great color for your Chinese stores or businesses that regularly interact with the public. A lovely red polo shirt would fit in beautifully in retail stores, restaurants, or similar establishments. For example, Apple gave up its cool blue uniforms in favor of custom red t-shirts for their Chengdu store.   [caption id="attachment_1323" align="aligncenter" width="512"]Apple Store in China Image source: technology.inquirer.net[/caption]  


  Be careful with yellow! Chinese people use yellow the same way that Americans use "XXX" to symbolize pornography. That's not to say that you shouldn't use yellow altogether. After all, you'll come across American products that are labeled as "X-treme" without any pornographic connotations. Just be aware that yellow company uniforms might have a double meaning in some situations.  


  Should you wear white? Well, let me put it this way: the picture below is from a Chinese funeral.   [caption id="attachment_1320" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Chinese Wear White at Funerals Image source: Chinahistoryforum.com[/caption]   Chinese people traditionally wear white during funerals, so it's no surprise that white represents death. Avoid white uniforms like your business depends on it. If you're determined to pull off light colors, then you should go with beige or light grey colors instead.  

Hong Kong

  The rules are a little bit different over in Hong Kong. The city is much more westernized than other Chinese cities. You can be a little bit more daring with your business attire, but not by much. An eye-catching red tie or a bold red uniform might impress Hong Kong business partners or customers.   [caption id="attachment_1327" align="aligncenter" width="768"]Red Accents for Chinese Businessmen Image source: Nekdanji-pv.gov.si[/caption]   This is just scratching the surface of China's rich culture and heritage. For a much more in-depth understanding of Chinese colors, check out this infographic.   [caption id="attachment_1328" align="aligncenter" width="612"]Chinese Color Infograhpic Image source: Illuminantpartners.com[/caption]
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