The Mini Guide to Effective Small Talk

2 min read.

Wondering what to speak about when you meet a business leader from China? It is always good to arm yourself with a few good hot topics regarding the country when you converse with someone at a networking session. Knowing the topics may not be sufficient, you will need to be able to elaborate on them to create good first impressions. 

We have prepared a list of topics and in accompaniment, a few good facts to keep the conversation going! Here is our mini guide to small talk. 

All-Time Safe Topics:

Uniquely-flavored ice cream in China. (Photo: The Beijinger)
  1. Food: One of the most common greetings in China is “ni chi fan le ma?” which literally means “have you eaten yet?” This emphasizes the importance of eating in China especially since dining with someone is more often treated as a social event. The Chinese society cherishes group and social activities, any success is regarded as a success for the company, family or the team.

    You may also talk about star-rated restaurants; if it helps, you can refer to those listed on MICHELIN Guide. For instance, if you are in Beijing, these restaurants topped the guide in 2020.

    Three MICHELIN Stars:  Xin Rong Ji (Xinyuan South Road)
    Two MICHELIN Stars: King’s Joy and Shanghai Cuisine

    Otherwise, it would be good for you to bring up simple food. Here is a good review article on ice-cream by The Beijinger. You can even talk about the range of uniquely flavored ice cream — who knew that German black beer, meat floss and seaweed, salted duck egg rice cake dumpling, double egg yolks, Dongbei iron pot and squid-flavoured ice cream existed in Beijing? Nothing beats coming across as a foreigner who is fully immersed in the ‘local’ food culture. You might even amaze your acquaintance!

Travel: It tends to liven up the atmosphere when one talks about travelling. Why not recommend someone to an interesting place you have been before or share with them your bucket list destination? If you are a foreigner, it would be great to bring up how much you like travelling to China for business and leisure.

Internet trends: You can read our articles on live commercetop five livestreaming apps and remote working

Recent Topics:

  1. China’s first Mars exploration (Tianwen-1): In April 2020, China’s space agency revealed the name of its first Mars exploration mission and stated it is on track to take place in the coming months. 

    According to the China National Space Administration (CNSA), the mission has been named “Tianwen 1” —  following the naming of the country’s planetary exploration program “Tianwen,” meaning “quest for heavenly truth.” The program was named after a long poem by ancient Chinese poet Qu Yuan. China completed its first public test of a Mars lander in November last year, keeping the country on track for an unmanned exploration mission to the red planet in 2020.
  1. Domestic brands:  Feel free to bring up a few domestic consumer electronics, apparel, automobile and cosmetics brands in your conversation!

    Chinese consumers are showing a growing preference for domestic brands as the country’s steady economic growth lifts product and service appeal. Baidu reported that searches for domestic brands among total brand searches rose from 38 percent in 2009 to 70 percent in 2019.

    Consumer electronics posted the biggest rise in brand preference during this period, with an army of domestic firms like Huawei and Xiaomi gaining ground at home and overseas. Searches for cultural and entertainment products rose 36 percent in the past decade, marked by the emergence of hit movies like The Wandering Earth.

    Local brands in apparel, automobile, cosmetics and food also saw a growing interest from Chinese consumers, the younger generation in particular. 

Avoid: Politics and religious related discussions