Ethnic groups: 98 percent Han, two percent Taiwanese aborigines
Language: Mandarin Chinese and Taiwanese
Capital: Taipei City
Currency: New Taiwain dollar (TWD or NT$)
National holidays: Founding of the Republic of China and New Year’s Day (Jan 1), Chinese New Year (Jan 23), Peace Memorial Day (Feb 28), Tomb-Sweeping Day (Apr 5), Labour Day (May 1), Dragon Boat Festival (varies but usually in May) Mid-Autumn Moon Festival (varies but usually in October), National Day (Oct 10)
Business hours: Banks: Monday to Friday, 9am to 3,30pm, offices Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, shops all week 10am to 9pm
There are two official languages in Taiwan – Mandarin Chinese and Taiwanese. English is not widely used in the country, and if it is used, the level at which it is spoken may not be too high. It is highly unlikely that owners or managers of smaller businesses will speak much, if any, English.
Much like in China, people do not always speak literally as the Taiwanese see it as impolite to openly disagree with what someone is saying, so take anything other than a definite ‘yes’ with a pinch of salt.
Many businesses in Taiwan are family-owned SMEs, usually run by an older, male family member, who will be responsible for the majority of decisions. The owner/manager will, like in Chinese businesses, take an almost paternal interest in his staff, which is likely to apply both in and out of the workplace. There is less focus on protocol and procedure in Taiwan than in other Asian countries –the emphasis lies on getting the job done, rather than how to get it done.
Taiwan is highly male-dominated – even women with qualifications tend to have only junior roles in business. Foreign businesswomen can, however, expect to receive much respect although they may see Taiwanese employees deferring to their male colleagues as men are assumed to be the decision-makers.
When doing business with a Taiwanese company it is standard to attend a series of meetings, the first of which will not usually be devoted to business matters but to getting to know each other. Business meetings are usually very formal – the two managers or owners will sit directly opposite each other, with staff members either side of them. Your comments must always be addressed to the person in charge, regardless of language barriers.
Unlike in the majority of Asian cultures, business meetings in Taiwan may occasionally become heated, although if this does occur it should never be referred back to later.
As in China and Japan, gift giving is part of the ritual of business. Avoid expensive gifts in the early stages – if presenting an expensive gift hand it to the person in charge as a gift for the entire group. If giving individual gifts ensure that the manager/owner’s is slightly more impressive. They are usually refused two or three times and rarely opened in front of the giver. Gifts must always be wrapped.
People in Taiwan are usually group-oriented and will normally work well together. A senior team member should always be appointed to give instructions – they should remain closely involved with the team and project from start to finish.
Business wear varies throughout Taiwan, but it is best to stick to smart clothing. Women should only ever wear trousers on informal occasions. Remember that the weather tends to be very hot in summer and extremely cold in the winter.