It seems like at every whiskey event I attended last year, someone was handing me their business card with both hands. At first I thought, “Well, we’re talking about whiskey, a product deeply prized by Asian cultures as a thoughtful gift. These sales reps have wisely learned Asian customs, hence the two-handed handoff.” But then it spread to other spirits, to wine and Champagne, and then to other industries, such as retail, dining, hospitality—every card given and received with two hands. Not wanting to be an international oaf, lazily lobbing my credentials around with one hand, I consulted an expert.
Ken Wong handles marketing for key Asian players at the Venetian and the Palazzo. He set me straight: “The business card represents you. In order for someone to respect you, you need to respect yourself first. So we give our business card in two hands to show respect for the importance of the business card,” he says. “And receiving with two hands is just a return of the respect, saying ‘Thank you, I respect what you’re giving me.’”
But it’s not limited to business cards. “My team at the front office will receive your credit card with both hands, and we will give you back your credit card, your room key and the property pamphlet with both hands, because when we are giving with two hands, it shows the other person the respect that I have for him or her. So it applies to pretty much everything.” An easy custom to learn and an easier one to adopt in both your professional and personal lives, you certainly won’t insult anyone as the gesture is understood, Wong says, in “Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Japan.” With Lunar New Year fast approaching (Feb. 19), now would be the time to embrace this custom—with two hands, of course.