In Eastern Asia, excitement is building as nations prepare to celebrate for a new Zodiac year. Chinese New Year, celebrated on February 16, 2018, brings families together for festivals and feasts during the biggest holiday in many Asian cultures. It holds special  meaning tied to the Zodiac cycle.

The Zodiac Cycle is a 60-year period based on 12 animal years and 5 element years, each associated with unique meaning. If you’re a business professional traveling to China during New Year’s celebrations, take note that 2018 is the year of the Earth Dog. Whether you’re familiar with Zodiac signs or not, it’s important to remember that the calendar is not merely superstition, but a historic tradition at the heart of East Asian culture. Thought to forecast the business climate for the next year, the animals and elements are associated with various characteristics that guide actions and attitudes in Asian business. In 2018, the Earth Dog holds special importance in the workplace, so be familiar with how this may impact your professional relationships.

1. Down to Business: Historically considered a work animal, the Dog is known for its boundless energy and industrious disposition. Accordingly, the Year of the Dog is associated with rejuvenated determination (juexin) and energy (qìlì)in the workplace, increased productivity, and greater reactivity. As Chinese businesses dive into the new year, begin your international endeavours with similar enthusiasm and contribute as much as possible to the rising momentum.

2. Act with Integrity: According to Chinese Zodiac experts, the Dog traditionally symbolizes zhongcheng (loyalty) and zhengzhi (integrity), two qualities reinforced by the stabilizing force of the Earth element. It is equally important to maintain mian zi, or “face,” which involves praising and giving respect to others, as well as avoiding committing shameful acts. Many predict that this will lead to increased social activism, concern for workers’ rights, citizens demanding change for themselves and for posterity. As an international business professional, be receptive to concerns regarding the integrity of your business endeavor, including the work environment, communications, and financial exchanges.

3. New Connections: As anyone with a canine companion knows, the Dog is a sociable, friendly animal keen on meeting new people. Likewise, many consider the Year of the Dog a time to network and connect with new associates. The Chinese highly value guanxi, the concept of a mutually beneficial social network founded upon reciprocity and interdependence. As you forge new business connections during your travels, be sure to uphold proper cultural protocol for a long lasting relationship founded on trust and mutual respect. This means translating one side of your business card into Mandarin, making connections through a mutual associate, and using honorifics and titles when addressing elders or superiors.

As the Year of the Dog kicks off across China and around East Asia, be mindful of the cultural significance of the Zodiac calendar and the ways it may impact your projects. From all of us at Access to Culture, we wish you a joyous and prosperous Chinese New Year!

Sharon Schweitzer and Amanda Alden co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary seriesConfucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, and the National Business Journals. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business,  Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards 

Amanda Alden is an intercultural research assistant with Access to Culture. She graduated with honors from St. Edward’s University with a major in Global Studies and a minor in French, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Intercultural Mediations at l’Université de Lille III. Feel free to connect with Amanda at on LinkedIn.

Photo: William Starkey