Joe Han, managing broker for Keller Williams Realty in Cupertino listens to a question before directing it to his company's panel of Asian REALTORS® (left to right) Harvey Young, Mimi Wang, Niru Pujare and Grace Pak.

According to 2010 U.S. Census 2010 data, Asian Americans were the fastest growing ethnic or racial group in California, rising 31.5 percent since 2000. In fact, Cupertino’s proportions of Indian and Chinese Americans are the highest in Santa Clara County. This is why Joe Han, managing broker with Keller Williams Realty in Cupertino, decided to introduce SILVAR members to a panel of Asian American REALTORS® from his office. At a Cupertino/Sunnyvale District tour meeting this month, the panel with Harvey Young, who is Chinese American; Mimi Wang, Vietnamese American; Niru Pujare, Indian; and Grace Pak, Korean American, shared their respective backgrounds, the role their culture plays in business, and practical tips to use when dealing with Asian American clients.

Han explained the Asian culture is probably the most difficult culture to understand because it has many subgroups. While the subgroups share some general traits, they also have their own distinct values and beliefs.

Traits shared by Asians are their sense of courtesy and hospitality. They value social relationships and form them before business relationships. Young said it’s a way of developing trust between business partners. In the Asian culture, trust means everything in business. With Indians trust goes so far that most Indian clients will only work with people they know, so referral is always best, Pujare noted.

Asians are very family-oriented; extended family is considered just as important. When a couple brings many family members to see a house, it is just as important to pay attention to them, especially the elders. It is also common for parents to financially contribute toward the purchase of a home for their children, said Wang. In some instances, the parents will have the final say.

Greeting clients can differ across the Asian subgroups. Pay attention to receiving and presenting business cards. Hand your business card and receive their business card with both hands while facing them. Never write on the business card or place the card in your back pocket.

Chinese Americans shake hands, but Vietnamese and Koreans bow to the elderly and make no eye contact. Pujare said Indian clients from the city may shake a woman’s hand, but if they come from a small town, they are more conservative and will not shake hands with a woman.

Young said when it comes to negotiation and decision making, among Chinese Americans the person making the most money usually makes the decisions. Wang said among the Vietnamese the husband makes the decisions, but the wife and parents have a big impact. Pujare said in the Indian culture the wife chooses the home, but the husband makes final decisions regarding money.

Asians have a strong sense of faith, but are also superstitious and pay attention to numbers, colors, and the principles of Feng Shui. When presenting a gift, a practice in many Asian cultures, do not give knives, a clock or scissors because these items signify death, cautioned Wang. Pak said Koreans will say no when initially presented with a gift, but continue to offer until the client takes it. Also, when dining with clients, Koreans take the lead from the eldest in the group.

Colors do not have the same meaning to all Asians. To the Chinese, the color red means good luck; to Koreans, it means mourning or death. White for most Asians signifies death and is worn at funerals, while black can be worn to weddings. The color purple is not worn to happy events because it is a sign that happiness “won’t last.”

The numbers 3 and 7 are lucky for Koreans and 9 means long life, so pricing an item $99.99 is good, said Pak. Young said the Chinese believe 8 is a lucky number and 4 is an unlucky number because the pronunciations of these numbers sound like words that mean wealth and death, respectively. He said many Chinese avoid the digit 4 in their phone number and home address, so don’t be surprised if they ask you to change a house number or a document that has this page number.

Pujare said Asian Indians don’t attach meaning to colors and numbers, but they are particular about direction. Don’t bother showing Indian clients a house that faces south; if it faces east then that’s all right, she said. Pak said Koreans are amenable to having a living area in the south, but they will not like a home if the stairway is by the bathroom, or if the stove is across from the sink because “fire and water don’t mix.”

See more tips in Han’s presentation “Better Understanding of Asian American Cultures.”