When forming business relations with Hongkongers you should familiarise yourself with their business etiquette.
6 April 2014| Last updated on 28 June 2017
This guide is to help expats or people who travel to Hong Kong on business with the common courtesies showed during business dealings. Hong Kong is a multi cultural place and the most important point is business is to make money, however due to the strong Chinese ties it is good to know some traditional business etiquette that will help to propel your business dealings. When stepping into a business meeting it is important to note that in Chinese culture an individual’s actions, prestige, education, wealth and reputation reflect positively or negatively on his business and thus on his company too.
Meeting and Greeting
Always shake hands – even though the traditional greeting in Chinese culture is a bow, for the purposes of business a handshake will suffice. When greeting shake hands with everyone, the handshake may not be as firm as the handshakes in the Western world.
Note that higher-ranking persons will be introduced first. The culture is hierarchical, so if you are making the first move ensure that you greet the most important person first.
Greet everyone by his or her title, and continue to do so until you are told to use his or her first name. If you do not know their title, just use Mr. or Mrs. followed by their surname. Chinese names have two parts; the family name, which comes first, and the given name that follows.
It is considered polite to spend the first few minutes of the meeting enquiring after a person’s health, family or activities. This helps build a trustworthy foundation.
Avoid any physical contact, apart from the handshake. While the Chinese may stand intimately close to each other when speaking, they are not comfortable with physical contact. Be aware not to pat anyone on the back or shoulder during your business dealings.
Women can cross their legs in a business meeting, however men are encouraged to keep both feet firmly planted on the ground.
Appointments should be made well in advance and holiday periods, especially around the Chinese New Year, should be avoided. Most offices are open from 9am – 5pm Monday to Friday, during other times of the year.
Punctuality is expected; do not be late to your appointment. However if you are late, a 30-minute courtesy time is sometimes given. However it is considered very rude to arrive late.
Always bring a lot of business cards to a meeting, ensure that one side is printed in English and the other side is in Chinese. Present and accept business cards with both hands, and always inspect business cards with interest when you receive them. Ensure that you put any business cards that you have received in a business card holder or wallet carefully.
Negotiation may take time, and building relationships over a number of meetings may help you reach your business goals.
Generally in meetings a YES may not necessarily mean an agreement; it is used to say ‘I hear you’. Always use language with the utmost diplomacy and avoid saying NO, instead say ‘I will try’ or ‘it may be difficult’.
Tea is often served during meetings. Ensure that you do not take the first sip, the host should. If the host leaves his tea untouched, this signals the end of the meeting.