The business culture in Hong Kong differs from the European and the Western cultures under many aspects. Before concluding a business partnership or accepting to work in a Hong Kong company, people are advised to investigate the business culture of the city. Things like behavior, dress code and etiquette are quite important in Hong Kong. Knowing the business and etiquette particularities will smooth the transition to doing business in Hong Kong for expats who are locating their new business in the city.
We invite you to watch a short video that summarizes some of the business environment characteristics in Hong Kong:
General etiquette in Hong Kong’s business environment
The business culture in Hong Kong means great respect for hierarchy which is why at a first appointment greeting business partners starting with the senior member in the company’s management structure is quite important. Foreign investors must also mind their behavior, as Asian businessmen put a great price on patience and politeness. In the Asian business culture, physical contact must be kept to a minimum, the handshake being usually the single type of contact businesspeople in Hong Kong agree with.
Foreign citizens must also know that the most employed addressing formula in Hong Kong is a person’s title and surname. The dress code and body language are also important when interacting with businessmen in Hong Kong. When doing business with Chinese businesspeople in Hong Kong you may find that they use a Western name to make it easier for foreigners to address them.
In Hong Kong, businesspeople will usually dress in neutral colors and have a conservative style. Men will often wear black suits and ties while women will also generally adopt a relatively restrained color pattern. It also helps to know in that in the Hong Kong business culture, colors have different meanings: for example, red is considered lucky while white is traditionally used as a color for mourning. You can “dress for good luck”.
As in the Chinese culture, giving a gift is part of the business culture in Hong Kong. There is no need for expensive gifts but significant ones. Some gifts are better avoided, such as clocks and it is recommended that expats pay attention to the customs surrounding the Chinese New Year, such as a small gift of money to individuals you deal with on a regular basis. The name of this gift, “lai see”, literally means “good luck” (and the money is given in a red envelope).
Discovering the dining rituals in the Chinese culture is an important part of the overall experience. Foreign businesspeople are excused if their use of the chopsticks is less than perfect. Toasting is common and all guests are expected to drink.
Meetings in the Hong Kong business culture
Foreign investors engaged in business relationships with Hong Kong partners are strongly advises to schedule an appointment in advance. The meeting etiquette may differ depending on the type of Hong Kong company foreign businessmen are in relations with. Discussions must be conducted in a very polite manner and supported with facts and figures. It is also important to discuss all matters with the senior person in the room. In the Hong Kong business, culture negotiations will most likely take some time as all facts need a comprehensive consideration. A businessman in Hong Kong will put great value on his image, thus, loss of temper, outbursts, causing confrontations or embarrassment have the potential to ruin a business negotiation.
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