WORKING ABROAD / JUL. 04, 2014
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How to Master Business Etiquette in Hong Kong

If your job requires conducting business in Hong Kong, you might await your trip with great anticipation. This is an opportunity to explore a different region and culture. However, business culture can vary worldwide. Therefore, it's important that you're adaptable and familiar with local customs before arriving. From greetings to gift-giving, here's how you leave a lasting impression when conducting business in Hong Kong. 

Greeting and Meetings

  • A light handshake is the customary business greeting in Hong Kong. When offering a greeting, your host may lower his eyes as a sign of respect. You don't have to adhere to this greeting; however, you should avoid prolonged eye contact.
  • Your Hong Kong colleague will have three names. His surname and two personal names. Always use titles or surnames when addressing a professional, unless given permission to use his first name. 
  • Since many businesses in Hong Kong are family owned, personal relationships are important. Therefore, expect your Hong Kong colleagues to engage in small talk before getting down to business. Your colleague may ask questions that are considered personal in your country. Do not be offended.
  • Business professionals in Hong Kong are direct communicators. However, to avoid any confrontation during meetings, they may not openly say no, and they may use non-verbal cues when communicating.
  • If your colleague sucks air through his teeth while you're stating your position, this indicates that he doesn't like what you're saying. To remain on good terms, you can adjust your position.
  • Silence is a way of communicating in Hong Kong. Therefore, don't feel awkward if your colleague is silent for a minute during a business meeting. 
  • It is customary to set an appointment when meeting with a Hong Kong colleague. Typically, these professionals require one to two months notice. Do not schedule a meeting during the Chinese New Year between late January and early February.
  • It is important to arrive on time for meetings. Since the streets in Hong Kong are extremely crowded, make sure you leave your hotel early.
  • When meeting with Hong Kong colleagues, your superior should lead the group and introduce him or herself first.
  • Be patient when negotiating. It's a slow process in Hong Kong. To maintain a good business relationship with your host, do not use high-pressure tactics, and your offer should be flexible and open to negotiation. Also, it's important to maintain your composure during the meeting. Losing your temper or getting upset can damage the business relationship.
  • Decisions are not made on the spot. The higher ups in the company will review all the details and make a decision later. 
  • Business professionals in Hong Kong may use an astrologer or a Feng Shui practitioner to determine the signing date on business contracts. In fact, many people in Hong Kong will not conduct business without a Feng Shui consultant.

Business Cards

  • Use both hands when exchanging business cards. The exchange happens after the initial introduction. The typeface should face your colleague.
  • It is customary to have one side of the business card translated in your language, and the other side translated with Chinese characters printed in gold. The card should also include your title.
  • You should treat the business card with respect. Therefore, look over the card before placing it in your wallet or case, and do not write anything on the business card. It is also important that your business cards are clean and in good condition.

Business Dining

  • Do not blow your nose at a business dinner. This is considered rude. 
  • When arriving to a business dinner, wait for the host to offer you a seat. During business meetings, the guest of honor sits opposite the host. The host will also tell everyone when to begin eating. 
  • It is customary to try everything on the food tray. Also, you should not refuse tea or other drinks including alcohol. If you do not drink alcohol, it's appropriate to participate in the host's toast. It's tradition for the host to offer the first toast.
  • If you're unsure how to respond at a business dinner, follow your host's lead.
  • Burping at dinner is a compliment. 
  • Leaving a small amount on your plate indicates that you have finished eating.

Gift-Giving

  • Do not be offended if your colleague refuses your gift. It's the local custom to refuse a gift one or two times before accepting it.
  • Appropriate gifts include a souvenir from your country, such as candy, beverages or food. Gifts to avoid include clocks, handkerchiefs, sharp objects, or any gift that is white, black or blue. These colors indicate mourning. Also, since four is an unlucky number, do not bring four gifts.
  • Always wrap a gift before presenting it.
  • If you're meeting with a government employee, do not bring a gift. They might view this as a bribe.
  • Use both hands to accept or give gifts. When receiving gifts, immediately thank the giver and set the gift aside. Do not open the gift in his or her presence. Avoid cheap and overly expensive gifts.

Business Attire

Appropriate business attire for men includes conservative, lightweight suits and ties. Women typically wear conservative dresses, skirts, blouses and suits. Since the residents are style conscience, it's recommended to wear a good watch.

A business trip to Hong Kong might be the trip of a lifetime. For that matter, don't let unfamiliarity with the culture ruin your visit, or damage the relationship with your host.

 

Image Credit: LuxLife

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