Global Business Etiquette: Hong Kong

Hong Kong business etiquette

Hong Kong's fast pace and unique blend of East and West make it one of the world's most exciting places to do business.  However, these very same qualities make etiquette all the more confusing for those entering the market for first time, making it even more important to do your research ahead of time.  Check out our top tips below and you'll be ready in no time!

Arranging Meetings-When arranging meetings, make appointments months in advance, and be punctual. This is typical of most places, except that in Hong Kong there are few exceptions for late comers. However, offering a little grace in reverse will go a long way should your Hong Kong counterpart not make the arranged time.

Greetings-Shake hands with everyone.  it is standard protocol that higher-ranking official will be introduced to you first, but greeting each person in the room is necessary and a sign of respect.  It is not unusual for you to be asked about your health as this is not considered overly personal in Hong Kong.  Feel free to do the same yourself.

Business Cards-Be prepared to exchange business cards at greetings.  For best results, offer a card that's printed in English on one side and Cantonese on the other.  Always offer the Chinese side up to your host.

Negotiations- While few Westerners would expect food at important negotiations, in Hong Kong, discussions won't start before the tea is served. Never drink before your host, but not sipping at all is a sign that negotiations are over.  Don't like tea? Consider it the price of doing business.

Yes and No-Less direct and unwilling to offend, Hong Kong business people will rarely flat-out tell you "no." While you may want a direct response, that could be considered rude in Hong Kong.  On the flip side, a "yes" doesn't always mean an affirmation or agreement.  Rather, it's more of an "I'm listening to you," or "I hear you," not necessarily "I agree."

Opening an Office-First deal was smooth as butter and you're ready to open an office in Hong Kong? Don't even think about it without first consulting a Feng Shui expert, someone who will help you pick a location, optimal move-in dates, and even how to decorate the office. What's at work here is a belief that things in their wrong spaces won't agree with spiritual forces, bringing bad luck, poor health, and unhappiness. Find a reputable person and follow their advice where you believe in it or not.