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Hong Kong Business and Work Culture: All you need to know

13 February, 2019

If you are planning to start a new business in Hong Kong, then you must be thinking about its work culture and business etiquette. As a matter of fact, Hong Kong is a vibrant and cosmopolitan state where East meets West, and expatriates from all over the world stay connected with locals and visitors from Mainland China. If you want to make a mark as an entrepreneur in Hong Kong, then you need to understand more about its cultural and ethical world in order to manage your reputation in the competitive business world. Every place has its own cultures, and traditions, similarly, Hong Kong has its own.

Hong Kong Business and Work Culture

Understanding business and workplace culture and etiquette are essential when working as a professional in Hong Kong. Although many of the cultural facets are similar to Western ones, there are a few differentiations that many expats come to determine as distinctively Asian such as Hong Kong business culture, concerning dress code, etiquette, and general behavior to take care of for managing your business in the competitive business market of Hong Kong.

  • Hong Kong Business Culture: Dress Code

The first and foremost thing that you need to learn for the Hong Kong business culture is to dress up appropriately. Well, there is no strict definition of business casual or smart casual. In some contexts, a suit would be expected and in others tailored jeans would suffice. Usually, entrepreneurs in Hong Kong dress fairly conservatively, in black suits, shirts, and ties.

For instance- Ladies prefer to wear knee length and shoulders covered dresses and accessorize conservatively with gold, silver, or pearls. On the other hand, men, stick to long sleeved shirts and dress shoes, ties are often not necessary. Whether you are going for a business dinner party or official meeting, all the business owners are required to wear formal dress code in order to manage their business reputation over their rivals.

Pro Tip- Make sure that you know the exact meaning of various colors while doing business in Hong Kong. Every color has different meanings in the Hong Kong business culture. Particularly, red which is considered a lucky color, while white is a traditional symbol of mourning. Always remember that you are paying enough attention to the meaning of every color when choosing a color scheme for the day.

  • Hong Kong Business Culture: Greetings and General Etiquette

The second thing for maintaining your companies reputation in Hong Kong competitive market is that you need to greet your business contacts with a handshake and a slight bow. Below shared are some kind of handshake that you should know before embarking in the competitive business world.

  • Regardless of gender, and position, make sure that you are standing square to the person you are meeting with feet and shoulders facing them.
  • Make eye contact, smile, and say their name during the introduction (do not look at their hand).
  • Hands should meet at the web, not only at the fingers
  • Avoid doing "the politician" (using both hands) to show your gratitude, and also "the bone crusher" (an overly firm handshake) to show your authority or enthusiasm.

Moreover, make sure that you are addressing every people with their surname and title. For example- You might address someone as "Doctor Kwan". In fact, you will soon come to a certain point while managing your business, where you will realize that several business professionals of Hong Kong use a Western-sounding name so that their western associates can easily pronounce their name perfectly. And never forget to treat your partners with courtesy.

Pro Tip- When being introduced to a group of associates, make sure that you are always greeting the senior member before greeting the others. You can easily figure out the senior member by their title. More importantly, Physical contacts are infrequent in the Hong Kong business culture, remember that you are avoiding physical contact beyond the usual handshake.

  • Hong Kong Business Culture: Meetings and Negotiations

Whether you are arranging a meeting with business contacts or some other business owners have invited you to the conference, make sure that you are intimidating others by booking an appointment with them in advance. You can schedule the appointment through cell phones or emails in order to confirm everything.

As a matter of fact, in the Hong Kong business culture, it is essential to be well-prepared for the conferences and support every statement with some facts and figures. So, always play with your words in such a way that you are presenting yourself more positively. If somehow you are not able to negotiate with your clients, no worry, just try to remain calm and patient. Diplomacy and respect are intangible traits that are highly desirable in the Hong Kong business culture.

Pro Tip- Never throw party or schedule meetings on Easter, Christmas, or around the Chinese New Year, which are all favorite times for vacation in Hong Kong business culture.

  • Hong Kong Business Culture: Business Cards

There is no denying the fact that the business card exchange is a pertinent part of working as professional business owners in Hong Kong. And if you want to impress your business contracts, then print your business card in such a way that it has one side in English and the other side in Cantonese. This shows that you are respecting their country and culture, even though you are a foreigner to your Hong Kong associates

Pro Tip- Don't forget to show your manners while giving or exchanging cards, use both hands and turn your card, so your name faces the counterparty. Take a moment to study the other person's card to show politeness.

  • Hong Kong Business Culture: Gift-Giving in Hong Kong

And last but not least, give special attention to the habit of giving gifts to your business people and partners. Gift-giving is not confined to the walls of relatives, friends; it is a great habit even in the business world. So, you must be thinking, is it a different way to present the gift in Hong Kong business culture or it is the same as presenting business cards? Well, it is the same as the exchange of cards, which is done with both hands.

Give the gift in the bag of the shop it came from as brands matter in Hong Kong. Unwrapping the gift immediately insinuates impatience and greediness. One thing that you should be aware with that, if you purchase a gift for someone, then you might notice that it is refused at first. If you are facing this situation, then don't feel embarrassed or shy, just continue offering it to the individual. It is considered rude to accept it on the first offer. As per the Hong Kong business culture, some of the gifts that should be avoided are blankets as it is believed to decline your prosperity and clocks as they connote death.

Pro Tip- Before presenting the gifts to your business colleague, make sure that you are not purchasing- handkerchiefs; clocks; sharp objects; anything that contains the colors black, blue, and white; anything not beautifully wrapped.


As per stated earlier, every place has its own business culture and traditions. So, you need to make sure that you are coping with every aspect of Hong Kong business culture, so that you can present your business and ideas positively to your targeted clients, and business partners to keep up to their work ethics and culture. If you wish to discuss more working culture in Hong Kong and determine if it is the right place for you to work, please feel free to get in touch with Startupr. We are always happy to help!


About the Author


Startupr puts you first. This is why our main focus is Startups with global ambitions. We give you the freedom to build your business while we take care of the tedious, administrative tasks, leaving you to concentrate on your dream for your company. As part of our brilliant service, our back end software will automatically send you reminders of important annual filings, and upload your important document to your online account. startupr.hk


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