Being an expat in Hong Kong can sometimes be confusing when it comes to the local customs and knowing what is the correct etiquette. Here’s a few pointers for avoiding social faux pas if you’re new to the city and want to avoid offending people in social or business settings.
Etiquette in Hong Kong
• When greeting people in a business setting, always greet the most important or senior member of the party first. In a social setting, greet the oldest person first and work your way down to the youngest.
• White is traditionally the colour of mourning, so avoid white flowers or wrapping paper for gifts or party decorations.
• Business cards are extremely popular in Hong Kong – make sure you take a stack with you to any meeting or function to have at the ready.
• When presenting something to someone (a business card or a gift, for example), it’s polite to offer the item with both hands; accept the item with both hands, too. When given someone’s business card, examine it before putting it aside.
• If you’re given a gift, don’t open it immediately; it suggests you’re interested only in the gift and not in the guest. It may also cause embarrassment if one gift is not as extravagant as someone else’s.
• Avoid giving clocks – they’re said to represent death. Blankets are also a no-no as they represent a decline in prosperity; similarly, knives will lead to a severing of a friendship.
• When dining, leave a small amount of food on your plate to signal you’ve finished eating but that your host’s serving was so generous you couldn’t eat it all. Chopsticks should always be laid on the rest, not in a bowl or on a dish.
See more in our Living in Hong Kong section:
Expat’s guide to where to live in Hong Kong
Traditional Chinese festivals and events
This article first appeared in the City Guide 2018 issue of Expat Living magazine. Get your free copy here!