Serious business

Etiquette tips for doing business in Hong Kong

What to wear, how to greet and other tips for doing business in Hong Kong, by DESMOND SO, founder of the East-West Institute of Applied Etiquette

Hong Kong business attire


Formal Western business attire is the norm: dark suits with ties for men, and knee-length skirt suits or trouser suits for women. In fields such as marketing, public relations, advertising and fashion, attire such as non-matching jackets and trousers is acceptable. Avoid baring too much skin at work.

Hong Kong business greetings


Handshakes are not as common as one would think: local Chinese are conservative and are not used to this greeting as a daily practice. But in CBD areas such as Central and Admiralty, a firm, Western handshake is the norm. For local family businesses, use Mr or Ms, followed by surname, especially with a patriarch or matriarch.

Hong Kong business meeting etiquette


Punctuality is expected. As international as Hong Kong is, local family businesses still pay heed to hierarchy; expect seniors to run the show at meetings and do most of the talking. Meetings are efficient and there is no prolonging just for the sake of relationship building, which may take place at a different venue at a separate time.

Hong Kong business card etiquette

Business Cards

Business card exchange is an important part of doing business in Hong Kong. Chinese plus English on your card would be great but English-only cards are common. When 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 faux pas

Faux Pas

The number four is unlucky, as is sticking chopsticks straight up in a rice bowl, mentioning death when someone is about to fly and patting someone on the shoulder when they are about to gamble (like in horse racing, cards or mahjong). Shoes are bad luck as gifts. Keep feet off seats on public transportation.


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