Hong Kong: 10 tips for business success when working in Hong Kong

How to make a good impression when working in Hong Kong

Be sure to recognise the differences between Hong Kong Chinese and mainland Chinese and don’t make assumptions about somebody’s background and culture. Be prompt for appointments and calm and polite during meetings; overenthusiastic displays of emotion are frowned upon. Dress smartly and fashionably, taking into account the Chinese superstitions concerning blue and white, and any other colours or symbols which are regarded as inauspicious.

Carry a large supply of business cards and observe the correct etiquette in presenting them. Remember that in Hong Kong, people are more formal than in Britain or the USA and titles should be used until first name terms are encouraged.

Be prepared to work at a relationship before attempting to negotiate; networking and connections are important and Hong Kong Chinese expect to achieve a level of comfort with somebody before doing business with them. During negotiations, go for the soft sell and the hard bargain, which is what your counterparts will do.

Westerners should always take seriously the Hong Kong interest in feng shui. If the company culture is to consult the feng shui man before signing a deal or moving to a new office, the Western manager must observe this, down to the fine detail of how their own office is arranged.

10 tips for success when working in Hong Kong

  1. Never assume that Hong Kong Chinese share characteristics with those from the mainland. They do, but are inherently different – more open to risk-taking, more entrepreneurial, and more Western in their business practice.
  2. You will encounter both Chinese and Hong Kong Chinese as your business counterparts. While the latter can move to the heart of a matter rather quickly, be ready to build personal relationships, as “guanxi”, or mutual obligations between contacts, is the oil that keeps business going.
  3. The pace of business can be very fast. Hong Kong Chinese are quick to assure you that they can take care of things. Values like risk-taking and efficiency are important.
  4. The Hong Kong Chinese are used to living and working in a cosmopolitan environment so are used to dealing with foreigners.
  5. From the influence of Confucianism, the HK Chinese pay respect to hierarchy and the older generation.
  6. Understand the concept of ‘face’. Face can be earned, given and taken away. Saving face is critical to the Chinese, from Hong Kong as well as the mainland.
  7. Being punctual for appointments and smartly dressed is a sign of respect; time is money in Hong Kong.
  8. Hong Kong Chinese value the soft sell and the hard buy, and are tough negotiators, employing many tactics to drive a good bargain.
  9. Negotiations are carried out in large groups, rarely one-to-one, with representatives of equal rank in each group doing the talking.
  10. When working under pressure, try hard to control your temper. Emotional outbursts are seen as signs of weakness and lack of maturity.

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About the Author

Sue Bryant

Sue Bryant is an award-winning writer and editor specialising in global business culture and travel.

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