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Business Etiquettes in Hong Kong
 
 
 

General

A common phrase suggests that the world is "getting smaller". Although this may be true in that it is easier to travel to and communicate with the rest if the world, it is hard to argue that this has led to greater synergy in how to do business globally. Cross cultural differences in the way we meet, greet, communicate, negotiate and build relationships still exist.

This guide to doing business in Hong Kong presents some useful tips on some salient points relating to etiquette, protocol and cross cultural communication.

The major influence on the business (and social) environment is the fact that Hong Kong is overwhelmingly populated by Chinese. The Chinese population are primarily drawn upon the five major groups of Southern China:

1)Cantonese,
2)Fukkien,
3)Hainanese,
4)Chui Chow and
5)Hakka.

Cantonese and English are the two languages of use on the island.

Although businesspeople in Hong Kong do not require long-standing personal relationships to do business, many businesses are family-owned, so personal relationships are an integral part of the enterprise. Once you have begun to work with a Hong Kong businessperson, it is important to maintain the relationship.

When you first meet, expect a fair amount of small talk. Your Hong Kong colleagues will want to get to know you well enough that they are comfortable working with you. Do not be surprised if you are asked questions that might be considered extremely personal in your home country.

The Hong Kong Chinese are generally sophisticated and cosmopolitan, and are quite familiar and comfortable with people from other countries. Although some businesspeople may overlook poor behaviour for the sake of the business deal, many will not. The Hong Kong Chinese take a long-term view of business relationships.

Hong Kong Chinese are direct communicators, although they also make use of non-verbal communication. In general, businesspeople are non-confrontational and will never overtly say no, so that they do not embarrass the other person. If someone sucks air through his/her teeth while you are speaking, it means that they are unhappy with what you have just said. If at all possible, try to re-state your position or modify your request, since you have made the other person extremely unhappy.

As in many Asian cultures, silence is a form of communication. Resist the urge to jump into the conversation if your Hong Kong business colleague remains silent for a minute.

You may see members of the sex holding hands. This signifies friendship but would not be seen between members of the same sex. Women can cross their legs when seated but men should try and keep their feet on the floor. Physical contact is rare so avoid patting people on the back or holding someone's shoulder.


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