Don’t Get Caught Out! Hong Kong’s Customs & Social Smarts for Corporate Events

by Akshayaa RaniM,  24 May 2024
by Akshayaa Rani M, 24 May 2024
Don’t Get Caught Out! Hong Kong’s Customs & Social Smarts for Corporate Events

Imagine the scene: you've meticulously planned a splashy corporate event in Hong Kong. Clients, colleagues, and dignitaries are all set to gather for an evening of celebration and networking. But amidst the excitement, a nagging worry lingers—are you unwittingly skirting any customs or social faux pas that could jeopardise the entire event? Fear not, fellow event planner!

This article equips you with the essential knowledge of Hong Kong's customs and social etiquette, ensuring your corporate event is a roaring success and culturally sensitive. From navigating gift-giving traditions to understanding proper table manners, we'll delve into the nuances that make your event truly memorable for all the right reasons. So, grab a cup of tea and let's dive into the fascinating world of Hong Kong's social customs and corporate event etiquette!

The Art of Gift Giving

Gift-giving in Hong Kong is a chance to express respect and build positive relationships. It's not about extravagance but choosing thoughtful items that resonate with local customs.

  1. Embrace Auspicious Symbols: Hong Kong culture places a lot of emphasis on auspicious symbols. Popular choices include:
    • Mandarin Oranges: Representing wealth and prosperity, these are a classic and universally appreciated gift.
    • Pineapple Cakes: Symbolising good luck and fortune, pineapple cakes are a delicious and culturally relevant choice.
    • High-Quality Food Items: A beautifully packaged box of chocolates, gourmet cookies, or premium dried fruits shows appreciation for the recipient's taste and avoids dietary restrictions.
  2. Presentation is Key: The way you present your gift in Hong Kong is just as important as the gift itself. Here's how to make a good impression:
    • Use Both Hands: When offering a gift, hold it with both hands and present it slightly below your waist as a sign of respect.
    • Opt for Elegant Wrapping: Invest in tasteful gift wrapping with auspicious colours like red or gold. Avoid white, blue, or black, which are associated with mourning.
    • Respect the Refusal (Maybe): It's common for the recipient to politely refuse your gift initially. Gently insist a couple of times, but don't be forceful. This is a cultural courtesy, not a genuine rejection.
  3. Quality Over Quantity: A well-chosen, high-quality item is more appreciated than an impersonal or mass-produced gift.
    • Consider Local Delicacies: Opt for high-quality local snacks or treats specific to Hong Kong. This adds a personal touch and allows the recipient to experience a taste of the city.
    • Brand Recognition Matters: If you choose a branded item, ensure it's from a reputable and well-known brand. A high-quality pen or notebook from a luxury brand can be a thoughtful and practical gift.
  4. Consider Cultural Sensitivities: Be mindful of dietary restrictions and avoid gifts that might be offensive in certain religions.
    • For those with dietary restrictions: Opt for fruit baskets or gift certificates to high-end tea shops catering to various dietary needs.
    • Religious Considerations: Avoid gifts that depict animals that are considered sacred or contain alcohol for those who abstain.
The Balancing Act of Table Manners and Greetings

First impressions are paramount in Hong Kong. Here's a guide to navigating greetings and table manners to ensure a smooth and respectful experience at your corporate event:

  1. The Art of the Bow: A respectful bow is a standard greeting in Hong Kong. A slight nod is sufficient for foreigners, but a small bow shows extra respect.
  2. Business Card Etiquette: Business cards are exchanged frequently in Hong Kong. Present your card with both hands and receive theirs the same way. Take a moment to read their card and avoid putting it away immediately.
  3. Seating and Table Manners: The host typically assigns seating, so wait for instructions. Chopsticks are the norm, so it’s best to practice using them beforehand. Avoid sticking them upright in rice (considered bad luck) and never point with them.
  4. Slurping is a No-No: While slurping noodles might be acceptable in some cultures, it's impolite in Hong Kong. Take smaller bites and eat at a moderate pace.
  5. Sharing is Caring: Large communal dishes are common at corporate events. Feel free to share, and don't be afraid to try new things. It shows respect for the local culture and can be a great conversation starter.
Mastering Conversation Starters and Respecting Hierarchies

Hong Kongers value respect and appreciate genuine conversation. Here are four tips to help you initiate engaging dialogue at your next corporate event:

  1. Respect Hierarchy and Titles: Hong Kong business culture emphasises respect for seniority. Address individuals with proper titles like Mr., Ms., or Dr. This shows courtesy and avoids any awkwardness.
  2. Find Common Ground Through Local Culture: Hong Kong boasts a vibrant culture with a unique blend of Eastern and Western influences. Ask open-ended questions about the city's sights, renowned cuisine, or upcoming cultural events. For example, you could ask, "Have you had a chance to visit the Peak Tram yet?" or "What's your favourite dim sum dish?" This demonstrates your interest in their culture and opens the door for further conversation.
  3. Lighthearted Conversation Topics are Always Safe: Avoid diving into sensitive subjects like politics or religion. Instead, opt for lighthearted topics that encourage positive interaction. Consider discussing shared interests like travel, hobbies, or upcoming holidays. For example, you could mention, "I hear the Dragon Boat Festival is coming up. Have you ever participated?" This keeps the conversation positive and allows you to find common ground.
  4. Be an Active Listener: Genuine conversation is a two-way street. Listen attentively to your conversation partner and ask follow-up questions. This shows respect and interest in their experiences and perspectives. Remember, a good conversation is about building rapport, not just talking about yourself.
Bridging the Gap with Business and Entertainment

In Hong Kong, business relationships are often nurtured outside the formal office setting. Here are four key points to remember when navigating the blend of business and entertainment at corporate events:

  1. Be Prepared for Dual Roles: Corporate events in Hong Kong often involve a mix of business discussions and social interaction. Be prepared to switch hats—engage in pleasant conversation during meals and then transition smoothly to more business-oriented topics when appropriate.
  2. Punctuality is Paramount: Respect for time is highly valued in Hong Kong business culture. Arrive on time for your event and any scheduled meetings within it. This demonstrates professionalism and creates a positive first impression.
  3. Embrace the Art of Karaoke: After-dinner karaoke is a popular way to unwind and bond with colleagues in Hong Kong. Be bold and participate, even if singing isn't your forte. It's about having fun and fostering a sense of camaraderie.
  4. Building Relationships Over Deals: While business discussions might take place, the primary focus at these events is often on building relationships. Get to know your colleagues personally, share stories, and find common ground. This fosters trust and can lead to more successful business collaboration in the long run.
Wrapping Up

Incorporating these tips and fostering cultural sensitivity ensures your Hong Kong corporate event is a resounding success. Your efforts will be appreciated, from navigating greetings and mastering conversation starters to understanding the nuances of hierarchy and embracing the unique blend of business and entertainment. Remember, a successful event goes beyond just logistics—it's about building bridges, fostering relationships, and leaving a lasting positive impression.

If you’re looking to find the perfect venue to host your corporate event, check out this listing of elegant yet functional venues available on our website.

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