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Home » Country Etiquette » Hong Kong

Etiquette Tips for Hong Kong

When dining in Hong Kong, never turn a whole fish over. Turning a fish over is considered bad luck in Hong Kong, because it represents a capsizing boat.

Much of the etiquette in Hong Kong stems from superstitions, especially when it comes to table manners and giving gifts. Enjoy your time in Hong Kong, but remember to keep some basic etiquette guidelines in mind throughout your trip!

1. Dress Attire

  1. DO dress somewhat conservatively. Nowadays women wearing tank tops are spotted, but only occasionally. However, dress codes at restaurants, even nice ones, are uncommon, so going to an upscale restaurant without a jacket and tie is generally acceptable.
  2. DON'T wear blue or white in social settings. These colors tend to be for mourning.
  3. DON'T take your top off at the beach in Hong Kong. Public nudity is illegal.

2. Table Manners

  1. DON'T turn a fish over. It's bad luck because it represents a boat capsizing.
  2. DON'T pour your own drink first. Instead, make a toast about business or friendship. Pour everyone a drink, and even if the person's cup is filled, pour a few drops in.
  3. DON'T take the last bit of food in a serving plate. It's considered impolite. Also, leave a little bit of food left on your plate when you're full so the hosts know you are done, otherwise they'll bring out even more food!

3. Tipping

  1. DON'T feel the need to leave tips. Tipping is not customary in Hong Kong. In less expensive restaurants, a tip could been seen as patronizing and in more upscale restaurants a 10% service charge is included in the bill.

4. Gift giving and Accepting Gifts

  1. DON'T give a a clock as a gift in Hong Kong. Clocks are associated with death and funerals and a clock as a gift can be seen as a sinister action.
  2. DON'T give sharp objects that you can cut things with as gifts, such as knives or scissors. It can actually be an offensive gift because it signifies cutting off the friendship.
  3. DON'T give anything in sets of fours. Four is a very unlucky number Chinese culture, much like the number 13 is in many cultures. They don't even have fourth floors in buildings, much like how in the U.S. we don't have thirteenth floors!
  4. DO present your gift with two arms, and if you are given a gift, receive it with two arms.
  5. DON'T open the gift upon receiving it unless it is insisted upon. Instead, open it later.
  6. DON'T wrap a gift in white wrapping paper. White is traditionally an unhappy color. In fact, it symbolizes death or mourning, which is also why Chinese brides do not wear white.
  7. DO refuse a gift several times before accepting it. If a gift is accepted right away, it can be seen as being greedy.

5. Body Gestures

  1. DON'T point with your index finger. Instead, use your palm when pointing at something.

6. Greetings

  1. DO offer a light handshake upon meeting someone. People in Hong Kong are generally reserved when it comes to the physical touch. Hugging and kissing are usually are not how to greet someone in Hong Kong.

7. Language Etiquette

  1. DO speak in standard English and avoid slang when speaking to people in Hong Kong. Many people in Hong Kong are fluent in English, because English education begins in kindergarten, but to make sure you are understood it's better to speak simply.

8. Visitors Etiquette

  1. DO give your host a gift. As a tourist from another country, a gift from your native country is appreciated.

9. Shopping

  1. DO allow time to go shopping. There are many markets and stores with treasured items such as jade, pearls, and silk. These items are very special to Chinese culture as well as being very beautiful, so come with a full pocketbook!
  2. DO bargain. The merchant will sometimes start off trying to charge you an outrageous price, so tell them that it's too expensive and point out flaws in the item. You will usually be able to get your item for a fraction of what they originally wanted to charge you.

10. Business Meeting

  1. DO address a business associate with their professional title, or "Mr." and their last name. Women do not take their husband's last name so do not call her "Mrs." and her husband's last name.
  2. DON'T be late to an appointment. If you are late, apologize repeatedly. Apologize again and again even if the delay was no fault of your own.
  3. DON'T wear short skirts, low-cut shirts, and tight-fitting clothing, if you are a woman attending a business meeting.
  4. DON'T ask questions that can be viewed as personal, such as asking your colleague' wife, kids, financial status, or weekend plans.
  5. DO give and receive business cards with both hands.
  6. DON'T throw out or write on an a colleague's business card.

Manners are very important to locals in Hong Kong. In spite of being a city where there is lots of tourism, it is important to remember their customs and traditions out of respect. Have a safe and wonderful trip to Hong Kong, but remember not to turn that fish over at dinnertime!

 
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