Hong Kong Work Culture

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Hong Kong Work Culture

To succeed in business in Hong Kong, it is vital to have a solid understanding of the country’s business culture. Hong Kong business culture reflects highly significant values of Asian culture – the significance of keeping face, a strong deference for seniority and age, and hierarchical relationships. This, however, is complemented by increasing modern-day and Western characteristics, such as an international mindset and an increase in value of foreign investors.

The high value placed on intellectual efforts, a person’s leave of education and proficiency in English can heavily influence an individual’s social standing in Hong Kong. Politeness and respect is also important in relationships with locals, so conservative manners are the norm.

There have been recent changes and awareness around the world concerning the importance of work-life balance and flexible working, but Hong Kong’s business culture places significant importance on business etiquette and face-to-face interaction. Here are some tips and tricks to use during your first few months:

  • Punctuality: Punctuality is expected and respected – it is best to be on time for all appointments. It is also respectful to allow some courtesy time of up to 30 minutes if someone is late. If you are late, you must have an explanation as to why.
  • Languages: Knowledge of English is prized in Hong Kong, but a knowledge of Cantonese or Mandarin can also go a long way.
  • Hierarchy: Hierarchy is an influential part of business relations in Hong Kong. Senior members have a larger role in meetings and negotiations. They must also enter and leave the room first, as well as be addressed first or before junior members.
  • Introductions/Greetings: The culture in Hong Kong has adopted the Western greeting style of a handshake as the norm – to be accompanied with a nod and direct contact. The handshake is to be light, and senior members might also lower their eyes during the greeting. A person is to be addressed by their title and surname.
  • Gift-giving: When giving a gift to an associate or business partner, give the gift in the bag of the shop that it came from – brand names are important in Hong Kong. The gift might be refused at first, but it is best to keep offering, as it is considered rude to accept a gift on the first offer.

    There are also gifts to be avoided – blankets (believed to decline prosperity), clocks (connote death), handkerchiefs, sharp objects, and anything that contains the color black, blue and white, as well as anything that is not beautifully wrapped.
  • Dress code: In Hong Kong, the dress code is conservative. In Chinese culture, colors have different meetings, so it is necessary so be aware of these meanings when choosing what to wear.

    Dark and neutral colors are preferred – and for any professional setting, formal attire is best as it connotes professionalism. The formality of the dress code depends on the industry, however. In industries such as marketing, advertising and fashion, more casual attire is acceptable.
  • Relationships: It takes time to build relationships in Hong Kong. Calls and face-to-face meetings are vital to the success of your relationship-building with your associates. Showing interest in your business relationships is deemed considerate and is highly favored.
  • Meetings: Make appointments for a meeting a month in advance. The meeting style is honest and quick, and it may take several business meetings to accomplish your goals.

    Tea is also served at meetings and plays an important role in meetings. Do not start drinking until your host takes the first sip. When the host leaves his teacup untouched, this signals the end of the meeting.
  • Communication: Communication in Hong Kong focuses on politeness and saving face. Communication is more indirect, with underlying meanings in their speech. Laughter is soft, and direct refusals or disagreement are never given.

    Silence is a useful tool of communication in Asia. Pausing before a response indicates that they are applying an appropriate thought and consideration to what has been said, which signifies respect. Silence can also indicate hesitation, so it is best to look for other cues and implicit meanings in their speech to confirm this.

    Citizens of Hong Kong also tend to be reserved in physical touch, and do not tend to make intentional body contact such as hugging, kissing, or patting on the back.

Hong Kong Minimum Wage

In February 2021, the Hong Kong Government announced that the statutory minimum wage (SMW) rate will remain at HK$37.50 per hour from 2020, and will remain so until April 2023, pending the next wage review to be conducted in October 2022.

Probation Periods in Hong Kong

There is no set probation period in Hong Kong, as this depends on the employment contract, job type and company. A probationary period usually lasts from 1 to 3 months, and in some cases, even 6 months.

The termination notice for the probationary period is commonly no less than 7 days.

Working Hours in Hong Kong

Working Hours in Hong Kong vary according to the agreements in the contracts, but are commonly between 40-50 hours per week, with at least one rest day for every 7-day work period.

Overtime in Hong Kong

Hong Kong labor law does not have specific requirements concerning overtime work and payments. However, overtime is at the employer’s discretion. If the contract states that overtime payment will be provided, then employers are legally obliged to do so.

Overtime payments, however, are commonly paid at the same rate of normal pay.