30 Social Etiquette Tips for Hong Kong

Etiquette in Asian countries varies as much from country to country as it does in any other global region. A lack of knowledge about local customs and social expectations of the country you are in can make even the best-intentioned person seem rude or commit a social blunder.

Generally, Chinese / Hong Kong etiquette is very similar to that in other East Asian countries, such as Korea and Japan. Below is a list of social etiquette tips for Hong Kong.

 Body Language and Small Talk

  1. People stand close to one another during a conversation but do not touch. Never hug or kiss another person or pat them on the back, especially if it is an older person or someone in a position of authority.
  2. Do not wink at someone.
  3. Small talk and friendly greetings are not common. Do not be offended if shop clerks do not start a conversation or say “thank you” when you check out.
  4. Shouting out a loud greeting to someone or holding the door open for a stranger is generally not done; you may get strange looks from others if you do.
  5. Avoid expressing your opinions freely with a stranger or someone you do not know well. This may be seen as vulgar.

Public Behaviour

  1. Avoid loud and obtrusive public behavior.
  2. Avoid holding hands and public displays of affection.
  3. Be mindful that smoking is forbidden in some outdoor areas, like beaches and parks.
  4. Do not drink too much in public.


Meeting and Greeting People

  1. Greeting a Westerner with a handshake is common. People shake hands with rather light pressure.
  2. During the handshake, many people in Hong Kong will lower their eyes as a sign of respect. While you do not need to emulate this gesture, do avoid any prolonged eye contact during the greeting.
  3. When attending a large function, you may introduce yourself to other guests. When attending a smaller function, it is polite to wait for your host or hostess to introduce you.

Gift Giving Etiquette

  1. When invited to someone’s home, always bring a gift. Gifts may include fruits, flowers, imported spirits or good quality sweets. Your host may refuse the gift one or two times before it is accepted. The gift will not be opened in front of you.
  2. Do not give red or white flowers; scissors, knives or other cutting utensils (would indicate severing of the relationship); or clocks, handkerchiefs or straw sandals (all items related to funerals or death).
  3. Do not use white, blue or black paper to wrap gifts. Elaborate gift wrapping is important and gold and/or red colours are considered lucky and should be used.
  4. Do not give things in odd numbers or in sets of four or a quantity of four. Eight is considered a very lucky number, so giving eight of something bestows good fortune on the recipient.
  5. Always present gifts to the recipient with two hands.
  6. Small gifts for children are always appreciated; however, do not give them green hats.

Dining Etiquette

  1. Wait to be told where to sit – there is usually a seating plan.
  2. Wait for the host to start eating or to tell you to start eating.
  3. When in doubt, watch what others do.
  4. Food is served on a revolving tray. You should try some of everything. Never eat the last piece of food from the serving tray.
  5. Leave a little food in your bowl when you are done eating. If you do not want to appear gluttonous, refuse a second serving at least once.
  6. Burping is considered complimentary.
  7. A chopstick rest will be on the table – never rest your chopsticks on the top of your bowl. It is proper to place chopsticks in the chopstick rest after every few bites and when you drink or stop to speak.
  8. The host of the meal offers the first toast. You may offer a toast later in the meal.

The Concept of Face

  1. ‘Face’ is an intangible quality that reflects a person’s dignity, reputation and prestige in the Chinese culture of Hong Kong. Companies and individuals have face.
  2. People may lose face, save face or give face to another person.
  3. To give someone face, you compliment them, show them respect or do something that increases their self-esteem. Do this with utmost sincerity; if done in a patronizing way, then both parties will lose face.
  4. Publicly reprimanding, insulting or contradicting people causes humiliation and for them to lose face.