Hong Kong has a rich business heritage, made up of both large corporations and many small, family run firms. It is a city-state located on the south coast of China, known for its skyline and natural harbour. It has changed hands several times, with China regaining sovereignty from Britain in 1997. Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated areas in the world.


Hong Kong facts
Ethnic groups: Chinese 95 percent, Filipino 2 percent, Indonesian 1 percent, Westerners 1 percent, Other 1 percent

Language:  Cantonese (official), English (official), Mandarin

Capital: None officially, but government located in Victoria

Currency: Hong Kong dollar (HKD)

National holidays: Sundays, First day of first moon (Chinese New Year),  Second day of the first moon (second day of Chinese New Year), Third day of the first moon (third day of Chinese New Year), April 5 (Ching Ming festival), Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Monday, May 1 (Labour Day), Eighth day of the fourth moon (Buddha’s birthday), Fifth day of the fifth moon (Dragon Boat Festival), July 1 (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day), Sixteenth day of the eighth moon (Day following mid-autumn festival), October 1 (National Day), Ninth day of the ninth moon (Chung Yeung Festival), December 25 (Christmas Day), December 26 (Boxing Day), January 1 (New Year’s Day)

Business hours: 9am – 5pm weekdays, 9am – 1pm on Saturday

Although English is very widely spoken in Hong Kong – particularly among employees of larger corporations – it is not universally spoken. The standard of English at family-owned firms, particularly those not used to doing business with foreign companies, may be poor. Don’t be afraid to double-check details and repeat yourself to ensure everything is understood by all parties.

Also bear in mind that frank and direct conversation is the norm in Hong Kong, far more so than in other Asian countries. This directness respects hierarchical boundaries, however – junior employees are less likely to be frank with senior managers.

Like many countries, it is considered impolite to focus only on business – ensure you ask questions about the health and family of your colleagues. Avoid political discussions unless very comfortable.

Business structures

The presence of both multinationals and family-owned businesses means business structures in Hong Kong are very diverse. Traditional hierarchical structures can be found in the larger corporate firms, and although local customs will no doubt have an effect the corporate culture of the firm’s country of origin is likely to be strong.

Family-owned companies in Hong Kong are quite unique; while these SMEs are sold and taken to IPOs, the founding family will typically always exercise some control. The head of family is likely to make all decisions; you should avoid dealing with other employees, particularly those not in the family, when discussing important business matters.


Meetings at corporate companies will follow traditionally Western etiquette, including agendas, minutes and presentations. Meetings at family-owned companies are more likely to be informal, with less emphasis on rigid agendas. However, there are common cultural expectations that are always valid. You should stand when the key player or senior participant enters the room, and you should try and make points through the key speaker.

Diplomacy is important and everyone is typically polite, but raised voices may happen if negotiations become strained or contentious. You should try and remain in control where possible.

Team work

People in Hong Kong are natural team players but steps should be taken to ensure the group is amicable and friendly. Bear in mind that the highest loyalty is given to family members, so team members will only work together insofar as the activities do not work against family ties.

Teams in Hong Kong should have leaders, and these leaders should forge strong links with all team members. Instructions should be clear and all-encompassing; team members do not naturally make decisions and will take their lead from the manager.

The harmony of the team is very important in Hong Kong, and any instances of disrespect given to team members can seriously disrupt the integrity of the team as a whole. Try to ensure that everyone is respectful and courteous at all times.


Business clothing varies throughout Hong Kong depending on whether the business is a corporation or a family-owned company. Generally, standard smart business dress is the best way to proceed – dark suits, shirts and ties. Women can wear conservative business suits if they wish. Clothing is often seen as a sign of status in Hong Kong so do try to take pride in your appearance. If you are traveling to Hong Kong in the summer, it can be very hot and balmy so ensure you take the right kind of clothes.