Once again, meeting etiquette will differ radically depending on the type of company being dealt with.
Meetings with the larger Hong Kong multi-nationals or with local offices of other multi-nationals are likely to follow a fairly standard meeting style with agendas, minutes etc. On the other hand, meetings conducted with the smaller entrepreneurial type organisations could be much more informal in nature with a fairly relaxed approach being taken.
However, certain characteristics are likely to be constant regardless of the background of the people being met. Thus, it is always important to show the correct level of respect for the key player, which could include standing as they enter the room or offering them the seat of honour around the table. Try to address issues through the senior person – even if he or she is not the best English speaker. It is very easy to become seduced into addressing only a junior member of a Hong Kong delegation simply because they speak good English (or whatever the language of the meeting might be.)
Discussions are likely to be diplomatic and polite but when things are becoming difficult, there is the possibility of raised emotions and voices (unlike in a country such as Japan.) Try to remain calm and in control at all times. Harmony is still the ideal in Hong Kong even if the pursuit of money can sometimes make it difficult to attain!
As in other Chinese cultures gift giving is endemic. The giving and receiving of gifts are viewed as an element in the ritual of business relationship development. Although relationships may be less important in Hong Kong than on the mainland or in Taiwan, much benefit can accrue from cultivating the right people.
It is not necessary to give expensive gifts – it is the gift-giving which is important. Gifts should be wrapped and are often refused two or three times before being accepted. They are rarely opened in front of the giver.
Written and Produced by Keith Warburton
This country profile has been produced to give a short overview of some of the key concepts to bear in mind when doing business with contacts in Hong Kong. It is intended to be an aid to business people who have commercial dealings with counterparties in the country but should not be seen as an exhaustive guide to this topic or as a substitute for more substantial research should there be a need.
With this in mind, we have covered the areas which are key to a better understanding of the cultural mindset underpinning business dealings in Hong Kong and which are, quite often, extremely different from the approach and thought processes associated with business in other parts of the world.
Therefore this briefing note is broken into short, bite-sized sections on the following topics: