7 top tips for business
etiquette in China and
Hong Kong

Just like Britain, China has its own social norms and business etiquette, which should be adopted when planning a business meeting with anyone in the Far East. You wouldn’t want to do anything to cause offence or risk losing a potential new contact – and we don’t want you to either, so we’ve compiled this handy list.

To make any business meeting in the Far East run as smoothly – and successfully – as possible, it’s important you understand the etiquette of doing business in the Far East. Nothing sours a deal more than a clash of culture - so here are seven tips to get you off on the right foot as soon as you touch down in Bejing, Shangai or Hong Kong:

1. Do be punctual - While timekeeping is a little more flexible in the West, in China and Hong Kong your hosts will expect perfect punctuality when it comes to any kind of business meeting. We suggest arriving a few minutes early.

2. Don’t bring a gift - Offering any kind of gift at a business meeting is extremely risky, especially if it’s a first meeting. This could be perceived as a bribe.

3. Do acknowledge seniority first - When Chinese businesspeople are entering a room, the most senior member of the group will always enter first. This person should also must be acknowledged and greeted first.

4. Don’t be blunt - Even if you know you are unable to accept certain terms or conditions, it’s never advisable to say so outright. This can be considered discourteous. Instead, indicate you’ll think carefully on the matter, and reply in due course.

5. Do exchange business cards - You should have more than enough business cards to go around, so carry plenty. Present the cards with two hands, and use both hands when receiving one, too. Once you have received one, spend a moment studying its details.

6. Don’t eat all your food – If you go for food with your new contacts, ensure you leave some food on your plate. Unlike Western cultures, where it’s polite to finish everything you’re given, doing this in the Far East implies you’ve not eaten enough and could appear rude.

7. Do show composure - Even if things appear not to be going your way, remain composed and confident. Showing heightened emotion will be greeted with animosity and could scupper your efforts.

For more tips on business etiquette in China and Hong Kong, read our complete guide to Doing Business in the Far East. And remember, if you are arranging a meeting anywhere in Asia, ensure you’re not planning it for a peak travel time or around a national holiday. Check out our recommendations in our post about Holidays in China and Hong Kong.