Business Practices in Hong Kong SAR

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The Fundamental Principles of Business Culture
Hong Kong shows major characteristics with relation to China. Geographical proximity and the commonality of language with the neighbourhood province of Guangdong should not be misleading even if the retrocession has strengthened the sentiment of belonging to the same nation. The SAR inhabitants are considered above all as people from Hong Kong, conscious of the exceptional character of the economic success of the Territory and which distinguishes them from Mainland China. The "one country, two systems" formula is deeply established in the minds.

Some points to be followed:
- Respect the hierarchy : always give a positive response ("Yes,I shall try") to a senior hierarchy. The contrary is a mark of disrespect liable to disturb the hierarchical balance.
- Commonality of mind and search for consensus.
- The concept of face : it should never affect the other's "face" because this directly affects his status, reputation and honor.
- Guanxi : plays a main role in the world of labour and economic strategy of companies. Most of the contracts, employments, and negotiations are made through relations.
- Time : In Hong Kong, time is money. Puncuality is considered as a "must" in business.
- Avoid planning meetings during Chinese New Year as most of the business centers close for a week at this time.
- If you sign a contract, the date of signature can be determined by an astrologer or a Feng Shui expert.

First Contact
Once you have started doing business with a person of Hong Kong, it is important to develop the relations.
The best contacts in Hong Kong are made through a common friend. If the third partner has close relations with both parties, it is only to give a foundation to the relation. Appointments are necessary and should be taken between 1 and 2 months in advance if you are travelling to Hong Kong.
Show sincerity and respect when you meet businessmen. Shaking hands, "imported;" from the West, does win success honestly. This can be combined with a slight tilt of the head. Chinese tend to shake hands very lightly. And a handshake does not last for more than 10 seconds.
How to Present Yourself
It is important to first greet the person of a higher rank in the company hierarchy. You can address a person by his title or his surname. If you do not know the professional title, simply use Sir or Madam in addition to the name. You can also observe that many people of Hong Kong who do business with foreigners shall use western names which are easier to remember and pronounce.
Business Relations
It is recommended to keep a formal relation for some years or wait till the offer is extended. The Chinese will be impressed by your discipline and distance when you maintain an air of formality. People of Hong Kong, much more than the Chinese, keep a large distance between their private and professional lives. You can remain for years without knowing if the colleague who is sitting besides you in the office is married or has children.
Chinese give gifts to mark their respect, express their friendship, symbolise the hope for a good future collaboration future, show their appreciation for a favor given, or to celeberate the Chinese New Year.

Foreign businessmen should take time to choose suitable gifts. The Western habit for a simple verbal expression of "Thanks" is considered as superficial and casual. A gift is a tangible evidence of sincerity. Its symbolic value exceeds its cost. Avoid expensive gifts unless the recipient is an old friend.

The gifts recommended are Ballpens or Paper weights with your company's logo. For the choice of gift, it is advisable to give it to the head of the group at a dinner or at the conclusion of a meeting. The gifts given to the members of a group should all be approximately of the same value value or the gift for the chief executive should be more valuable. Give the gifts with both hands like a visiting card. Do not feel surprised if the gift is refused at several attempts,

Business Communication
When you are meeting for the first time, at first engage in small conversations. The leader wants to know above all if everyone feels comfortable working together before proceeding to the main point. Do not feel surprised if you are asked personal questions.

Before a meeting it is neceesary to provide a list to your Hong Kong partners of your team members and associates presented in order of seniority or importance. People of Hong Kong will assess the importance or seriousness of an economic delegation by the rank of its memebers. The success of a meeting also depends on the age of the personnel. A young manager will probably be considered less seriously. And if a Hong Kong company sends a person of lower rank, this will show that are less interested in your proposal.

The negotiations will take place at a slow pace: avoid losing your temper or you could lose face and harm your relations. People from Hong Kong prefer to conduct a meeting in a spirit of cooperation and harmony.

They have a long term vision of the relationship. They communicate directly also even though they use non-verbal communication as well. They pay attention to gestures, facial expressions and silence is a form of communication in the Asian culture. The posture is also considered. It is thus advisable to place your feet flat on the floor, and place the hands on the table.

Dress Code
Dress in a classical or conventional manner : suit and tie for men, skirt and blouse, dresses or suits (except pantsuits) for women. The quality and design of your formal dress will be noted by your fellow participants and you will be generally judged by this more while this will not be so in the West. Sober or "muted" colours are more common. Carrying with you a good quality briefcase is considered as elegant and prestigous for both sexes.
Visiting Cards
A handshake is followed by an exchange of visiting cards, preferably with text in English and Chinese characters. It is worth the effort to look for expert advice on the characters to be used, because some ideograms have a more favorable connotation than others. Give and receive the cards with both the hands, holding each corner of the card between the thumb and the index finger. Take some time to examine the card which you have received. Showing respect for the message of the card also demonstrates respect for the person which it represents.
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  • Paradigm21 Group

    HR Consultancy Partnering MNCs, Hong Kong SAR