Hong Kong Culture

Core Concepts

  • Tenacity
  • Energy
  • Pluralism
  • Entrepreneurism
  • Materialism
  • Confucianism
  • Face

Hong Kong is a territory of China that is separately governed and has a high degree of autonomy. Hong Kong was under British control as a central port of trade before being reclaimed by China in 1997 as a ‘Special Administrative Region’. Today, it is one of the biggest financial hubs in the world. Lifestyles in Hong Kong are urban-centric and cosmopolitan, with the majority of the population being highly educated. The international mindset that comes with its global economic positioning (and the influence of English governance) has integrated Western values into the Asian society. Thus, though the population’s ethnicity is 93.6% Chinese, the culture differs distinctly from China. Hong Kongers often strongly disassociate their identity from mainland China, seeing themselves as being very different despite having similar ancestry and governance. Therefore, Hong Kongese society is somewhat divided between original Hong Kongers and migrants from mainland China.

Hong Kong is home to one of the world market’s most important and competitive global economies. The success of it has given daily life a fast-paced, entrepreneurial and expeditious quality to it. There is an extreme emphasis on schooling. Children often feel intense pressure from their parents, teachers and peer group to excel. Those from wealthy families or private schools face even higher expectations. Perhaps as a result of this early exposure to demanding standards, being busy throughout one’s life is strongly valued. To be in stressful circumstances in Hong Kong is seen as evidence that one is industrious and tenacious. Some Hong Kongers may even exaggerate their workload size and difficulty to make themselves seem more productive and dedicated.

Class status is determined by one’s wealth and social influence in Hong Kong. Power is often gained through familial or government connections. A lower working class is loosely formed by those who have recently immigrated and found employment as house-workers or maids. The level of education and English proficiency one attains also heavily influences one’s social standing.

Hong Kong also has a high population density that means housing is largely based in the metropolis. Space is extremely limited and cities are traversed with the aid of elevators, sky-bridges, corridors and underground passageways. It is possible to navigate through large parts of cities without touching real ground. In these ‘concrete jungles’, there are few parks and one often has to venture out into the mountains for outdoor recreation. As such, though physical activity is valued, the culture places a more immediate value on intellectual efforts, such as pursuing academic and business excellence.

Complementing the modern-day and Western characteristics of Hong Kong are the traditional Asian attributes that still prevail in society, such as the cultural concept of face. This is the quality embedded in most Asian cultures that indicates a person's reputation, influence, dignity and honour. By complimenting a person, showing them respect or doing something to increase their self-esteem, you give them face. Similarly, people can lose face and save or build face. Therefore, individuals in Hong Kong usually act deliberately and with restraint to protect their self-worth and peer perception. Conservative conduct is the norm, as people don’t want to stand out and/or risk losing face by doing something inappropriate.

Confucianism has had a significant influence in Hong Kong. This way of thinking puts emphasis on the importance of healthy human interactions by promoting the idea that relationships between people should be unequal but with clearly defined hierarchical roles (for example, ruler and subject, husband and wife, father and son). It is thought that when this natural inequality is accepted and respected, it becomes easier to maintain harmonious, stable relations among individuals and society as a whole. 

However, Hong Kongers are arguably more influenced by Western ideas such as freedom of speech, rule of law and democracy due to their period of colonial rule. Though Confucianism forms the basis for many of Hong Kong’s cultural roots, few people (especially among the young generation) uphold all its values. The concept of natural inequality and hierarchical roles is largely rejected by the modern Hong Kongese.

Age is one of the few remaining factors that forms a visible social strata. Age determines the gradations of respect in Hong Kong, with its importance emphasised through filial piety. This is a core Confucian concept that requires one to show parents and elders utter respect and devotion, and it can sometimes involve the unconditional obedience to seniors. It entails reverence of one’s ancestors; many people in Hong Kong regularly hold ceremonies or rituals to worship their ancestors.

Hong Kong is more collectivistic than Western societies. Individuals often perceive themselves to be members of groups rather than autonomous actors. These groups reflect or come to define who its members are and often expect a high level of loyalty. For example, the group’s interests usually supersede those of the individual, even if they conflict. Furthermore, group members expect to receive preferential treatment over anyone who is not part of the group. In return for this loyalty, an individual gains a sense of belonging, protection and unity.
Cultural Competence Program
Cultural Competence Program Logo

Join over 300 organisations already creating a better workplace

Find out more
Download this Cultural Profile

Too busy to read it right now?

You can download this cultural profile in an easy-to-read PDF format that can be printed out and accessed at any time.

Country https://dtbhzdanf36fd.cloudfront.net/countries/132/hk.svg Flag