Hong Kong Culture


Basic Etiquette
  • Give and receive everything with two hands.
  • Serve others before serving yourself.
  • Burping, spitting and other related behaviours are considered rude and impolite for most. However, this attitude may vary among the older generation.
  • Waiters and waitresses are called on in a fashion that can strike Australians as demanding. For example, a large wave is made with a curt yell.

  • It is best practice to call your host in advance to give them a heads up on your arrival—even if they invited you.
  • Bring a small edible gift (e.g. tea, sweets, fruit) to offer the host.
  • Help to pour drinks for others whenever you see that their glasses need a refill. Thanks are sometimes given for courtesy by tapping two fingers on the table.

  • Try and taste everything served as a gesture of appreciation to the cook.
  • Do not eat the last of anything left on a serving tray.
  • Offer the best portion of food to the person beside you.
  • Hold the rice bowl close to your mouth as you feed yourself.
  • Avoid talking a lot while eating.
  • Eating a lot of rice without complementary component foods indicates that you do not like the meal.
  • If you want a second serving, refuse the host’s offer once before accepting it.
  • If you are hosting a meal, always overestimate the amount of food you anticipate people to eat so that you do not run out.
  • If you are eating out with a Hong Konger, keep in mind that it is common for them to start taking pictures of their meal on their phone before they have eaten anything. This is not considered rude to them.

Gift Giving
  • Gifts can signify gratitude, appreciation, gratuities or requests for favours. When choosing a gift, keep in mind whether you are looking to offer it as a professional or personal gesture.
  • Pass gifts to the recipient with both hands.
  • Gifts are not opened immediately, but only once the giver has left. This is a way to save for both the giver and receiver in case the person is disappointed with the gift.
  • Careful attention is paid to the wrapping of a gift, as the first impression it gives is very important. The more elaborate the wrapping, the better. Gifts wrapped in red and gold paper denote luck, whereas blue or black wrapping have sour connotations.
  • A Hong Kongese person may decline receiving a gift two or three times out of before accepting, but be careful not to push against genuine refusals as the person may feel that they cannot repay the favour. Giving gifts that are impossible to reciprocate or match in a returned favour can cause the recipient to lose .
  • Sweets, fruits, flowers (excluding red or white flowers) and alcoholic spirits make good gifts.
  • Do not give gifts that add up to 4 in number as 'four' pronounced in Cantonese sounds like the word for ‘death’.
  • Taboo items for gifts: sharp objects (e.g. knives, scissors), clocks, handkerchiefs, umbrellas, green hats, mirrors and yellow or white flowers. See Other Considerations for more information on taboo number and colours.

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