Always bring a gift when invited to a home
Gift giving is traditional in Hong Kong and shows a sign of respect and friendship. Hong Kong is a dense city full of shops and you can buy almost anything there – but a gift from your home country is a perfect gift idea.
Use both hands when giving and receiving your gift
A gift is generally not opened upon receiving it unless you are specifically urged to by the giver. Also avoid giving red (symbol of blood) or white (symbol of mourning) flowers.
Decline a gift at first
Refuse a gift a couple of times before accepting. If you accept immediately and open in straight away you may appear greedy.
Red and gold are lucky colours – and white is not
As white is considered to be associated with mourning, it is a good idea not wear white or even wrap gifts in white. Brides in Hong Kong generally do not wear white wedding dresses because of this. Black is also associated with death and is avoided.
Refrain from loud behaviour and public displays of affection
People in Hong Kong are generally reserved and whilst they may stand together closely during conversation they do not hug, kiss or pat each other on the back. Never wink at people – this is considered rude. Always refrain from speaking loudly and avoid shouting.
When eating out at a casual dining spot, it’s ok to make a mess
Whilst you will obviously avoid making a mess – but when you are eating in smaller restaurants it’s forgiven. Foreigners can ask for a knife and fork if they can’t use chopsticks, however some small restaurants may not have them. By slurping up all your food and burping is even fine – it shows that you enjoyed the meal. Obviously don’t go overboard with the burping!
Do not turn your fish over
It is a superstition arising from South China’s fishing community that turning the fish over on your plate will result in the capsizing of a fishing boat.
Do not use your chopsticks to point at people. Don’t rest chopsticks on your plate – rest chopsticks on the table. Avoid spearing your food with chopsticks and if sharing meals don’t double dip – use the communal chopsticks or a large spoon used at banquets to serve food onto your own plate first. When you’ve finished your meal, leave the chop sticks on the holder and not on your plate.
Leave some food on your plate
If you have an empty plate the host may think you haven’t had enough to eat and may bring out some more food for you to eat as they feel they haven’t fed you enough.
Tipping is not compulsory
In casual diners, etc tipping may be considered patronising. In more upscale restaurants a service charge will be included in your bill anyway.
Do haggle at the markets
The merchants generally raise the prices on their products so try bargaining with them. Don’t seem too interested in the item and even point out any flaws you see in the product to see if you can get it at a lower price. Try at first cutting the cost price in half and haggle from there.
Don’t wear shoes inside
Avoid everything you’ve picked up on your shoes throughout the day being trekked across the house and remove your shoes before entering a home in Hong Kong.
Public nudity is illegal
This includes at the beach, so topless sunbathing is strictly not permitted, and heavy fines and imprisonment can be imposed on a first offense!
See more helpful tips for travelling in China.