Hong Kong has a distinct workplace culture that necessitates increased awareness of certain norms and values. Although many cultural aspects are similar to those found in the West, there are a few notable differences that many expats may encounter in Asia.

How is work-life in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong is known as a global commercial and financial hub with a multicultural community and low unemployment rate. This is a reason why working in Hong Kong is so appealing for many professionals. 

Great career opportunities are available for those with skills in accounting, finance, banking and technology industries and candidates in these fields are highly sought after. 

In terms of work-life balance, Hong Kong does not prioritise it but there are employers who take into consideration employees mental health, physical wellbeing and standard of living.

Working hours in Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s working hours are generally long and challenging but fulfilling. According to the UBS 2016 poll, employees in Hong Kong worked 50.1 hours per week on average.

Working overtime
Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Working overtime is not uncommon in Hong Kong. 

Local professionals prefer to work longer hours, despite the fact that their contracts do not oblige them to. It is common for employees to remain late to complete outstanding work rather than deferring it until the next day. 

However, some people are prepared to work extra since working longer hours is typically considered as a show of desire and brings in some extra money.

Hiring process – Reference check

A reference check is a standard procedure in Hong Kong throughout the hiring process. It entails contacting prior employers, supervisors, and schools, among other people. It is often utilised in the hiring process since it gives unbiased information about a candidate’s prior job performance and cultural fit. 

A reference check also helps to prevent the expenses of failed probation periods and bad performance. 

Not only does it verify whether a candidate’s statements regarding qualifications, duration of experience, or past jobs held are true, it also contributes to a more fair playing field. Candidates who performed poorly in interviews may be great workers, while those who performed well in interviews may actually lack the skills required to thrive in the role.

Hong Kong work culture- dress code

The first and most important thing you should learn about Hong Kong’s business culture is how to dress correctly. Entrepreneurs in Hong Kong typically dress modestly, in black suits, shirts, and ties.

Ladies, for example, choose casual business outfits like formal dresses, pencil skirts, dress shirts and blazers, etc. 

Men, on the other hand, wear long-sleeved shirts and formal shoes; ties aren’t always essential. Whether attending a corporate dinner party or an important meeting, all company owners are required to dress formally in order to maintain their business reputation over their competitors.

General etiquettes for working in Hong Kong

There are a few standard etiquettes when working in Hong Kong you should always apply, such as:


Regardless of gender or position, make sure you’re standing square to the person you’re meeting, with your feet and shoulders facing them.

During the introduction, make eye contact, smile, and state their name (do not look at their hand).

Hands should come together at the web, not only at the fingers. Avoid doing “the politician” (showing your thanks with both hands) and “the bone crusher” (an extremely hard handshake) to demonstrate your authority or excitement.

Make absolutely sure you address everyone with their surname and title.

Never forget to treat your partners with respect.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Business cards

The exchange of business cards is an important component of working as a professional business owner in Hong Kong. If you want to impress your business associates, print your business cards with one side in English and the other in Cantonese.

Gift giving

Pay close attention to the practice of providing gifts to your business associates and partners.

Working relationships

Building relationships in Hong Kong takes time. Calls and face-to-face encounters are useful to the effectiveness of your efforts. Taking an interest in your business relationships is considered courteous and highly valued.

Tips on working in Hong Kong as a foreigner

Here are a few extra pointers if you are planning to work in Hong Kong as a foreigner: 

Meetings and Negotiations

If you want to meet with business associates in Hong Kong, it is a good idea to set meetings with them ahead of time. Avoid booking meetings around popular vacation periods in Hong Kong, such as Christmas, Easter, or the Chinese New Year.


Be on time for all appointments. It is also courteous to provide up to 30 minutes of courtesy time if someone arrives late. If you are late, you must provide a reason.


In Hong Kong, communication is focused on courtesy and saving face. Their communication is more oblique, having underlying meanings in their words. Soft laughter is never given, and straightforward refusals or disagreements are not encouraged.


Knowledge of English is highly valued in Hong Kong. However, Cantonese or Mandarin can also be useful.

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On the outside, Hong Kong appears to be a modern city, but its workplace regulations and practises are immersed in traditions that foreigners may find difficult to adjust to at first. 

You don’t need to be concerned; simply begin learning about Hong Kong’s standards and cultures. Respect the workplace and learn the proper etiquette. 

Investing your time and effort will result in a professional approach that will benefit both your career and your company in Hong Kong.

Based in Hong Kong and with footprints all across Asia, Growth Academy Asia understands local organisational needs and culture. Check out our virtual reality-based leadership training programme in Hong Kong that has been crafted to bring out leadership qualities in employees, irrespective of managerial levels.  And if you’re looking for more training options, don’t miss out on our corporate training programs, which provide tailor-made training solutions to companies in Hong Kong and beyond.