Hong Kong has always played an important role in the relationships between East and West. Often a subject of dispute and source of controversies, this beautiful port in southeastern China has nevertheless managed to rise to prominence and become one of the most important cities in the region. Today, Hong Kong represents a perfect blend of solid British institutional structure and Chinese diligence. It is also one of the main gates the western businessmen use to access mainland China.
As you would expect, the city with such a complicated historical and geopolitical backdrop features a lot of dichotomies and local rules that may throw off the unprepared western visitors. Let us then take a look at some of the things you should know before you embark on a business trip to Hong Kong.
Passport and visa
If you want to visit Hong Kong, you need to make sure your passport is valid for six months and more and it has at least one blank visa page. Keep in mind that renewing the passport can take up to four weeks and do these checks at least a month and a half in advance. As for the visa, the citizens of the USA and European Union are allowed to enter the city without this endorsement, as long as they limit their stay for 30 days and don’t access the mainland China. All other instances will require getting a Chinese visa.
Packing and dress code
One of the best things you can do when traveling long distances is to avoid checking luggage, finish the transfer as soon as possible and immediately proceed to the hotel. Hong Kong is no different in this regard. All of the major hotels feature very meticulous and inexpensive laundry services, so you won’t have a problem getting around with just a few clothing items.
As for the items to carry on the trip, you should know two things. First, the weather in Hong Kong is very hot and humid except for the colder period lasting from November to March. Unless you are traveling in this time frame, you should pack only the lightweight suits.
The second thing you should take into consideration is that business etiquette in Hong Kong is still considered very conservative. The business meetings will require formal attire in the form of suits, dresses or unrevealing skirts.
Airport transfers and getting around the city
Once you land at the International Airport called Chek Lap Kok the best way for traveling to inner-city is the Airport Express Link train. The ride costs only HK$100 (approximately $13) and lasts about 25 minutes. Taking a cab is probably the second-best option, but if you catch the rush hour, your ride may take up to 60 minutes and cost you $50.
Once in the city, the taxi service becomes much more useful, but be aware that drivers understand only the general directions in English. The useful alternative can be found in the form of the Mass Transit Railway system that features bilingual announcements (English and Cantonese) and is one of the fastest ways of getting around the city.
Finding a hotel
Hotels in China tend to be of varying quality. And while standards in Hong Kong definitely rise above the national average, there are still some quirks you should take into consideration. For instance, as hospitable and kind the staff gets, communication remains a big problem. Learning a couple of phrases in Cantonese can prove to be of tremendous help.
Also, not every establishment accepts all types of credit cards, so always keep the Amex/Visa combo in your wallet. Still, for a comfortable visit, you should try to avoid these problems altogether and book a reputable establishment like Hong Kong Gold Coast hotel a couple of months in advance.
And now, let’s talk about business interactions. The corporate etiquette in Hong Kong is heavily rooted in local cultural traditions. Therefore, if you want to make your business trip successful, always keep in mind these regional peculiarities:
- Business cards are always handed and received with both hands.
- Western handshakes are considered as an appropriate way to meet people, but only as long as they are light.
- Punctuality is considered to be of very high importance. When going to a meeting, be sure to arrive on time or earlier. The same level of promptness is expected in business correspondence as well.
- Residents of Hong Kong are highly respectful of enduring interpersonal relationships. Because of that, the best way to enter someone’s social circle is by an intermediary.
- Preserving personal reputation and integrity is of utmost importance. Never do something that will make the other party “lose face.” At least not publicly.
- Controlling emotions is an absolute social norm. You should never show genuine anger or excessive enthusiasm.
- Business associates should always be addressed by their title or at least the usual “Mr.” and “Ms.” Exaggerated intimacy is considered disrespectful.
- Meals play a very important role in the Chinese culture. That is why you should schedule your meetings over lunch or dinner.
Making the most of your free time
Finally, let’s take a look at some of the sightseeing options you can use to fill in the time in-between the meetings. Fortunately, Hong Kong is a city filled with historical landmarks and tourist attractions. Here are some of the most important mentions.
- Victoria Harbor – A beautiful look at the city skyline from the bay waters
- A Walled Village – A traditional 500-years old walled settlement
- Man Mo Temple – A beautiful shrine devoted to literature god Man Tai
- Lamma Island – Scenic rural retreat riddled with deserted beaches and traditional villages
- Nathan Road – The commercial heart of Tsim Sha Tsui and one of Hong Kong’s most photographed streets.
- Statue Square – Once the center of the British power, this beautiful square is famous for its arched walkways, and wide verandas and colonial architecture.
Some of the popular music venues and evening clubs you can visit alone or with your partners include the likes of Canton Singing House, Peel Fresco, Fringe Club, and Ned Kelly’s Last Stand.
We hope that these few tips gave you some insight into the life and corporate culture in one of the most important financial centers of Southeast Asia. Much like any other multicultural metropolis in the world, Hong Kong has its own share of daily routines and customs that may confuse foreign visitors. Be sure to get acquainted with them before starting to extend your business network in China.