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Working in Hong Kong

Your guide to expat life in Hong Kong

Want to work in Hong Kong?

Originally a fishing and trading port, Hong Kong has evolved into a global financial centre with one of the world’s highest per capita GDP. Multinational companies flourish in this laissez-faire capitalist economy, and there are countless opportunities for ambitious expats.

Hong Kong has an excellent infrastructure, refined financial networks, a well-educated workforce and a focus on free and fair competition. A magnet for global capital and multinational businesses, the Asian Tiger is a key financial hub where Eastern and Western interests intersect.

Business in Hong Kong

A good understanding of Hong Kong’s business and cultural nuances will help you win respect in your new environment. Hong Kong is conservative, and you’re expected to dress formally and be professional. Women play a significant role in business, but male colleagues are deferred to in meetings. Conservative attitudes towards women are common in smaller companies.

Locals value punctuality, mutual respect and deference to seniority. Expect associates to invite you to social events – and always accept as they’re a good way to build connections. While physical contact is common in social gatherings, it shouldn’t extend beyond a handshake in business settings. On the other hand, locals will hold conversations standing much closer than you’re used to.

The Asian concept of saving face applies, so avoid embarrassing or confronting anyone. Never present bad news in front of others. And make an effort to contain your emotions. Open displays of anger or irritation create a bad impression.

Practical details

The languages of business include Cantonese, Mandarin and English. The larger the company, the more likely English will be spoken. In many cases, a translator is required. Business hours are usually from 9:00 to 17:00 Monday to Friday, sometimes with a half day on Saturdays.

Men should wear dark suits and avoid bright colours. A woman’s choice of clothing isn’t as restricted, but anything too casual may raise a few eyebrows. When greeting someone, shake hands, then immediately exchange business cards using both hands as a sign of respect. Gifts are given at first meetings and on important anniversaries. Receive a gift with both hands, but don’t open it in the presence of the giver.

Expat salaries in Hong Kong

Salaries are high, especially for people in finance or executive positions. Some packages include a housing allowance and medical insurance.

Top tips for working in Hong Kong

See what people responding to our Expat Explorer Survey think about living in Hong Kong.

There are excellent career development opportunities in a safe and interesting region with a lot of scope to save money and to travel.

All Expat Explorer survey data and all tips (in quotation marks) are provided by HSBC.

All other content is provided by, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in September 2021. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

This information is purely for orientation and to inspire further research, it does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are subject to change.

Always remember to ensure you're aware of and comply with any laws in your host country or country of origin that apply to gift giving and bribery.

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