Second of three articles
ASIA: China/Hong Kong
Greeting. The traditional Chinese greeting is a bow. Your bow should be deeper to your superior. Allow the
senior person to rise first. Shaking hands is acceptable. You can add a slight bow out of respect for your colleague. If greeted with applause, applaud back.
Attire. Men should wear a conservative suit, western style, light weight in the hot summer months. Women should dress conservatively, as well; suits, dresses, skirts and blouses are acceptable. For a little flair, add something red, a tie for men, a fashionable red silk scarf for women. Red is a color associated with luck in Hong Kong. Avoid white as it is associated with death. Make sure you wear a beautiful watch, it will be noticed.
Time. Punctuality is key in Hong Kong. Be on time. Don’t be surprised if appointments are made months in advance.
Dining. Tea is an important part of dining out and business meetings; your cup will be filled continuously; allow your host to pour your tea. If you are finished, simply leave your cup full. Never add milk or sugar to your tea. Drink it plain. Chopsticks: You don’t have to be an expert, but using your chopsticks will improve your reputation. Never rub them together, trying to remove splinters. This implies that you were given cheap chopsticks. Never stick them straight up in your rice bowl. When you are finished lay them on the chopstick rest or on the table.
You most likely will not be given a napkin at a formal banquet. Use your tablecloth to wipe your hands, leaving the tablecloth messy. It is the sign that you have enjoyed your meal. Rice is a filler, try not to eat too much of it. Leave some rice or food on your plate when you are finished. Cleaning your plate is a sign that you have not had enough food and your host may feel that you are not satisfied.
Gifts. Accept and give gifts with both hands: Always wrap your presents with beautiful wrapping paper. Presentation and timing is vital when giving gifts. Always give a gift when going to a Chinese home, and expect to exchange gifts at the first business meeting. Candy, fruit, liquor, wine, watches and pens are suitable gifts. Never give clocks, they connote death.
Greeting. The British shake hands, a light shake is appropriate. Women may not necessarily shake hands; a man should wait for a woman to extend her hand. When asked during introductions “How do you do?” simply reply with “How do you do?” The question is rhetorical. The British are not touchers or feelers, so respect their personal space. They may appear indifferent, but they are very friendly and accepting to Westerners.
Time. Be on time for important business or social meetings. A few minutes of polite conversation and get down to business.
Attire. Men should dress conservatively, suits in fine wools, tweeds and cashmere. A classy silk tie is a must. Women should also dress conservative for business and social meetings — suits, dresses, skirts and blouses are acceptable. Avoid blazers, as they are considered weekend wear, and striped ties that mock the British regimentals.
Dining. Maintain very proper manners while dining out with the British. No elbows on the table and pass items to the left. Summon your waiter by simply raising your hand; no waving or loud gestures.
Gifts. Gifts are not exchanged during business meetings. If you are invited to someone’s home, it is appropriate to take candy, liquor, champagne. If you take flowers, avoid white lilies, which signify death.
Next: The Middle East and Africa.
Stephanie Hunt is the founder and director of Swan Noir L.L.C. (www.swannoir.net).