Photography via Istock/Nikada

Hong Kong’s Cultural Taboos: Here’s A Guide to Everything You Shouldn’t Do in the City

This spring, FASHION had the chance to venture into the “cosmic-like black hole” that is Hong Kong. An international metropolis filled with culture, delicious food, natural and neon views, Hong Kong is a vibrant city that is on the top of many of our travel lists.

Despite perceived similarities with China, Hong Kongers have their own distinct culture. With social etiquette that can increase or decrease one’s face, the cultural term for a person’s reputation and self-esteem, it is important to understand the do’s and don’ts of this dynamic city.

1. Shake hands with everyone upon meeting and leaving them, but make note that Hong Kong handshakes are less firm than you might be used to. Unlike in North America, shake people’s hands gently and lower your gaze when greeting someone rather than making direct eye contact.

2. Introduce people according to rank; an older person comes before a younger person and a woman before a man. 

3. Hong Kong is a fast-paced city. Don’t walk slowly unless you want to aggravate your fellow pedestrians.

4. If you’re feeling flirty, never wink at someone as this is considered very rude. Avoid PDA (public displays of affection) and hold back on physical contact like hugging, kissing or patting people, as personal space is considered important in this busy city. 

5. Never point with your index finger unless you want people to think you’re treating them like an animal. Instead, point with your open hand. When beckoning someone, face your palm to the ground and wiggle your fingers towards you.

6. It’s considered rude for a host not to keep a guest’s plate full. So, if you don’t want to overeat, always leave a small amount of food on your plate after each course. 

7. No matter how much you like rice, avoid eating a lot of it without the complementary dish that is being served. Rice is a filler and this indicates that you don’t like the meal or weren’t served enough food. 

8. Show humility by never accepting a compliment or gift right away. If you are giving, present the gift with both hands and use the lucky colours gold or red for the wrapping paper. Never use white, blue or black paper to wrap gifts, as these have bitter connotations. 

9. Hold off from opening presents right away to save face for the giver and receiver incase there is disappointment with the gift.

10. It’s considered rude to speak loudly in public, and silence is an important part of communication. Pause before giving an answer, as this indicates that you are thinking through the question in a polite manner.