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A Brief Guide to Hong Kong Etiquette

Sarah Richard
Nikhil Gidwani

In HK, the old adage of time = money has never been truer.

Much of HK’s etiquette is dependent on the above, though not all. We aim to clarify a few of the odd things that happen in HK.

Furiously pressing the call button… photo courtesy of asiatatler.com

When waiting for a lift, furiously press the call button, even if it has already been pressed. This means that the lift will arrive faster because the lift’s computer mechanism receives the signal that IT. IS. URGENT! It’s especially important to perform this action if there are others waiting for the lift too, as this will show them how you’re concerned for their time too. You may even want to consider muttering “this lift is so slow” under your breath for added effect. Speaking of lift etiquette, anyone is welcome to step up and stand by the lift buttons to manage the operation of the lift by pressing open or close as and when necessary. If you have a backpack, take it off your shoulders and hold it down near your feet. It helps more people fit in the lift. Hong Kongers… always the most considerate. Finally, don’t talk in the lift. No one cares about anything you have to say. Note that this is not an exhaustive list, and for more lift etiquette, please click here to see a helpful link from the Hong Kong Tatler.

For heaven’s sake, stand on the right

Walk or run? Depends how much of a rush you are in. Photo courtesy of expats.hk

when on an escalator. It is perfectly acceptable to stand on the step directly behind someone, as long as you are not oversized. This saves space, especially after you’ve alighted from the MTR and everyone is clambering to get up said escalator. The left hand side is for people who are in a rush (aren’t we all?) to run up the escalator.
On the MTR, move inside the carriage. You’ll find a lot more space. You may want to consider the first carriage as most people can’t be assed to walk all the way to the front of the platform. Wait till people exit the train before you rush on – this is a civilized society!

Easier said than done – as if! Photo courtesy of polyu.edu.hk

Turn on the A/C if you are first in the office.Even if you don’t like freezing and it’s a cool day outside. You can always sneakily turn it off down later.

Joyful indeed. Photo courtesy of octopus.com.hk

Use your Octopus card and stop fumbling around with cash. It’s so frustrating standing behind someone at 7-11 who insists on using cash for everything. Finding it time-consuming to repeatedly keep topping up your Octopus? Register for the Octopus Automatic Add Value Service (AAVS). You can even earn credit card points!

you think about what you want to order. You may find them scolding you if you take too long! Don’t take it personally, you are simply too slow.

The correct way to present your business card… photo courtesy of brandhk.gov.hk

Have your business card ready at all times. Commonly known as a “Hong Kong handshake,” your business card must be presented with both hands and with the writing facing the receiver so it’s easy for them to read

What if building management companies stopped giving these out…? Photo courtesy of fcecocamp.wordpress.com

Umbrella etiquette. Be careful on the street not to poke someone’s eye out! You will need to raise your umbrella up and down to avoid your umbrella hitting another person’s. Shake your umbrella before entering a building to stop it dripping everywhere, and this will mean you don’t have to waste an “umbrella condom” – the small plastic bags to hold cover dripping umbrellas.

Sarah Richard

Nikhil Gidwani was raised locally and is a proud Hong Konger. After a few years of living and working overseas, he has recently returned to the Asia’s World City. When he’s not working, Nikhil spends much of his time hiking and visiting different parts of Hong Kong in order to find new material for his Instagram page. .

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