International Gift Giving Etiquette - Hong Kong

GIFT GIVING IN HONG KONG* - Gift Giving Etiquette


General Guidelines

  • Gift giving is an intricate and important practice in Hong Kong.
  • If one receives a gift, he or she tries to give a gift in return.
  • Accept and give gifts with both hands.
  • Unwrapping a gift in front of the giver is not a common practice. This action implies that the recipient is greedy and impatient. Moreover, if the gift turns out to be a poor choice, “loss of face” will result. Instead, the recipient will briefly say “thank-you”, set aside the gift, and then open it only after your departure.
  • It is becoming an accepted practice for companies to send Christmas as well as Lunar New Year cards to all business associates.
  • Hosting a banquet is a very acceptable gift for Chinese clients, and is required if they have hosted one for you.
  • If you are invited to a home, take candy, cookies, fruit, scotch, and related gifts.
  • Do not excessively admire, for example, a decorative object in a home--your host may feel obligated to give it to you.
  • At Chinese New Year, it is customary to present a gift of money in a red envelope to children and to the nongovernmental service personnel you deal with on a regular basis. The gift is called a “hong bao.” Ensure that you give only new bills in even numbers and even amounts. Many employers give each employee a “hong bao” equivalent to one month's salary.

Appreciated Gifts

  • Items from your home country, handicrafts, an illustrated book, jazz CDs, assuming the recipient is interested in this genre, Western items such as belt buckles

Gifts to Avoid

  • The following items traditionally have had very negative connotations and, consequently, are best avoided:
  • clocks--connote death, books--for a gambler, they represent a curse to lose, blankets--believed to cause a decline in prosperity, green hats--imply that you are a cuckold or that your sister is a prostitute, unwrapped gifts--perceived as rude, gifts wrapped in blue--the color of mourning.

*Hong Kong Business Etiquette - Gift Giving.  Executive Planet.  30 July 2004 <>.

Above:  The flag of Hong Kong