We looked at some useful tips for business behaviour in Hong Kong, but what happens if you are invited to a business lunch? This could be for networking, as a client, for investment or for a job application. Whatever the reasons, dining out in Hong Kong can be a social battlefield, so let us guide you through some useful etiquette to impress your fellow dinner table guests.
Be prepared to spend a lot of time eating
Business lunches or dinners in Hong Kong can be quite lengthy. Some lunches can be between ten and twelve courses, which is usually displayed on a revolving disc in the centre of the table. The host will serve you the food, so do not try to serve yourself as you may risk offending your host.
Don’t eat before your host
Whilst you must wait for your host to serve you, you should also wait for them to begin eating before you start to tuck in. Try not to eat too quickly, as this can be seen a sign of an unwillingness to enjoy the food and a desire for it to be over with as quickly as possible. Take your time and really enjoy each course.
Do not move the fish
This might sound strange but fish is served with the head facing the host or guest of honour. The head is a delicacy, so in this case, try to avoid moving the fish unless explicitly told to do so. Keep it the way it was facing when it was served and do not begin to debone or cut the fish, as this will be done by the host or the server.
Be prepared for new types of food
There will most probably be dishes on the table that you have never seen before. This could be abalone (a real delicacy), duck feet, snake soup, shark fin soup or thousand year egg. You might not find it particularly appetising but try not to show this to your host as a mark of respect.
Be prepared for toothpicks at the table
Whilst many of us might baulk at this in the West, it is entirely acceptable to use a toothpick at the table. People also use toothpicks to pick up food that would otherwise be quite difficult with chopsticks.
Don’t split the bill
Try to avoid offering to split the bill or pay for your share. The person who has invited you to the meal will pay the bill, so you are not expected to contribute whatsoever to the final account. If you attempt to pay for your share, you run the risk of offending your host and the other guests.
Try to learn some chopstick etiquette
You will probably be expected to eat with chopsticks properly, without having to ask for a knife or fork. Don’t point using your chopsticks and do not put your chopsticks vertically in your food bowl.