Work Culture in HK

Hello! This is the 3rd month of me working in HK. Amazing how fast time flies.

After 2 months working in HK, covering China business, I have learned a thing or two about the work culture here. I could be wrong and could be generalizing but I can only describe what I see from my perspective.

Essentially, Mandarin skills is now more important than English. In the past, you might hear that learning Cantonese / English is essential to survive in HK, it is no longer so. Cantonese has unfortunately been relegated to the 3rd class language as it is only spoken by the locals and those who have stayed here long enough. To succeed in HK corporate world  or to get a job here, number 1 requirement is Mandarin skills. English is taken as a given but you do not need to speak good English. Just basic English understandable by all is enough. Mandarin is more important, apparently.

Chinese culture is very strong here. Everything is very team-oriented. People do not confront you outright but will gossip behind your back about you. During team sessions, you will feel this immense pressure to stay until late / at least until your bosses leave. I had never had to deal with such situation in Singapore. Individuality is discouraged in the HK workplace. Everyone is expected to join in and be harmonious and stay within the team and not go off alone. It is your fault if you as the junior officer do not make the effort to bootlick engage your colleagues. Unfortunately for me, i am the sort who just do my own stuff and hate to do any kind of bootlicking.

Overall, this is a very ASIAN work culture. Not that Asian is bad but in general, the Asian kind of work culture is known to be very bad. Long work hours, hierarchical, etc.

I do not like this kind of culture. I was not aware that when I was in Singapore, i was in such fortunate situation that I do not have to deal with negative Asian work culture even though Singapore is an Asian society. I miss the cosmopolitan-ness of Singapore. HK did not become more international over time. HK has been absorbed as part of China. This can be seen in the declining number of Western expats and increasing number of PRC Chinese expats in HK. It is de-globalizing because it has this giant parent at its doorstep that nothing else from other countries can trump China’s influence, power and control on HK.

I actually feel sorry for them and hope things will get better for them. I feel fortunate to be a Singaporean but well, Singapore also has its own issues.



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