Hong Kong

Hong Kong traditions and customs

What traditions and customs are there in Hong Kong?

We review the customs and traditions of Hong Kong.


Food in daily life

There is a wide variety of ethnic foods, including Italian, Japanese, French, and American. However, most people eat Cantonese-style Chinese food. Soups are especially important in most meals.

A typical Cantonese food is dim sum, also known as yam chah, which are small snacks cooked in bamboo steamers. This meal is served seven days a week, and family members and friends often gather for tea on the weekend. Residents prefer to buy live seafood and freshly cut meat.

Hong Kong has one of the highest per capita fast food consumption rates in the world, with students buying snacks such as chips, fried rice crackers and prawn crackers at school snack shops.

Food customs on ceremonial occasions

Banquet-style eating out is a common form of entertainment, especially for businessmen. Banquets differ from daily meals in that most dishes are meat or fish, and starch is served only at the end of the meal.

Alcohol normally accompanies a banquet; beer and brandy are popular beverages, and grape wine has rapidly grown in popularity.

Some holidays and ceremonial occasions are associated with certain types of food. Lunar New Year’s Eve features chicken, roast pork, and fruit; at the Dragon Boat Festival, people eat rice dumplings wrapped in lotus leaves; and the Mid-Autumn Festival is associated with mooncakes, grapefruit, and persimmons.

Meals when the family gathers, including New Year’s Eve, often include balls of rice flour in the sweet soup. Birthday banquets for seniors include a bowl of long noodles symbolizing long life, and red-dyed eggs are traditionally passed out in celebration of a baby’s first month of life.


Polygamy was allowed until 1971. In 1996, 34 percent of men and 29 percent of women ages 15 and older had never been married. Marriage depends on the economic establishment, the search for housing and the reservation of auspicious days.

Couples line up in advance at the marriage registry office to reserve wedding dates that are believed to be lucky. A common surname is no longer an obstacle to marriage.

Couples can legally marry first to obtain government housing and have the usual banquet later when they are socially married. The remarriage rate for divorced men and women is rising rapidly.


Acquaintances nod to each other or may shake hands if they stop to talk. Goodbyes require a handshake only in a professional setting. Hierarchy is important in social settings; higher-ranking people are introduced or served first.

At family gatherings, older people are greeted first. Younger people are expected to greet older people by title and name. The idea of ​​”ladies first” is sometimes used, although it is recognized as a Western notion.

It’s easier to break the ice by being introduced by a mutual acquaintance. It is common to use the title and the last name until one is invited to use a name. Many Chinese residents use English names for their businesses.

In business situations, it is common to exchange bilingual business cards. Cards are given and received with both hands; this is the correct way to accept any object, even a gift and a cup of tea.

The Chinese in Hong Kong are very united. They tend to be uncomfortable with body contact, although women often walk hand in hand. When queuing or visiting museums, foreigners can confuse the smallest personal space with arrogance. Giving gifts is important on home visits and at the first business meeting. Gifts are delivered wrapped and are not opened in front of the giver.


Religious beliefs

Most Chinese residents practice Chinese folk religion, which is an amalgamation of Taoism, Buddhism, and ancestor worship. Many individuals say they have no religion, but almost all people have religious ceremonies at funerals.

There are 540,000 Christians, and Christianity is growing among young people and college students. There are eighty thousand Muslims, twelve thousand Hindus, one thousand Sikhs and one thousand Jews. There are many beliefs about luck and fortune.

Some numbers are considered lucky while others are unlucky. Many people visit temples to tell their luck, to consult the gods about specific problems, and to ask for protection and good luck.

Religious professionals

Taoist priests officiate at village festivals, but along with Buddhist monks and nuns, their most prominent activity is the performance of funeral ceremonies.

Christian ministers and priests have a more prominent role for Christians because they lead congregations. Fengshui masters help businessmen in office design.

Rituals and sacred places

Major holy sites include the Wong Tai Sin Temple, the Che Kong Temple in Shatin, and the Tin Hau Temple in Joss House Bay. These temples are popular destinations for worshipers in the lunar new year.

Most villages have small temples that celebrate annual festivals on a god’s birthday, and some in the New Territories have lineage halls that hold annual worship and the division of pork for members of the lineage.. The Po Lin Buddhist monastery on Lantau Island is a popular spot for weekend visits.

Death and the afterlife

Funerals are conducted in traditional Chinese or Christian ways, with Buddhist monks or nuns or Taoist priests officiating at Chinese ceremonies and a priest or minister handling Christian funerals. Due to lack of space, Hong Kong residents have had to accept cremation rather than burial, with ashes stored in columbariums.

Traditionally, the Chinese have believed in a continuing relationship with ancestors and the reincarnation of the soul, but many now express doubt or skepticism, although they continue to follow traditional rituals.

Secular celebrations

Major holidays include New Year’s Day on January 1, Chinese New Year in January and/or February, Ching Ming (a grave-sweeping holiday) on April 5, Labor Day on April 1 May, Buddha’s Birthday in mid-May, Tuen Ng (Dragon Boat Festival) in May and/or June, SAR Establishment Day on July 1, Autumn Festival in mid-September, Chinese National Day on October 1 and Chung Yeung (another grave-clearing holiday) in October.

The arts and humanities

Arts support

The arts have not developed as rapidly as the economy, and Hong Kong is often seen as a cultural desert. Financial support for the arts comes almost entirely from the government.


Some local authors write about Hong Kong identity and culture. In literature, the territory is considered a small part of Greater China. Hong Kong is famous for its comics (often martial-themed and set in a vague imperial past) which are read throughout the Chinese-speaking world.

Graphic arts

The graphic arts are modern and have a very broad style. Institutions that collect graphic arts include the Hong Kong Museum of Art (prints) and the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, Gallery of Contemporary Art and Design, which has prints and a collection of posters.

Other exhibition venues include the government-run Visual Arts Center and the Hong Kong Arts Centre, which organizes international and local exhibitions of painting, photography, design and crafts.

Performing arts

Cantopop concerts are the most popular type of show. The Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, the Hong Kong Repertory Theatre, the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, and the Hong Kong Dance Company are government-subsidized and much less popular. There is also a Hong Kong dance company, the City Contemporary Dance Company and the Hong Kong Repertory Company.

In recent years, the number of small theater companies has increased as their alternative productions explore and reflect on Hong Kong identities. They are usually founded by local Chinese residents who are often graduates of the Academy of Performing Arts.

The Hong Kong Arts Festival, held every year in January and February, brings together dozens of artists. Hong Kong is also famous for its movies, which are popular with Chinese speakers around the world.

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