How Elusive Is Guanxi For Foreigners?
With Guanxi being an integral part of doing business in Hong Kong, it’s only natural that foreigners would want to dig themselves as deep into the network as they could possibly go. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple, certainly when compared to how networking is done in the West. It’s not entirely impossible, however, so just pay attention.
Guanxi For Foreigners
Since building connections in Hong Kong has strong ties to family, it’s only to be expected that foreigners would be treated with a certain level of detachment. This isn’t to say that the Chinese counterpart would be rude. On the contrary, they are likely to be excessively polite, but this is more about courtesy than anything else. If you really want to have good Guanxi, you’ll need to get a grasp of its roots, which is trust.
This is where things get a little problematic because foreigners are rarely ever granted the same level of trust as one bestows upon close relations. At best, outsiders can hope to be thought of as a foreign contact or friend. This isn’t a terrible place to be at, but it can limit the things that one can achieve when trying to do business in Hong Kong.
In any case, before you even get to that point, you’ll need to earn some points in order to actually get Guanxi of any kind. This is where favours come in.
Favour For A Favour, Not Just A Phrase
If you truly want to cultivate Guanxi in Hong Kong, you need to understand exactly what it takes. The phrase “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” is common in the West, but it carries a much heavier responsibility in Hong Kong. The entire concept of Guanxi is built on exchanging favours and this is not optional. It’s something that is required of you if you really want to build good connections.
It’s also important to note that the strength of the relationship between partners is often more important than the size of a deal or the money involved. As such, it’s often more important to cultivate that level of trust, even if it means losing out on short-term profit.