Hong Kong: First Name or Title?


Addressing others with respect

Titles and job descriptions are important to staff, who usually derive a sense of security from having their duties precisely defined. Moreover, titles show the line of authority. The job descriptions tell each employee what his or her duties are supposed to be.

Most people you meet should be addressed with a title and surname. If a person does not have a professional title [i.e., Doctor, President], simply use “Mr.”, “Madam”, “Mrs.”, or “Miss”, plus his or her surname.

Chinese names appear in a different order than Western names. Each person has, in this order, a family, generational, and first name. Generational and given names can be separated by a space or a hyphen, but are frequently written as one word.

A married Chinese woman usually retains her maiden name; she will not use her husband’s name at all.

Many Hong Kong Chinese adopt an English first name or nickname to make it easier for North Americans and other Westerners to address them. They will expect a similar courtesy from you; that is, your surname should be transliterated into Chinese. This is not an actual translation; Chinese sounds will be selected that are similar to the sounds of your surname. If possible, have a native speaker of Chinese help you. Relying on a Chinese-speaking friend or colleague–preferably from Hong Kong–is often more effective than using companies which transliterate names for a fee. Regardless, choose your name with care and do everything you can to avoid picking something that may sound rude or questionable.