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Arts How to Behave in a Lift

How to Behave in a Lift

By Mei Mei Song
October 12, 2011
An etiquette lesson on how to behave in a lift


In cramped and over-populated Hong Kong, we have a tendency to build vertically versus horizontally, and as a result spend a fair amount of time commuting from lift to lift, travelling up and down claustrophobic travelling blocks. Given that being in a lift is an integral part of city life here, what never ceases to surprise us is the amount of people who don’t seem to know how to behave in one.

Lifts are a tight space to share with others, especially people you don’t really know, and to make the world a better place, it doesn’t hurt to show a little courtesy and manners when taking the lift.

We’ve all had lift door shut in our faces; or been irritated by someone who pressed more than one button while you’re anxious to get somewhere as you’re in a hurry; or have been stuck into an awkward lift conversation that you wouldn’t otherwise choose to have. In order to relieve ourselves from unnecessary lift stress and anger, we give an etiquette lesson on how to behave in a lift below.

Awaiting and Alighting the Lift


- Wait for passengers in the lift to exit before you enter – no exceptions

- Hold the lift for others, especially if someone in the lift seems to be struggling to exit as a result of their groceries, shopping, baby trolley or is performing any form of heavylifting – be of help

- Lifts are first-come first-serve, if someone was clearly waiting for the lift first, they get to enter first. The only exception to this is if the person behind you is pregnant; disabled; or elderly, then you should show some good will and move aside

- If someone is behind you in the lift and there is clearly space, be of help and press the ‘open doors’ button

- Close all umbrellas before entering the lift

- Don’t hold the lift on your floor because you or your company may not be ready; the lift is not yours to have (unless this is in your house), it is something you share with others

- Say “excuse me” when you need to get off, never just elbow your way out

Lift Chat



-No one in the lift chose to be in this enclosed space together, we’re all doing it out of necessity, so keep conversation to a minimum

-If a colleague, boss, friend, acquaintance and/or a neighbor is in the lift with you, do acknowledge them with a greeting, but don’t impose a conversation

Going on a date? Take a look at our dating etiquette here before you go.

In the Lift

- Be considerate, stand to the back of the lift as you enter and make room for others – there is nothing more irritating than someone who is insistent on positioning themselves right by the doors when there is clearly space round the back. If you’re alighting at an early floor, stand to the side

- Don’t blast your iPod so loud that other commuters can hear your music through your headphones

- Press the floor that you intend to arrive to, if you are unclear of what floor you need to alight on, check the directory or make a phone call ahead of time

- Give everybody in the lift some space, a lift is claustrophobic as it is, stand within arm’s reach of other passengers if you can help it, but at a bare minimum you shouldn’t be close enough to smell the shampoo off someone else’s hair. Having said that, never be the person tying up your hair or whipping it all over the place in a crowded lift

- If the lift is over capacity, the rule of hand is that the last person in should volunteer themselves out to alleviate the weight


Let our etiquette guide for the modern dining table help you pull through any important dinners. Read our tips here.

- Don’t speak loudly in the lift whether to another person in the lift or on the phone, it’s very obnoxious. Never ever be one of those people yelling “I’m in a lift, I can’t hear you” into their mobile phones

- No eating in the lift – ever.

- No pets should be in the lift, however if there is no other option you should politely ask if the other people in the lift is alright with this. Also, pets should be carried in the lift

- Do not spray perfume or cologne while in a lift

- Cover your mouth when yawning, sneezing or coughing in an elevator, and if you can help it perhaps save the offensive projectile for after the lift ride

- For the ride, don’t stare at another person, it is awkward, creepy and makes others very uncomfortable. Keep your eyes glued to the door; your phone; the floor; or somewhere where you don’t disrupt the personal space of another person

- Don’t tap your fingers or your feet, you may be frustrated, but the sound of your tapping, we can assure you, is much more frustrating to others



Arts etiquette


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