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Updated by Joanna James on Jun 23, 2019
Joanna James Joanna James
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Tips for Doing Business in Singapore – Do's and Don'ts in the Lion City

The vibrant city of Singapore is renowned for its favourable reputation for business and commerce. However, when conducting business in Singapore there are some points to keep in mind.

1. Singapore Consists of Many Cultures
The city-state of Singapore is made up of a number of different cultures. Although English is the language of choice, Singaporeans can belong to the Malay, Chinese and Indian ethnic groups, each of which follows differing customs. Singaporeans of Chinese descent, as well as males from the Malay culture, will typically greet you with a handshake. However when meeting female Malays it is considered to be polite to pause and see if a handshake is offered; if not, a slight bow will be adequate. On the other hand, Singaporeans of Indian descent may greet you with a handshake or a 'namaste'; in the latter case, you should respond in the same manner.

2. Exchanging Business Cards
When exchanging business cards with your associates there are a number of considerations to keep in mind. It is considered acceptable to exchange cards with the individuals in your vicinity first, before moving on to the other people at the gathering. When presenting your card you should do so with its face up, using both hands and the writing facing the recipient. When accepting a business card, you should likewise use both hands, read it briefly and thank the businessperson. If a meeting begins with the exchange of business cards, they should be placed on the table in accordance with the places at which the individuals are seated. Of course this is just the start and knowing more about the people or company you are doing business with is important as well and it always helps to have local assistance. When it comes to your requirements for business consulting in Singapore, a choice that you could consider would be Complete Corporate Services.

3. Dressing for Business

Despite the fact that Singapore features hot weather around the year, it is still considered that business people must dress formally when conducting business. This means that males are expected to wear long sleeved shirts, ties and trousers whilst females should also attire themselves in smart corporate clothes. However at more laidback gatherings, it is considered acceptable for men to carry their suit jacket over their arm; naturally, this is not the case at formal occasions. If it is necessary for you to arrive at a meeting wearing a suit, you may opt to dress carefully at your accommodation and take an air-conditioned vehicle to the office or meeting.

4. Etiquette
As in other parts of the world, you will find that corporate meetings in Singapore may occur at offices and work sites as is appropriate for your sphere of business; however if it is necessary to discuss business over a meal the preferred repast is always lunch. As Friday falls on the weekend for Malays and other Muslims, when it comes to arranging meetings for them you should avoid this day of the week. Similarly, during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, it is more appropriate not to arrange meetings in the later hours of the afternoon. At your meeting, you should endeavour to speak calmly, clearly and politely with your counterparts.

5. Exchanging Gifts
Whilst small presents are appreciated when you make someone's acquaintance, you should not proffer anything that has four pieces to ethnic Chinese as the word for this numeral rhymes with the word for death. On the other hand, you should never give a Malay a gift that includes pigskin or alcohol as these are contrary to Muslim traditions. Meanwhile, Indians who are Hindus will not appreciate leather products which feature leather obtained from cows. However, if you offer a neutral gift like an engraved fountain pen you should be safe when conducting business in Singapore.

  • A true believer that the pen is a mighty weapon, ventures into reaching the minds of every reader with the earnest hope of leaving an indelible stream of thought.

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