Cultural tips for doing business in Singapore in 2022

high angle view of a team of asian and caucasian corporate executives discussing business in meeting room.

Cultural tips for doing business in Singapore in 2022

Singapore is a multi-ethnic society comprising of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian communities. Each year, Singapore welcomes thousands of visitors who are interested in taking advantage of local business opportunities. Singapore represents a rich economy with impressive exports and imports, so the opportunities are endless.

The country has built a foundation of strong trade and investment platforms, making it one of the most competitive Asian markets and an ideal location to establish a global presence. Not only has Singapore established such firm trade and investment platforms, but it has also created an easy system for setting up and maintaining business.

However, it is important that you know how to operate as a business traveller in Singapore so that you can make the best impression with your local contacts.

Respect your Elders and Seniors – Cultural aspects of Singapore

Family and elders are very important for Singaporeans. Their families are the social centre structure, and they have the utmost respect for their elders, who are always given preferential seating and are introduced first. That is why you should follow the culture of always giving great respect to elders and place particular importance on this when you are in Singapore.

Singaporean culture also shows great respect for the elderly and the person in the highest position in any given business too. The oldest or most senior person in the business may assume a leadership position when speaking to others. If you are with a group of people, it is critical that you should introduce the most important members of your company first.

Negotiations when working in Singapore

The business culture in Singapore is exceedingly competitive and is based on a strong work ethic. Westerners must learn to adapt to a different negotiation process while in Singapore.

Negotiations tend to be conducted at a much slower pace than those in Western countries. Many Singapore natives will want to develop a foundation of mutual trust and respect before agreeing to do business with foreigners. For this reason, it is important to develop a professional relationship with each key group member.

It is not unusual to make several business trips to engage with team members before an agreement is made.

Business Cards in Singaporean Culture

Similar to conducting business in Japan (check out our previous blog on Cultural tips for doing business in Japan in 2022 here),  business cards are often exchanged with both hands, after the initial introductions. The cards are held between the thumbs and index fingers. Sometimes, an individual may give a slight bow when accepting or giving a card.

It is common for a Singapore business professional to accept the card with both hands, study it, make eye contact with the person who gave the card to them and then carefully place the card in a card case. Follow suit and treat the card you received in the same manner.

Avoid writing on someone’s business card, which may be perceived as a major sign of disrespect!

Meeting and greeting whilst working in Singapore

When beginning a business meeting or social occasion whilst working in Singapore, you should shake hands with each individual present, both when arriving and when leaving, and do so in a firm manner. Additionally, many people in Singapore will bow slightly when shaking hands, making it appropriate to give a small bow in return. According to Lonely Planet, avoid touching a person’s head, or their child’s head as it is considered sacred. 

When visiting Singapore, it is essential to understand the cultural norms so that the locals and people that you are considering doing business with are not offended – whether it be intentional or not.

By simply reading this blog you are already on the right path to impressing new clients in Singapore. Being able to recognise cultural differences is important for making the most out of your trip and helps you stand out from any competition.

Here at Dialogue, we provide cultural training sessions to help individuals understand different cultures in more depth. If you feel this is a service that would be useful to you then please feel free to look at our services in more detail today.

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