Singapore is not just a hotspot or a simple haven for tourists and travellers. It’s also a great place to work and do business with high-profile clients and people in specific niches or industries. However, to conquer the workplace and get acquainted with different business landscapes, you need to know certain norms and cultural practices related to work, especially here in Singapore.
If this is something that you wish to accomplish in preparation for taking your business dreams and endeavors here to the next level, then make sure to read until the end of this guide.
Singapore Business Culture: What to Know and What to Avoid
Every year, hundreds of travelers come to Singapore to take advantage of local business opportunities. Singapore has a thriving economy with amazing exports and imports, so the options are virtually limitless. However, it is critical that you understand how to conduct yourself as a business traveler in Singapore in order to make the best impression with your local contacts.
Cultural Considerations When Conducting Business in Singapore
When engaging in business connections in the region, there are a few crucial elements regarding Singapore’s business culture to keep in mind. Here’s a shortlist of some of them:
1. You should introduce the most important members of your business first.
The elderly are revered in the culture, and the person in the greatest position in the business is revered. When speaking to others, the oldest or most senior individual in the company may assume a leadership role.
2. You need to learn to adapt to a different negotiation process while in Singapore.
Singapore’s business culture is fiercely competitive and founded on a strong work ethic. As such, negotiations are typically done at a much slower pace than in Western countries.
3. Develop a foundation of mutual trust and respect.
For this reason, it is critical to establish a professional relationship with each key group member of the company you’re doing business with.
4. Try not to avoid basic (albeit personal) questions because Singaporeans appreciate openness.
Singapore business professionals may ask seemingly personal questions regarding a person’s income and marital status as a way of getting to know them.
5. Strictly adhere to rules.
Singapore is quite infamous for its stringent rules across the board. The majority of local businesses do not want too many people running around with too many wild ideas, nor do they want unfocused fragmentations of core enterprises managed by overly passionate entrepreneurs. It is commonly assumed that the majority of Singaporeans are incapable of innovating since they have been socialized to be followers rather than innovative idea producers. Employees are frequently pushed to be “as creative as possible” in the spirit of creativity, but with a slew of constraints and limitations.
6. Learn about these crucial tips on how to NOT embarrass yourself in the workplace:
- Do not correct your employer’s or superior’s errors in public.
- Do not confront your boss/supervisor in public.
- Do not express disagreement with your boss/supervisor in public.
- Do not flatly deny your employer/superior. Employees may openly comply with an agreeable “yes,” but the “yes” is frequently accompanied by indicators of non-compliance (“it may be tough…”).
- Do not participate in public displays of rage or confrontation with your bosses.
When one causes a Singaporean’s “face” to be lost, the former has publicly humiliated the latter. The consequences of losing one’s “face” are severe, resulting in suspicion, hatred, bitter feelings, and so on. Disagreement and confrontation should be discussed carefully, delicately, indirectly, and in private.
For example, if you wish to request a greater wage, do so while maintaining some “face” with the employer. Consider the pay raise negotiation that takes place behind closed doors. Approach your boss with a warm smile and a calm demeanor. Once he or she appears receptive, gently direct him or her toward your offerings to the company. But be careful not to exaggerate your efforts.
Women and the Work Environment in Singapore
Many businesswomen say they have no problems working in Singapore. However, the area is home to a diverse range of ethnicities and religions, each with its own set of cultural customs and expectations. It is critical to understand what to expect in this regard before entering the area in order to prevent insulting the locals.
Because Singapore is home to many different religions and civilizations, it is beneficial to be familiar with some of the more common beliefs of some of them, such as Hinduism and Islam.
Tips to Make a Successful Business Trip in Singapore
If it’s your first time going on a business trip here in Singapore, you’d greatly benefit from applying the following tips for your important business event or social here.
1. Be punctual.
In Singapore, punctuality is a sign of respect, and leaving a Singaporean business leader waiting is considered impolite. However, some Singapore professionals may choose to arrive a few minutes late in order to avoid appearing unduly eager, so please be patient.
Before responding to someone’s comment, count (in your mind) to ten. This demonstrates that you are paying close attention to what they say.
3. Speak in a low tone.
Singaporeans are quite measured in their communication. Avoid raising your voice or displaying rage. A calm tone of voice will elicit far more respect.
4. Be genuine.
When complimenting someone in Singapore, it is preferable to focus on their accomplishments rather than their appearance.
5. Break eye contact.
While you will most certainly make eye contact during the talk, break eye contact sometimes so that you do not appear to be gazing at the other person.
6. Expect some physical contact.
Physical contact between persons of the same gender is regarded normal in Singapore, so don’t be alarmed if you view it as a sign of friendship.
7. Use your right hand as much as possible.
Muslims and Hindus consider the left hand to be unclean, so when eating or shaking hands, use your right hand.
Now that you have these things locked down, you will have greater chances of having a successful business trip here in Singapore. Keep it up, and you’ll soon be mistaken for a local when doing business here – and that’s a strong compliment.
Tips on Starting a Conversation in Singapore
When conducting business in Singapore, it is critical to be able to strike up respectful interactions with the locals. Here are two ways you can effectively do this in Singapore:
Taking an interest in the culture of the country is an excellent place to start.
You might want to talk to the locals about the arts. You can discuss the architecture that you have noticed and admired. You can also talk about the different foods you’ve tried and how they complement the cuisine.
Show an interest in the individual with whom you are conversing.
Ask them about their travel and interests. Also, ask about their goals with the company and key successes. You can respond in kind about your own accomplishments in a humble manner.
What You Need to Know About Business Cards in Singapore
During your talk, you may see a chance to exchange business cards with a Singaporean. Consider providing a translation in Chinese on the back of your card to boost the chances of it being received positively.
Similar to how the Japanese are known to do it, following the first introductions with both hands, business cards are frequently exchanged. Thumbs and index fingers are used to hold the cards. When taking or handing a card, a person may make a little bow.
A Singapore business professional will often accept the card with both hands, inspect it, make eye contact with the person who handed them the card, and then carefully place the card in a card case or pocket. Follow suit and treat the card you received similarly.
Avoid writing on someone’s business card, as this could be interpreted as rudeness.
Cultural Mistakes that You Never Should Commit Here in Singapore
If there’s a list of things you must NEVER DO when traveling here in Singapore, these are the ones that make the top of it:
- Spitting, smoking in public, chewing gum, and jaywalking are all offenses that can result in fines in Singapore.
- When discussing politics, bureaucracy, religion, crime, or punishment
- Correcting or disagreeing with a superior in public
- Making physical touch with a person of the opposite gender
- Displaying public adoration for your spouse or romantic partner
- In Singapore, pointing your finger at someone is considered impolite.
- Putting your hand on someone’s head or face
- Touching items with your feet, which some consider dirty in Singapore
- Standing with your hands on your hips may be interpreted as furious or confrontational.
When interacting with Singaporean colleagues and employers, it is critical to remember the unwritten protocols listed above (which are not included in the Singapore Employment Act or your Employment Contract) to ensure good working interactions and prevent culture shock. These are just a few examples; many will become clear as you see and interact with your Chinese, Malay, and Indian colleagues. Local friends, it has been said, are excellent treatments for any sort of culture shock. Happy working!