More and more U.S. companies are traveling to Asian countries to do business, and Singapore is no exception. These economic powerhouses, including China, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines, are seeing more and more business travel from the West. When you visit Singapore, you might be shocked to recognize many chains from back home. That being said, despite the Western influence, Singapore is a completely different culture, and it’s important to educate yourself on these differences so you can conduct business in a professional and effective way. In this blog series, we have been going over tips for traveling to a variety of countries on business. In this blog, we will go over important etiquette tips to keep in mind when you visit Singapore for business.
General Tips About Singapore Business Culture
Like in many other Asian countries, business cards are highly symbolic in Singapore. Every time you encounter a new business associate, you should exchange business cards using both hands and a slight nod. Treat the card with great respect, carefully studying it, making eye contact with your associate, and placing it in your card case or pocket with care. Never write on another person’s business card.
Make sure you are not late to any meeting with your Singaporean colleagues. It is considered incredibly rude to leave them waiting, and they will be quite insulted by any tardiness. However, depending on the nature of the event, Singaporeans will often arrive slightly late as to not appear too eager. This is especially the case if food is being served. If you are complimenting your Singaporean colleague, focus on their accomplishments, and never their looks; this is considered insincere. In addition, while business women don’t normally have an issue working in Singapore, it’s important to avoid physical contact with men beyond handshakes. Americans may be surprised to see more physical contact between people of the same sex, such as men holding hands, than public contact between men and women, which is strongly frowned upon.
Singaporean business culture is competitive and focused on work ethic. In general, the oldest member of the group will lead the team, and the team will come before any individual. It’s crucial to not publicly disagree with or correct a superior. This will cause them embarrassment, and will cause the rest of the group to lose respect for you. Keep in mind that it’s typical for Singaporeans to ask you personal questions that would be considered rude in the U.S., such as about your weight, income, or marital status. If you want to avoid answering these questions, side-step them as gracefully as you can, as you don’t want to embarrass the asker.
When presenting to your Singaporean counterparts, make a point to keep your voice low and calm. They will not appreciate you raising your voice or becoming emotional. When you are listening to your colleagues speak, make a point to wait 10 seconds before you respond; this communicates that you are genuinely listening to and considering what they have to say. It’s most important to build trust with your Singaporean colleagues, so make sure to communicate only the most accurate information and stay away from flashy sales techniques.
Prepare to spend more time in the negotiation process than you typically do in the U.S.; they conduct business at a slower pace than you may be used to. Your personal relationship with your colleague will be more important than what company you’re representing, so it’s crucial that you form a relationship with every Singaporean colleague you have. It’s important that they trust and feel comfortable with you. Chances are, any major decisions will need several different trips to build enough of a relationship with your colleagues.
When looking for subjects to chat about with your Singaporean counterparts, here are some good topics to dive into, and some you should avoid.
- The arts
- Your dreams for the future and personal interests
- Singaporean cuisine
- Economics advances of Singapore
Topics to Avoid
- Another person’s personal life
- Religion or politics
- Singaporean laws, crime, and punishment
Gestures to Avoid
It’s best to avoid beckoning someone with your finger as we do in the U.S. Instead, with your palm facedown, make a scooping motion if you need someone to come to you. It’s also rude to point at people, so if you need to gesture towards something, use your entire right hand to do so. In addition, don’t stand with your hands on your hips; this is considered an aggressive stance.
We hope your trip to Singapore goes swimmingly, and with these tips, we are confident that it will. Before you hop on the plane, make a point to invest in our wireless internet hotspot. This ensures that you can stay connected anywhere you are without having to worry about finding public WiFi access. Shop Sapphire today!