Business etiquette in Singapore: What you need to know.

Business etiquette in Singapore: What you need to know.

April Fenton 15.03.2012

Singapore is a bustling, world-class city-state that has made waves around the world for its business excellence. If you are on a business visit or furthermore looking to relocate and work in this lovely place in South East Asia, you should habituate yourself with the most common business etiquettes in Singapore.

Top tips for business etiquette in Singapore

  • Bring lots of business cards to meetings. They should be presented with both hands with the name facing the recipient. Upon receiving a card never write on it, put it casually in your back pocket, or slot into a folder, as any of these actions can be misconstrued as disrespect.
-  Punctuality: although Singaporeans tend to arrive late for social events, being late for business appointments is paramount to an insult.
- Plan meetings in advance. It is essential to arrange your meetings in Singapore well in advance. Do so weeks, even months, prior to your visit.
- Small talk: casual conversation is often typical at the start of a meeting and is part of ‘getting to know you’ phase. You may be asked questions about your background or personal details.
- Handshakes: This is the most common business greeting in Singapore. A gentle squeeze lasting 10 to 12 seconds is ideal. While Westerners tend to read a lot into a handshake, for Singaporeans, ‘pressing the flesh' is considered merely a friendly greeting. There are no subtle messages encoded in a handshake's firmness or duration.
- Body language: Singaporeans are reserved in nature, so it is useful to be aware of their body language and verbal cues. In Western environments, looking a person straight in the eye says: "You have my full attention." In Singapore, the direct look may be interpreted as disrespect, or worse – as aggression. Catch your counterpart's eyes for a second, then immediately lower your head and look down. Your body language expresses that you are honouring the person in your presence.
  • Bring lots of business cards to meetings. They should be presented with both hands with the name facing the recipient. Upon receiving a card never write on it, put it casually in your back pocket, or slot into a folder, as any of these actions can be misconstrued as disrespect.
     
  • Punctuality: although Singaporeans tend to arrive late for social events, being late for business appointments is paramount to an insult.
     
  • Plan meetings in advance. It is essential to arrange your meetings in Singapore well in advance. Do so weeks, even months, prior to your visit.
     
  • Small talk: casual conversation is often typical at the start of a meeting and is part of ‘getting to know you’ phase. You may be asked questions about your background or personal details.
     
  • Handshakes: This is the most common business greeting in Singapore. A gentle squeeze lasting 10 to 12 seconds is ideal. While Westerners tend to read a lot into a handshake, for Singaporeans, ‘pressing the flesh' is considered merely a friendly greeting. There are no subtle messages encoded in a handshake's firmness or duration.
     
  • Body language: Singaporeans are reserved in nature, so it is useful to be aware of their body language and verbal cues. In Western environments, looking a person straight in the eye says: "You have my full attention." In Singapore, the direct look may be interpreted as disrespect, or worse – as aggression. Catch your counterpart's eyes for a second, then immediately lower your head and look down. Your body language expresses that you are honouring the person in your presence.

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April Fenton's picture
Manager | HR
afenton@morganmckinley.ie