Doing business in Singapore
What's more, the World Bank has ranked Singapore in first place out of 183 countries for "Ease of Doing Business" for several years in a row, based on criteria including: starting a business, dealing with construction permits, registering property, getting credit, protecting investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, and closing a business.
With a diverse population consisting of Malay, Chinese, Indian and Arab peoples, the country is certainly multicultural, but is also considerably Westernised, and the standard of living is high. That said, expats will need to make an effort to familiarise themselves with the business culture and etiquette if they want to be successful in Singapore.
Business culture in Singapore
Business culture in Singapore is based on relationships rather than transactions. Initial meetings may move slowly as a relationship is established, and expats should remain patient as a connection is cemented.
A handshake is an appropriate greeting, and business cards should be offered formally with both hands. It is appropriate to address someone as Mr or Ms until you are acquainted, however senior or older associates should always be addressed with respect.
Businesses in Singapore have a hierarchical structure, and it's uncommon for junior employees and management to socialise.
Flattering or boasting is looked on with suspicion, and prolonged eye contact is seen as aggressive. Smoking is prohibited almost everywhere in Singapore, and many Singaporeans don’t drink.
Gift giving in Singapore is appropriate during the festive season, much as one would send a Christmas gift in the West. Visiting business representatives should bring something symbolic of their country, such as food.
The warm climate in Singapore is taken into account in business attire, with the noted absence of jackets in many situations. Long trousers and a shirt are generally acceptable outside of the banking and finance sectors, although foreign business representatives would not be inappropriate in dressing a little more formally.
Attitude to foreigners in Singapore
As a modern and multicultural society, business culture in Singapore is welcoming to foreign businesses and tolerant of other cultures. The government encourages qualified expat businesspeople to move to Singapore.
Starting a business in Singapore
Starting a business in Singapore is a mercifully simple process involving three steps: registering online with ACRA, making a company seal, and signing up for Work Injury Compensation Insurance. The entire process takes an average of three days.
Doing business in Singapore: Fact facts
Business language: English, though Chinese dialects are occasionally used
Hours of Business: Monday to Friday 9am-6pm, sometimes half days on Saturday
Dress: mostly formal; wear a dark suit for initial meetings and remove jacket if appropriate. Skirts should cover the knee.
Gifts: appropriate on introduction or holidays
Gender equality: Men and women are treated equally in business
Do’s and don’ts of business in Singapore
- Do be punctual.
- Do not point with your finger as this can be viewed as offensive.
- DO show respect, particularly to elders, and avoid confrontation.
- DO not raise your voice in anger or frustration.
- DON’T write on business cards you receive.