14 Cultural Tips for Your Singapore Startup

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A lot of modern-day business is conducted in Southeast or East Asia. Entrepreneurs from all across the globe converge on nations like China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Singapore. These countries or nations, as well as their neighbors, are wealthy economic engines and play a crucial role in propelling trade with other countries across the world.

However, business travelers need to understand that the business traditions and cultures in a place like Singapore might be vastly different from those of the US.

This article will discuss several tips that will help you steer clear of any cultural missteps during your business travel to Singapore.

Cultural Tips for Singaporean Business Travelers:

  • Remember that, in Singapore, punctuality is the top priority for any business event. Being late to a meeting with a business executive could be considered tantamount to insult.
  • Occasionally, Singaporeans intentionally arrive a little late – they do this so that they do not come across as excessively anxious or eager. This practice is more common in social-business crossover events serving food.
  • The business culture in Singapore is extremely competitive and rife with an intense work ethic. Group work is prioritized over individualism, and the most senior or competent person in the group will usually be the leader.
  • Ensure that you do not publicly disagree, correct, or debate with a superior or someone older than you. If you are seen as someone making a more senior person ‘lose face’ (being made to feel embarrassed), you might end up losing other peoples’ respect.
  • Singaporeans are quite comfortable asking other people about their marital status, income, weight, or any other related subjects. If you are not comfortable discussing these subjects, you need to find a graceful way to sidestep any questions to, once again, make sure that your questioner is not ‘losing face.’
  • The Singaporean culture has a lot of respect for seniority and age. If you belong to a delegation, you need to ensure that the most senior or important members get the first introductions. If you have to introduce two people, always start by introducing the more senior or important individual.
  • You can print a business card in English. However, remember that a significant percentage of Singaporean entrepreneurs have a Chinese ethnicity, and therefore, having a Chinese translation on the other side of the card will prove immensely helpful.
  • Remember to exchange business cards with all the associates that you meet post-introductions. Also, use both hands for the exchange, and hold the business card between your forefingers and thumbs. You can also add a little bow.
  • After accepting the business card, the recipient will likely go through it for a couple of moments and, after making eye contact with the giver (you), they will place the card in their pocket, a case, or a table. If someone presents a card to you, you should act similarly. A business card is seen as the person’s identity, which is why it is treated with immense respect. Hence, you should never use a business card to write something.
  • Compliments should be based more on accomplishments and less on appearance; appearance-related compliments are often perceived as insincere.
  • The listening etiquettes in Singapore dictate that the listener should do a ten-count before responding. This ten-second waiting period shows respect to the other person and shows that whatever they said was considered carefully.
  • Breaking eye contact is seen as polite, as it helps avoid a stare or a glare.
  • Singapore is home to a range of religions and cultures. The Hindus and Muslims, for instance, consider the left hand impure. Hence, if you are around any Muslims or Hindus, make sure that you are using your right hand for eating and even for touching anything.
  • A lot of Malays and Indians see the head as the ‘seat of the soul.’ So, make sure that you are not touching a person’s head or even the face – even stroking a child’s hair might be considered offensive.

Final Word:

Respecting the Singaporean culture is the key to ensuring the success of your business. We hope that the tips discussed in this blog will help you in that regard. If you want to learn more about starting a business in Singapore, please feel free to contact us.


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