Business Etiquette in Singapore

Business Etiquette in Singapore




To: The CEO


Subject: Business Etiquette in Singapore

I have been studying business etiquette in the Singapore as a way of learning more about the country. Singapore is an Asian country but it has adopted many western values. However, it retains many cultural elements. I chose Singapore because of its uniqueness. The country has four national languages including English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil. A person does not have to know all these languages since a majority of the population understands English. I also found it interesting because it appears to be more formal compared to some western countries. In my research, I depended heavily on credible internet sources, which describe people’s experiences living and working in the country. the information that follows are my findings concerning diverse aspects such as dining, business protocol, mode of dressing, and expected behavior among others.

Singapore is a country in south East Asia. It is multicultural and the population consists of Chinese, Malay, and Indian. Although it largely westernized, business protocol and etiquette reveals influences from the different cultures. There are several multinational companies in the country. Many immigrants and expatriates from different parts of the world work there. As is the case in many Asian countries, respect for the elders, observation of hierarchy, and the concept of saving face are important in the country.

Business Meetings

Business meetings are formal and they can be conducted over lunch. Singaporeans expect people to keep time for business meetings. A person should call early enough if he is going to be late for meetings. One should ensure that he has planned a meeting early enough, possibly two weeks in advance. People conducting business meetings prefer shaking hands as a form of greeting. The typical handshake is longer and lighter than the typical American handshake (The Economist, 2008). English is the main business language in the country.


It is important for one to understand the body language. This is because the people tend to read many non-verbal cues in addition to spoken words. Direct eye contact may be interpreted as a sign of disrespect or aggression. On the other hand, lowering ones eyes communicates the message that one is honoring the person. Conducting small talk at the beginning of business conversations is considered a norm. This is meant to get to know the person. A person might want to enquire personal details during such talks or he may talk about general things such as the weather, economy, and food.

Dress Code

People dress formally for business, although the details will often depend on the occasion. Western dressing is preferred. men wear long sleeved or short sleeved shirt and pants.  On ordinary business days, people will wear smart casual. Ties are for occasions or professions that are more formal in nature. Many people do not typical wear jackets the weather tends to be hot most of the time. However, some people may choose to wear jackets during formal events such as signing ceremonies (Zuliani, 2011).

Seniority and Respect

People are required to respect their elders. The eldest person in the group is usually greeted first and he or she is given priority. People respect titles such as doctor, and they will use them when communicating. They will also show their respect by using Mr. and Ms. Followed by the person’s last name. However, in some cases, people address each other on first name basis. Singaporeans are concerned about saving face. Therefore, in some cases, they may actually choose to avoid saying no, even if they want to.

Giving of gifts

Gift giving is common and it is seen as a sign of appreciation. People give each other gifts during the festive seasons of the Chinese New Year and visitors present their hosts with gifts. However, one should be careful because gifts can also be interpreted as a form of bribe. It is also important to note that because of the different cultures, people have different expectations concerning the giving and receiving of gifts. Therefore, it is prudent to know the person with whom one will meet to determine whether gifts are necessary

Expected behavior

Respect is one of the most important principles in the country. Strict laws are formulated and followed. People should ensure that they respect others and their environment. This is established in the country’s laws, which also show the penalties for disrespecting the environment. Common and ordinary things such as eating and drinking on the public transport system are usually forbidden in public. People cannot smoke anywhere. Smoking is banned in indoor public places such as cinemas and restaurants. Littering also carry heavy fines (Brown, 2012).


Lunch is often between noon and 2:00 p.m. and dinners are between 7:00 and 9:00p.m. both local and western foods are available but many natives prefer local foods. People are free to use the utensils of their choice. There are many options available because of the presence of different cultures. In addition, one should note the dietary restrictions. Some groups such as Muslim and Hindu have strict dietary habits. Muslims do not eat pork and Hindus do not eat beef. Therefore, it is important to know the personal preferences of the people in the meeting (Kalisch, 2012: The Economist, 2008)


Singaporeans express formalism in business. Business cards are important to the people. They are presented using both hands. A person should show his respect by studying the card once he has received it. People keep their business cards safe and they do not write or scribble anything on them. Company policies and government policies are followed, even when the issue may seem trivial. This is important as it encourages transparency. 


Brown, L. (2012). How to travel in Singapore without getting caned. Business Insider. Retrieved from

Kalisch, J. (2012). Singapore. Executive Planet. Retrieved from

The Economist (2008). Getting by in Singapore. Retrieved from

Zuliani, L. (2011). Singapore Business Customs and Etiquette. Retrieved from

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