Business etiquette in Singapore |

Business etiquette in Singapore

When forming business relations with Singaporeans you should familiarise yourself with their business etiquette.

Posted on

3 February 2014

Last updated on 24 September 2017
Business etiquette in Singapore

As with any different culture it is important to familiarize yourself with the business etiquette when doing business with Singaporeans. There are some very strict cultural rules that must be observed in order for a smooth business transaction.


When an appointment is made, it is vital that it is kept and that you arrive to the appointment on time.
Appointments should be scheduled two weeks in advance and be aware of important dates such as Chinese New Year when most businesses are closed. Always furnish everyone attending the meeting with a list of who will be attending and their title, well in advance.

The swapping of business cards is a common practice and both hands are used to exchange business cards. If you are meeting a Chinese speaking person it is a good idea to have one side of your business card translated to Mandarin, and for the letters to be printed in gold. Examine business cards carefully and treat them with respect before putting them away in a business card holder. This will indicate the way you plan on treating your future relationship. A handshake is the common greeting and it is considered polite to address people using their title and last name, not the first name.

Small talk is a must and be patient while asking sincerely about the health and family of the person with whom you are conducting business. It is also considered rude to ask questions to the authority and should wait to so until the end of the meeting.

Hierarchy is important in business situations and people of a higher rank should be respected as such. Never directly disagree with someone of a higher rank, and exercise patience throughout the negotiation. It is important to avoid prolonged periods of direct eye contact during negotiations as it is considered rude. Also ensure that you are always in proper business attire when doing business deals.

When entering a business meeting wait to be told where to sit. There is a strict seating hierarchy which must be followed and you will be put in the appropriate place. Business deals take time. Most Singaporeans will pause for 10-15 seconds before answering a question to show that they have given it serious consideration. Be patient as if you speak to soon you may miss an important answer.

When you are in the middle of a business deal, pay close attention to the non-verbal communication such as posture and gestures. In Singaporean business deals many will often say yes but mean no or maybe, because they want to save face. Try not to be critical or disagreeable during a meeting as it may harm further business relations and cause you to lose face. However, keep in mind that Singaporeans are tough negotiators and always go into the meeting with a goal in mind and the concessions that you are willing to make, this will help you to remain patient and to not lose your temper.