It is important that meetings should remain as harmonious and non-confrontational as possible, with due regard being given to the preservation of face.
Thus, it could be very detrimental to the long-term health of any business relationship should a meeting descend into recriminations or openly expressed frustrations. Bear in mind that the quality of the relationship is the key determinant of a successful and mutually fruitful partnership. (Although, once again, when dealing with Western educated Singaporeans working with MNCs, it is possible to encounter US style frankness.)
The focus of any meeting should be on co-operation and the preservation of harmony. Therefore, it is often a good idea to let any sticking points drop, returning to them later through another approach or even saving them for later in the negotiation process when further progress has been made and the relationship further strengthened.
Respect should be given to the hierarchy during the meeting, which includes thoughtful pauses prior to answering questions posed by senior managers. Do not leave your junior members to deal with their senior team whilst you attend to something more important! Punctuality is crucial, as lateness implies a lack of respect.
The use of coded and diplomatic language can make meetings seem inconclusive and confusing, with many items seemingly left hanging in the air. It is important to have a good understanding of Singaporean communication patterns.
The government has introduced very tight legislation governing the issues around gift giving – wishing to avoid the corruption scandals which have tainted other Asian societies in the past. It is, therefore, less common for gifts to be given and received in Singapore than in many other countries in the region.
It is possibly better to give one gift to the group as a whole, but if individual gifts are to be given they should be merely tokens (pens with corporate logos etc.) As with other Asian countries, gifts should be wrapped and are unlikely to be opened in front of the giver.
Written and Produced by Keith Warburton
Singapore is often seen as a stepping stone into Asia. Singapore is a successful Asian city state which has seemingly managed to marry the best of western influences whilst maintaining a thoroughly Asian feel. Is it any wonder that so many global organisations choose Singapore as their pan-Asia base, seeing it as a perfect blend of geography, economic prosperity and political stability?
The city certainly punches above its weight in terms of economic success, educational achievement and the high standards of living which are almost universally enjoyed. Singapore’s economic miracle has been much documented over the years. The foundations laid during the formative years of Lee Kwan Yew’s tenure as Prime Minister have served well over the decades and managed to keep Singapore right at the top of the global success tables.
If you are looking to do business in Asia, it is difficult to ignore the appeal of Singapore – not just as a base to explore the rest of the region but also as an attractive market. Singapore is a consumer paradise with millions of affluent consumers eager to purchase the best that the world has to offer.
Doing business in Singapore could be very good for you but it is important to take on board local cultural norms and expectations about how business should be conducted. Don’t be fooled by the veneer of westernisation you are likely to encounter when you arrive – the thought processes driving business decisions are decidedly Asian. Don’t assume that the highly cosmopolitan business contacts you meet will automatically understand your approach because such assumptions might well jeopardise an otherwise lucrative relationship.
This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Singapore business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on: