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
This country profile has been produced to give a short overview of some of the key concepts to bear in mind when doing business with contacts in Singapore. It is intended to be an aid to business people who have commercial dealings with counterparties in the country but should not be seen as an exhaustive guide to this topic or as a substitute for more substantial research should there be a need.
With this in mind, we have covered the areas which are key to a better understanding of the cultural mindset underpinning business dealings in Singapore and which are, quite often, extremely different from the approach and thought processes associated with business in other parts of the world.
Therefore this briefing note is broken into short, bite-sized sections on the following topics: