Business entertaining is very important in Singapore and don’t be surprised if business dinners are scheduled for every night of the week. (Dinner is the most common form of business entertainment, but lunches are often given as well)
Consider these events as a time to socialize and build relationships rather than discuss business. Most entertainment is done in restaurants – it would be fairly unusual to be invited to someone’s home.
It is customary to allow the host to order all the dishes, after which the food is usually put on the table with all dishes served at once and to be shared by all. Pre-meal drinks and appetizers are uncommon, though they are commonly available in Western restaurants.
The Chinese will use chopsticks for most food and spoons for the soup. Western style utensils will usually be available if you are unused to the use of chopsticks. When using chopsticks, never leave then sticking upright in the rice bowl. When not in use they should be placed on the table, resting on the chopstick rest. (Setting them on your plate means you are not finished).
It is polite to leave some food on your plate — finishing everything could imply that you have not been served enough and are still hungry.
Malays and Indians use a spoon along with their hands to eat. Never use your left hand to eat which is considered to be unclean. If given a spoon and fork, hold the spoon in your right hand and use your fork in your left hand to push food onto the spoon.
Tipping is a far less common practice in Singapore than in many other countries. If the bill does not include a service charge (very unusual), leave a tip of around 10%.
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: