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%.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in Singapore

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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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:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips