Doing Business in Singapore
Typically, doing business in Singapore is pretty much like doing business in the West. Due to the influx and encouragement (by the Singapore Government) of foreign investments, you can find a lot of multi-national companies in Singapore, or companies which are run by non-Singaporeans.
I guess you can say it is a fair fusion of West meets East business environment in Singapore. There are attitudes and practices of the West, but with the mentality of the East. Below are some of the pointers which I hope would be useful to you.
Unlike in the West, business deals are rarely concluded in one meeting. It usually take a few meetings for people to get to know you and your company better, before committments of any kind are made. It is just the way Singapore companies work, with no offence meant to you.
You should arrange for appointments a few days ahead, preferably one or two weeks ahead, and one or two days before the appointment, call up to confirm the meeting.
Try to be about 15mins early for your appointment. Locals here value puntuality, so please bear that in mind.
Typically, you greet a person by his family name (or last name to some). However, as Singapore is a multi-racial society, you will probably have trouble knowing who to greet what.. 🙂
Typically, just greet the person according to how you are introduced. A “Good Morning, Mr Eddie” or “Good Morning Mr Teo” is fine, as it is quite common to see people greeting each other by first or last name. However, if you are sure of the person’s family name (like Teo in my case), you should use “Mr Teo” or “Miss Teo” wherever possible.
Always be ready to extend your hand for a handshake. I will not go into how to do a proper handshake, I am sure you already know that. Let the lady take the lead, if you are meeting a lady.
One thing to note is, I noticed many foreigners like to extend your hand out, with your palm facing down (inner hand facing the ground). I find this particularly rude, and for those who knows body communication, knows that this is a form of “belittling” the person who are shaking your hands.
So, extend your palm 90% instead, you would not want anyone to belittle you as well, so be fair.
Oh yes, a firm handshake should be extended, but when handshaking with a lady, just a soft handshake would do.
Exchanging Calling Cards (or Name Cards)
It is common to exchange calling cards (or name/business cards to some) here. It is considered rude to give out your card with one hand, so remember to use two hands to give out your card (or use one hand to give and the other to receive).
Take a moment to read the card (even if you are not keen!), and place it on the table during the meeting. You should not keep the card immediately (unless the situation does not allow you to leave it open facing you).
I have seen many publications saying bowing is essential, I do not think so. It is not necessary to bow unless you want to accord respect to the person you are meeting, so decide for yourself.
When meeting someone for business, it is essential to be properly dressed. As Singapore is a hot place, it is not essential to wear a coat, but long sleeves shirt with a tie is considered necessary.
For ladies, a smart working attire is recommended.