How to do Business in Singapore

Singapore is a fantastic place to do business, if you're aware of the cultural differences.

Singapore is one of the world’s richest nations, and attracts businesspeople from all over the planet. It has a unique blend of cultures and is the focal point for Asian trade, making this the ideal place to forge business partnerships.

Singapore is a real melting pot of cultures and languages, although English is primarily spoken. You can also expect great diversity in the food eaten, with influences taken from all over the world.

Working hours tend to be very long in Singapore. Typical office hours run from 9-5 Mondays to Fridays, and 9-1 on a Saturday – don’t expect a long weekend. When you introduce yourself to your business contact, you should remain formal. As with many Asian countries, Singaporean business culture is very much grounded in pride and honour, and people expect you to show respect.

You will need to have a lot of business cards to hand, because they play a big part in Singaporean business. Always present your card as a gift, with both palms, and always start with the most senior figure in the room. As for presents, something from your home country is always appreciated, but you might want to ask in advance if they are happy for you to bring them something.

When it comes to dress, suits and ties are still worn for the most part. A light suit is a good idea in the tropical climate, but most people won’t bother with a jacket. For women, lightweight blouses and thinner trousers or skirts would be advised. Singaporeans are more relaxed about formal attire than some, but it shows respect to be conservatively dressed.

Long lunches and dinners play a large part in business, but don’t make the mistake of ordering alcohol – alcohol is never served with Indian and Malay meals. It’s also a good idea to let your host lead the conversation, because some Singaporeans find it vulgar to talk about money over a meal.

With negotiations, there is a strong culture of achieving a ‘win-win’ situation. Expect them to drive a hard bargain because this is a competitive market, but avoid conflict, be shrewd, and you could walk away feeling very successful.

Business in Singapore is all about showing respect – for people, for the culture and for yourself. Behave courteously and present yourself well, that’s the simplest way to create partnerships in this fantastic business community.


Expect long working hours
Respect, pride and honour matter
Always present business cards
Dress conservatively but with the climate in mind
Be fair in your negotiations