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Business Etiquette Of Singapore:
Business in Singapore is very formal compared to western countries, with strict rules and measures that are observed. There are a mixture of racial backgrounds from Indian, Chinese, and Malaysian. They are considered Singaporeans first, and then ethnic background is applied. Their lives are fast paced and time oriented. Dinner occurs every night mostly, at restaurants. They tend to be biased towards men and being tall for a woman may be seen as an advantage. Racism is discouraged because the country contains three ethnic groups from different backgrounds. Be punctual at meetings, and other activities conducted with business. Business is straightforward with English as common language. Saving face is most important, because you must look happy all the time instead of being worried. The saving face is usually used when negotiating with people. The singaporeans first get to know you, before they can start business. They focus on planting good impressions on the people they are conducting business with.
Men must have their hair straightened out with coloured white shirt and ties, and jackets are optional. Attire is recommended. Tie must be placed in a way that button collar may be open. Due to warmer weather, it may be uncomfortable to wear a jacket.
Women must have well groomed hair, skirts below the knee, pants, suits, and blouses if applicable. Women should avoid short, tight fitting, or sleeveless clothing. Shorts, jeans, and casual wear are not recommended for women, but wearing western style clothing is fine.
Business Meeting Etiquette:
Appointments should be made at least two weeks in advance as they are considered necessary. Most Singaporeans schedule an appointment by email, telephone or fax. Try not to schedule or plan meetings during Chinese New Year (late January to early February). Many businesses during this time close for the entire week. Arrive at meetings on time as punctuality is considered a virtue.
Attending a Meeting:
Westerners are anticipated to be punctual for social or business related occasions. You should call if you are running late as tardiness in Singapore is viewed as a sign of disrespect. Business cards are generally exchanged during introduction. Business cards should be exchanged with both hands after one has been introduced. Greet the most senior person first. Gifts are not encouraged in business settings and in some circumstances may be deemed as bribes. Small talk is polite until the meeting commences. The chairperson of the meeting opens and ends the meeting. One should be patient and avoid interrupting, showing displeasure through facial movements or talking over to someone. First meetings are generally to get to know one another.
Meeting and Greeting:
Greetings in Singapore follow strict rules of conduct based on the ethnic origin and age of the person. Younger generation or people working in multinational companies may have embraced the concept of hand shake with everyone as in the western culture, but this has not been the case with older or reserved Singaporeans.
When men greeting men in Singapore, the Chinese Singaporeans are comfortable with a light handshake, accompanied with a slight touch on the arm. Malay men also use the handshake and salaam accompanied with a slight bow. Indian men are comfortable shaking hands and may also greet with the Namaste. Handshakes have become the most common form of greeting. In case of a woman greeting woman, Chinese women are comfortable shaking hands but just a slight nod of acknowledgment will also work. Malay women will shake hands but many times salaam or bowing of the head can be used while greeting. Indian women use the handshake or the Namaste comfortably. For greetings between Men & Women, handshakes are a common form of greeting. Many times a simple nod or slight bow is used as a form of greeting. You should wait for the women from all three ethnicities to initiate handshake. Majority of Muslim women and men do not prefer to touch in public.
Personal Space and Touching:
Singaporeans feel comfortable standing at a distance of an arm’s length away from each other while talking. While conversing with friends or close associates, this distance tends to be a bit shorter. There is some touching during conversations, especially on the arms and hands amongst friends and close acquaintances of the same sex. While conversing, there is no touching between men and women.
People from Singapore favor direct eye contact over indirect. Nonetheless, they may view prolonged direct eye contact as threatening and suspicious. Women prefer indirect eye contact when dealing with men especially in a business meeting.
Views Of Time:
Singaporeans tend to value punctuality in business and service settings. In relation to business, people are generally on time. With the abundant use of mobile phones in daily lives, most people call or text if they are running late. Punctuality at work in Singapore is very important as well. Bosses may deduct pay from employees who are late to work.
In Singapore, there many different things to what Singaporean people say and how they say it. Singaporeans examine tone of voice, expressions and posture to see how you feel. They usually believe non-verbal messages over the verbal message. They are likely to be subtle, indirect and implicit when speaking. They regularly hint at a point rather than saying what they mean, since a direct statement may cause the other person to lose face and saving face is paramount in Singapore. An important component of communication is silence; responding to a question quickly may be viewed as thoughtless and rude.
Titles and Names:
In Singapore, titles and names are a little bit important. It is best to address people as Miss., Ms., Mrs., or Mr followed by their surname. In cases where it is unclear that a woman is married, they should be addressed as Ms. It is also good if you address someone by their professional title and there are unique ways of addressing the elders in Singapore. These rules are a blanket statement on Singaporean people, there may be other rules and regulations depending on their ethnic background (Chinese, Malay or Indian) because of the diverse population Singapore has.
Chinese people usually have three names. The first name is the surname or family name. The other two names are personal and follow the first name. They should be addressed by their title and their surname or family name. Moving to a first name basis requires their permission. Once it is fine with them, they will tell you which of their two personal names you can use.
Almost all Malaysian people do not have surnames. As a replacement, the Malaysian men combines their father’s name and their own name by connecting the two. The title of Haji or Hajjah in someone’s name means that they made a journey to a place with special significance. They should be addressed by their title and name. Indian
Many Indians in Singapore do not use surnames. They use a different system to determine something similar to surnames, which comes from having their father’s initial at the front of their own name. The names of Indian people are generally lengthy, so they usually use a nickname that is based off of their regular name. They should be addressed by their name or nickname if they are fine with it.
In Singapore, before the business discussions begins, there is smalltalk between people. Negotiations move at a slower pace for Singaporeans. These people are strong negotiators and are tough on deadlines. It is best to state facts to support your position for bargaining. Building relationships and harmony are important to these people, so it is best not to have hard selling, pressure tactics, or any kind of conflicts or confrontations. Singaporeans usually give a polite pause of up to fifteen seconds before answering a question. This pause is for them to think about the question and for them to give a careful response. Singaporeans will avoid using no in answering questions. They will avoid it to the extent of saying, “maybe”, or even “yes” when the answer is really no. Because of this, their “yes” does not always signify an agreement. This avoidance of saying "no" lets both the asker and responder, who is denying the offer, to save face and continue building their harmony and relationship. There are signs of disagreement, even without the use of saying "no", sucking in air between the teeth after a question is asked is a definite signal for no. Decisions are consensus driven and are usually made right away in business meetings unless it requires approval from more senior member.
When doing business in Singapore, there are a lot of different rules and customs that should be followed. There should be a certain way of appearance, behaviour, and communication. Appearance information varies from men and women business people. Behavioural information contains different rules under each section: business meeting etiquette, attending a meeting, meeting/greeting, personal space and touching, eye contact and views of time that should be followed. Communications information contains different rules under each section: communication style, titles/names and negotiations that should be followed.