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In this assignment, we are given a topic to write about the business etiquette of a country of our choice by Mr. Yoong Wai Sin, our lecturer of Personal Development Skills 1 in Semester Four. This is the second group assignment given to us to train our teamwork in this subject and we decided to study the business etiquette of Singapore.
Singapore, one of our neighbour countries is a multi racial country like Malaysia too. That is why both of these countries share some common cultures and etiquettes. For the past few years, Singapore had become a country with more than their major ethnic groups which are the Chinese, Malays and Indians who owns citizenship in their country. This phenomenon was due to the population shortfall in Singapore. As what Mr. Lee Kuan Yew said during a community event at Radin Mas in his constituency of Tanjong Pagar GRC in 5th September 2010, he urged Singaporeans to accept immigration as the country needs immigrants to make up the population shortfall.
Now Singapore is filled with immigrants from Europe, Australia especially from China. While they are building their careers and families in Singapore, they will too apply their own culture and lifestyle into the society and mixed with the local culture. These mix and match culture had become a new and unique culture in Singapore.
That is why learning the business etiquette in Singapore is a special study case for us to look into because in future, the possibilities for us to work in Singapore are high. It is best to understand them now so that we do not face culture shock when dealing with Singaporeans.
GREETING AND INTRODUCTIONS
Each country has their own way of greeting and introducing themselves to others. As an international country itself, Singapore had attracted a lot of global companies to invest and do business in their country. Practicing standard business etiquettes had become one of the important parts when doing business in such countries.
The correct way of greeting people is very important. It will not only show respect to other but also shows you are sincere in having a good business relationship with the other parties. As for the younger generations in Singapore, they accept and adopted the western style of hand shaking and implemented it throughout the city. Women in Singapore usually extend their hand first when handshaking. Singapore is a country which treats men and women equally so it is all right for men to extend their hands first too. Introductions are always done in order of age or status.
Business cards are one of the best ways to leave contacts for your customer or supplier. Usually people will exchange business cards together with an introduction during business meetings. A nice design business card will definitely leave a good impression. Singaporeans will never go to a business function without bringing their business cards.
When handling out the business cards, it is always held by the top corners with the thumb and index finger of both hands for the receiver to read clearly. Never write on the business card upon receiving, put it casually in our back pocket or stack it in a folder. These actions can be treated as disrespectful. If we fail to treat it with a proper respect, you will not be taken seriously as a potential business prospect for them.
Protocol of Shaking Hands
There are rules and regulations for hand shaking in the business etiquette. In Singapore, handshake is the most common way during business greeting. An ideal gentle and polite way to do handshake should squeeze and last for ten to twelve seconds. One of the reasons is because Singaporeans considered that 'pressing the flesh' is considered friendly and greeting.
However, the styles of shaking hands with Singaporean counterparts are different with business greeting. They will normally wait their counterparts to initiate the handshake before extend their hand.
The traditional Malays whose majority is Muslim do not shake hands due to their culture and beliefs. As for the Indians, they only shake hands with people of the same sex. When introducing with someone of the opposite sex, they just need to nod the head and give a gentle smile. For the new generations in Singapore do not mind to shake hands with opposite sex because of the needs in globalization. They need to adapt to the international business etiquettes in order to cater the market. Still, we need to be caution because some still stand firm on their beliefs.
In Singapore, female is acceptable to shake hands with same and opposite sexes. They will expect males to be more initiative in showing their hand shaking gesture. If not, they may only do a simple nod politely when introduced themselves.
Basically Singaporean follows the British way of addressing people. As we know, Singapore was once occupied by the British and their culture was strongly influence by the British too.
The other reason why Singaporean follows the British way of addressing people is because that is the standard of greeting accepted by people around the world. As an international trading country, it is essential for Singaporean to greet people internationally in order to cater the foreign investers. This will make them feel comfortable in their country and continue staying in the country without facing much culture shock.
That is why in Singapore, we usually address men as "Mr." and women as "Ms." followed by their surname or family name. Some married women preferred to be addressed as "Mrs." followed by the surname or family name of their husband.
Some people will address the elders as "Uncle" or "Aunt" followed by their preferred name such as "Uncle Lim", "Uncle Peter" or "Aunt Jane" to show respect to the elders. Kids usually address their parents' friends this way to show a better relationship rather than called them by "Mr." or "Ms." Some people who do business with elders especially in their family business will address your elder customers or suppliers this way too.
As each ethnic group has a different way of using their name, we are advised to ask a Singaporean what they preferred us to address them.
BUSINESS ATTIRE AND PROFESSIONALISM
Doing a proper handshake and give the correct way of greeting are important but without a proper outfit, one may still considered inappropriate to conduct a business approach.
Business style and professional image
Singapore is a country with no natural resources like plantations or mineral abstractions. The only way for them to survive is to do trading and finance in their country. In order to place themselves as one of the top trading and finance countries of the world, they need to show an international standard or even far beyond average standard of professional image to the world. This is to attract more investors and immigrants to keep supporting the economies of Singapore.
According to our search in Google, there are a lot of image consultants in Singapore that helps the local businesses to shape their professional image. They provide trainings for corporate as well as individuals too. The most common training for corporate are enhancing their corporate impression, effectiveness, understand international culture, the art of hosting, entertaining, dining etiquette and so on. The business style for men and women are different too.
As men in Singapore nowadays, they do not only look into their dress code but skin texture and body figure too. Do not be surprised that men in Singapore put up simple make-ups too. It is for the sake of having a good appearance and being respect to the function he is attending. As for women, putting up make-ups is a must even during normal working. Men are taking care of their skin by applying skincare and do facial services. The appearance will be much better than none.
This proves that Singaporeans are willing to spend their money in creating an international business style and professional image as it is essential in personal and corporate branding. Not like in Malaysia where people are still able to wear traditional Malay costumes to work and do things the way their parents passed down. Singaporeans are thinking out of the box and started to change the traditional way of doing business.
Basically Singaporeans who do office work wear as all white collars in the rest of the world do. Long sleeves shirt with long black pants for men and blouse with skirt for women is the most commonly seen dress code in Singapore.
One good thing about Singapore is the people will wear the correct clothing for the correct occasion. People who work in a restaurant will wear like a decent waiter with clean hair and make-ups, a chef will have a formal uniform with a hat. In some countries we can see their professionals do not match their dress codes. A correct dress code will enhance its branding and give confidence to the customers about their professionalism.
Nowadays where fashion comes into the business world, we can see there are a lot of accessories which cater the market of the white collars. Men will not just wear a simple plain colour tie nor do the women wear a simple pair of earrings. In Singapore people wear different designs of tie, cufflinks, earrings and so on. It is acceptable in the business world as they are much open minded compared to Malaysia.
As we had mentioned earlier, Singapore is a multi racial country like Malaysia. The majority race is the Chinese, followed by the Malays and Indians. Due to the ethnic group diversity and culture, businessman will be facing challenges when dealing with Singaporeans.
Multi cultural etiquette
In order not to offend the three races during conversation or business meetings, the safest way to do so is follow the formal and general way of communication. Although Singaporeans are accept the western way of business etiquette but there is some common etiquette which foreigners need to take note of them.
Interestingly, Singaporeans are very care and sensitive about their face. Based on our research, face is a prized commodity that can give, lost, taken away or earned. Especially for Singaporeans, the face can be greater than person, family, school, company even nation itself. They will still care about their face even they have not any money. By understanding this concept, we can easier understand how a face is been function in their business etiquette.
The 'Kiasu' culture is one of the well known cultures around the world. To Singaporeans, 'kiasu' concept means 'fear of losing'. It normally uses to describe the social attitude of Singaporeans. But, this concept also represents the spirit of Singaporeans which they always want to be the best, become the first in everything and never lose out. However, it also has both positive and negative connotations yet it also reflects the value of competitiveness and strong work ethics.
Doing business in Singapore is more formal than in many western countries. They are lots of protocols and rules to be followed strictly especially dealing with the government. Breaking the law is a serious offence in Singapore and may cause termination of business.
There are some common observations to be bear in mind when doing business in Singapore. Unlike the western culture where elders and youngsters are treated equally, elderly Asian people are to be treated with greater respect. Drawing too much of public attention is not appreciated as it is considered no manners and do not respect the general public. We should not get offended if a Singaporean does not look into our eyes while communicating or in a meeting. The eyes are cast down to show respect and politeness especially you are a senior or at a higher rank status.
In the Singapore business culture, they consider their status and hierarchy as superior. They usually practiced centralization management system. That is why most decisions are taken by the senior managements and subordinates are advised not to question or criticize their superiors.
One of the Asian philosophies of doing business is to create a good rapport before going into business matter. They consider personal relationships among people are more important than the company they work for. They want to make sure they are doing the right business with the right person. That is why it is necessary to build up a good and genuine relationship with a Singaporean counterpart in order to show our capabilities and good character.
Choosing gift for business environment
There are cultural differences when handling gift to the three main ethnic groups. Be caution when giving gifts to the government sectors as it may be misunderstand as bribery. Below are some important things when presenting a gift for business purpose.
The Chinese may refused a gift several times before accepting it. This is to show that the receiver is not greedy.
Avoid giving sharp utensils such as knives and scissors because it means you want to sever the relationship.
Never give clocks as they are associated with death.
Do wrap gifts in red, pink, or yellow because Chinese treat these colours as happy.
Avoid giving gifts in odd numbers as they represents unlucky.Â
Do not bring our own food when invited to a formal dinner party. The host will assume that you think they do not provide sufficient hospitality.Â
Giving auspicious items such as dragon or kirin are encouraged because it shows that you want their business to grow.
Never give alcohol to Malays as it is forbidden for Muslim to consume.
Never give anything made from swine
Present your gift when departing rather than arrival.
Avoid using white wrapping paper as it represents death.
Do wrap our gifts in green.
Make sure the food items given are halal.Â
Offer our gifts with our right hand. If heavy, both hands are allowed.
If we want to give flowers, we should avoid frangipani because they are used in funeral wreaths.
Money should be given in odd numbers. They prefer to receive SGP$11.00 rather than SGP$10.00
Do not give leather good to a Hindu as cows are sacred to them.
Do not give alcohol unless you are certain your receiver imbibes.
After completing this assignment, we understand better about the business etiquette in Singapore. We are glad that Mr. Yoong Wai Sin gave us this topic to study as we are going to be the future hoteliers in the market. This knowledge will be very useful to us in future.
We appreciated the efforts of our team members in completing this assignment. Without the help from each other, we will not be able to submit this assignment on time. We thank each other for their time spent in researching and compiling this assignment.
Learning the right business etiquette is very important especially working with other ethnic groups of people. We must be able to adapt their culture and show sincerity towards our customers. As the 10 Principles for Peace of Mind indicates: change ourselves according to the environment. We must start learning the professional way of presenting ourselves and build up our personal branding now.