How to do business in Singapore

Singapore business services

  1. It is very important to understand the business culture in Singapore:
    • Saving face is of immense importance to Asian Chinese businessmen and employees. All negative remarks or comments should be made in private to avoid embarrassing the other party;
    • A business card should be given to everyone attending the meeting with both hands and the front of the card should face the recipient. When receiving a business card, take time to look and comment about the card to show respect;
    • Chinese individuals are generally averse to fee negotiations and attention should be paid to ensure that a Chinese business partner is not offended by your negotiations;
    • Singaporean business communication is very polite, with questions often worded with a yes/no format, such as “would you like to or not?”;
    • Asian customers invariably focus on price, no matter how hard you sell the intangible benefits. Price drives most business negotiations;
    • The inviting party of a business social event usually picks up the bill. The other party can reciprocate next time around.
  2. Singapore is a multicultural country with a diversified mix of ethnic Chinese, Malays, Indians and global expatriates:
    • It is difficult to categorise the different cultural groups and each has its own business etiquette. Malays are likely to frown upon handshakes between people of opposite gender, while traditional Chinese businessmen are likely to bow in place of a handshake;
    • English is the working language while the other official languages are Chinese, Malay and Tamil;
    • If you have Malay business partners, avoid conducting business on Fridays or during the Ramadan month. Avoid products made from pigskin and alcohol because these goods contravene the laws of Islam;
    • If you are planning to give gifts to Chinese business partners, avoid giving anything in a set of four because the number 4 rhymes with the word for death. Clocks are also considered inappropriate gifts, as the Chinese expression for ‘giving clock’ has connotations to death;
    • If you are dining with Indian counterparts, do be mindful that they do not consume beef.
  3. It is essential to be well-connected and well-informed in Singapore:
    • Government agencies play an important role in business in the country. It is important to have patience and exercise restraint because the authorities will always have the final say. Ring the authority anytime as they are very helpful;
    • Make friends with your local Clients and suppliers. Singapore’s business culture is based on extra caution and it is important to develop trust before starting work together;
    • To increase business certainty, we encourage our Clients to consistently use and sign legal contracts of service.

Interesting facts about Singapore

  1. Singapore is the best business gateway to Asia because of its strategic location. Located in the centre of Southeast Asia, a three hour flight will connect you to major markets such as Hong Kong, China, Vietnam and Taiwan, with Malaysia and Indonesia less than an hour away;
  2. Singapore has agreed to commit to the standards set by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which help maintain Singapore’s reputable image as a secure and long-term solution for many well-established entrepreneurs and startups;
  3. Singapore is considered the premier financial hub of Asia. The country’s financial centre houses hundreds of financial companies, insurance companies, banks and asset management companies, earning low tax profits within a liberal economy free of exchange controls;
  4. Singapore is Asia’s most liveable city, comprising i) a cosmopolitan, multinational population ii) high quality office and residential accommodation iii) reliable power and utilities and iv) first-class hotels, hospitals and schools. With a strategic location for wealthy Asian entrepreneurs, the city currently caters to the world’s highest percentage of millionaires;
  5. The country is made up of 1 main island and 63 smaller islands, most of which are uninhabited.However, it is the 2nd most densely populated country in the world;
  6. The country’s name comes from the term ‘Singapura’ which literally means Lion City. In 13th century, an Indonesian prince saw an animal that he thought was a lion and hence, the name;
  7. The Merlion (half fish and half lion) is the most popular symbol of the country. The fish represents Singapore’s past as a small sea town while the lion represents the creature which the Indonesian prince saw;
  8. Singaporean national anthem ‘Majulah Singapura’ is actually sung in Malay;
  9. The highest point in the country is Bukit Timah Hill which is only 164 meters high;
  10. The world’s first night zoo, Night Safari, is located in Singapore;
  11. Singapore’s Bukit Timah Nature Reserve has a greater variety of trees than in all of North America;
  12. Singapore’s Jurong Bird Park is the world’s highest man-made waterfall;
  13. Singapore boasts the fastest walkers on the planet, just ahead of Copenhagen and Madrid;
  14. Singapore’s Bukit Timah Nature Reserve has a greater variety of trees than in all of North America.

Useful links for Singapore

Government and public authority websites:

External articles:

External videos:

Contact us

For additional information on our company registration services in Singapore, please contact our in-house country expert, Ms. Chrissi Zamora, directly:
client relationship officer - Chrissi
singapore business federation Singapore Ministry of Manpower (MOM) Institute of Singapore chartered accountant (ISCA) Institute of Singapore chartered accountant (ISCA) saicsa icsa - institute of chartered secretaries and administrators SIngapore exchange ltd - The Asian Gateway | SGX