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Singapore’s Business World

Thinking about working in Singapore? The city-state offers job opportunities in various sectors as well as a high quality of life. With this InterNations Guide, you will learn all you need to know about the economy, social security, and business etiquette in Singapore.
Knowing local business etiquette is important for a successful career in Singapore.

Job Hunting: Where to Search

The internet with its many online career services and job databases is probably the best resource for people looking for a job in Singapore from abroad. In addition to well-known international search engines, there are plenty of Singapore-only job sites tailored to the expat market. ContactSingapore maintains a good job portal plus useful links to other career sites in Singapore. Websites like Jobsin Singapore, for example, also advertise jobs for expats, posting links for English-speaking roles across the country. Alternatively, ask your nearest Singapore Overseas Mission for a list of international companies operating in Singapore.

If you are an entrepreneur looking for business opportunities in Singapore, you may find the website GuideMeSingapore useful. It offers up-to-date information on business incorporation and relocation to Singapore. Their guides provide industry-specific information for staring a new business in Singapore, and they also offer regular business formation trends reports, as well as tax and incorporation handbooks.

Expat spouses looking for work in Singapore might find the Foreign Manpower website of the Ministry of Manpower quite useful. It provides a list of all registered employment agencies in Singapore and their performance ratings. Those looking to go down the education career path, will find that teachers, especially of English, are always in high demand.

Social Customs: A Quick Guide

People coming to Singapore from a non-Asian background will soon notice that certain customs and values differ considerably from those in their home country. In a business environment, the dress code is often the only thing which remains on the fairly informal side. However, this depends on specific employers and industries.

Women should bear in mind that a considerable percentage of the population comes from an Islamic background and may therefore keep to a conservative style of fashion, particularly in a business environment.

When it comes to greeting people, a nod and a smile usually suffice, especially between members of the opposite sex. Shaking hands is acceptable among men, but for religious reasons, some women prefer not to be touched by men. Physical contact in general is to be avoided, as it can be perceived as a sign of lacking respect for the individual.

Business cards are a large part of Singapore’s culture and are usually extended at every first meeting. When handing over your card it is polite to offer it with both hands, and the text facing towards the person receiving it. To accept a business card, it is also customary to take it with both hands, showing respect for your business associate.

Respect and Hierarchies: Two Very Important Issues

Respect, both for others and for oneself, is the all-governing principle in interpersonal relations in Singapore. It is vital to never “lose face” or to shame another person. This can happen very easily, for example, by expressing anger or by allowing a junior employee to deal with a senior.

Hierarchy and formality play a big part in business relations, and you should always be aware of status, rank, and the correct title of the person you are dealing with. Unless they ask you to do otherwise, you should address people with their title and surname.

Women make up more than 50% of Singapore’s workforce. However, although formally enjoying equal rights, female workers are mostly employed in lower wage positions. Women also earn an average of 18% less for the same position than their male colleagues.

Strengthening Business Contacts during Dinner

It is important to establish good personal relationships with your business associates in Singapore. This means it’s always a good idea to accept dinner invitations from business contacts. While Chinese people tend to dine out on such occasions, people from other cultural backgrounds may prefer to entertain their guests at home.

Small gifts, such as flowers or souvenirs, are appreciated on such occasions, but be aware of cultural and religious customs when choosing a gift. For instance, in some cultures giving food is rude and implies that the hospitality is inadequate. In general, you should avoid giving business presents, as these can be mistaken for bribery. However, your business contacts will be very appreciative if you reciprocate the dinner invitation.

Further Information

Also take a look at our in-depth articles on Jobs and Businesses in Singapore. These include, for example, pieces on Starting a Business or Working Conditions in Singapore.

 

We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.

If there’s something you’re still not sure about, check out the InterNations Forum

Donald Moore

"I moved to Singapore to build up my own business. In fact, it was easier than expected. With InterNations I quickly got in touch with the lively expat community here."

Barbara Sciera

"Settling as an expat woman in a different culture is always hard. But with InterNations I got to know many other expat spouses that helped me."

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