- Official Name: Republic of Singapore
- Official Languages: English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese, Tamil
- Most citizens are bilingual in English (the nation’s “lingua franca”) and one of the other three official languages.
- Population: 5,638,700
- Currency: Singapore Dollar (S$)
- Singapore is located at the end of the Malay Peninsula, one degree north of the equator, and consists of one main island along with 62 other islets.
- Singapore, a city-state, is one of only three surviving city states in the world. The other two are Monaco and Vatican City.
- 25% of the world’s exports of tropical and ornamental fish travel through Singapore.
- All male Singaporean citizens and second-generation permanent residents are required to serve a period of two years in active duty as National Servicemen in the army, police force, or civil defense force (paramedics and firefighters).
- The country is referred to as the “Switzerland of Asia” due to its tight bank secrecy laws, and is reported to become the largest cross-border financial center in the world by 2028.
- A 2014 analysis by the Pew Research Center found Singapore to be the world’s most religiously diverse nation. Approximately one third of Singapore’s population is Buddhist (34%), 18% are Christian, 16% are religiously unaffiliated, 14% are Muslim, 5% are Hindu and <1% are Jewish. The remainder belong to folk or traditional religions (2%) or to other religions considered as a group (10%).
- Religious orientations in Singapore largely correlate with people’s ethnicities.
- The World Health Organisation ranks Singapore’s healthcare system as 6th overall in the world in its World Health Report.
- Racial Harmony Day is a day Singapore to celebrate its success as a racially harmonious nation. Students in schools across the nation are encouraged to dress in other culture’s traditional costumes. Most activities are organized by schools and grassroots organizations, including religious groups.
- Racial and religious harmony is regarded by Singaporeans as a crucial part of the country’s success
- Family is the center of the social structure, and includes extended family and close friends who are treated as family members.
- The group is more important than the individual.
- Having “face” is very important to Singaporeans. It can be given, lost, taken away, or earned, and can be applied as an individual or group quality.
- The concept of “face” is an important gauge of dignity and prestige for Singaporeans. At its core, “face” means valuing harmonious interaction with others.
- Singaporeans will be subtle, hinting at a point rather than making a direct statement. For example, a person will say “I will try” or “I’ll see what I can do” rather than “no,” allowing the person making the request and the person turning it down to save face and maintain harmony in their relationship.
- Non-verbal communication is often more trusted than the spoken word. Facial expression, tone, and posture are all important cues.
- Silence is important: pausing before responding to a question conveys that appropriate thought and consideration has been given to their response. A hasty response can be considered thoughtless and rude behavior.
- Gifts should be refused politely, then accepted with both hands.
- Wait to open gifts -- it is considered rude to open gifts in front of the person who gave it to you.
- Give gifts with your right hand.
- Singaporeans maintain strong hierarchical relationships, with an emphasis on respecting age and status.
- Elders are treated with the utmost respect and courtesy, for example, they are introduced first, are given preferential seating, and given the best food.
- Younger generations are becoming more individualistic, but the high status of the elderly persists -- in 1996, a law was passed that children must assume financial responsibility for their elderly parents.
Business Communication & Relationships
- Personal relationships and proper introductions are the foundation for all business relationships. Links are often based on ethnicity, education, or working for the same company.
- After being recognized as part of a group, you will be expected to follow the unwritten rules of the group.
- Patience indicates that your organization is interested in the long-term, and is not just looking for short-term gains or benefits.
- Harmonious relationships are necessary within business. Be respectful and courteous with others. Most Singaporeans are soft-spoken and prefer a calm demeanor to a more aggressive style.
- Business cards are exchanged after initial introductions, using both hands and with typeface facing recipient. Treat business cards with respect, and examine carefully before putting them away.
- If you will be meeting ethnic Chinese, translate one side of your card into Mandarin, with the Chinese characters printed in gold, an auspicious color.
Business Meeting Etiquette
- Make appointments at least 2 weeks in advance whenever possible. Writing the person concerned is the most formal way to schedule a meeting, though most Singaporeans will schedule by phone, fax, or email.
- Do not schedule meetings during late January/early February, as many businesses close for the Chinese New Year.
- Arrive on time: punctuality is a virtue.
- Presentations should be accompanied by additional material, including charts and figures.
- There will be some small talk before any business discussions.
- Since questioning authority is taboo, encourage questions after a presentation, and smile when a question is eventually asked.
- Never disagree or criticize someone senior in rank, as it will cause both of you to lose face and may destroy the business relationship.
- Send a list of people attending the negotiations and their title well in advance.
- Wait to be told where to sit, as there is a strict hierarchy.
- Negotiations are slow, and Singaporeans will give a respectful pause of up to 15 seconds before answering a question.
- Singaporeans will not overtly say “no”; likewise, their “yes” does not always indicate an agreement.
- Prepare a mental list of concessions you would be willing to make; Singaporeans are tough on price and deadlines.
- Consensus drives decisions.
- Do not lose your temper, or you will lose face and damage your business relationship.