Doing business in Singapore

Singaporeans are generally very familiar with Western business standards, however, their behavior is strongly influenced by Chinese, Malay and Indian ways of thinking.

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There is a collectivist orientation, which means that one always defines oneself as part of a larger group. Mutual trust and personal relationships form the basis of every business activity. 

Singaporeans prefer to do business with familiar faces within their network (=group), and not so much with outsiders. 

For a first contact with a Singaporean company, it is therefore beneficial to be referred by a local contact person. Simply sending an inquiry by e-mail  is usually not enough. At the very least, call your potential business partners, talk to them personally – several times. A solid basis of trust needs to be gradually built up, before business can finally be Taken into consideration. 

Networking at lunchtime

To ensure that strangers eventually become network friends, business lunches and dinners are very important in Singapore. While the initial dinner may be very formal, over time the harmony between the two sides should become apparent.

This is not necessarily achieved through rather personal conversation topics or lots of humorous remarks, but do aim to make a good impression as a reliable, long-term business partner.

Bring your support team

Another aspect of the collectivist orientation in Singaporean business life is that negotiations are usually conducted between groups and not between individual executives. If a negotiating partner sits at the conference table unaccompanied, they are likely to be attributed a lack of status and support within their own team, which massively weakens their position in the negotiations.

A meaningful title on the business card can be particularly helpful here, because it raises the personal status. Furthermore, branded clothing is a must, because it reflects wealth and thus personal success.

Keep this in mind at all time when doing business in Singapore! Learn more about the cultural standards and how to set the right tone in intercultural communication!

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