12 Singapore Business Etiquette Tips

Singapore Business Etiquette
Like most Asian countries, respect, modesty, and punctuality are the cornerstones of doing business in Singapore. Relationships are crucial here. The dress code is business casual and conservative. A firm handshake and sometimes a bow are acceptable greetings.

1. How important is punctuality?

Asians are known for their punctuality, and Singapore is no exception. Arriving on time or early for a meeting is a sign of respect. If you’re running late, apologize and let your host know when to expect you.

Punctuality also applies when presenting documents. If you had promised to deliver a document by a specific time, be sure to do so. Keeping promises creates trust.

2. What is the appropriate dress code in Singapore?

The country is hot and humid, so the dress code is formal but casual. Business attire is appropriate for business meetings and industries such as finance and law.

Men can wear a suit and tie or a long-sleeved shirt, slack, and trousers. Women should wear pantsuits or a long-sleeved blouse and a skirt.

Singapore social gathering attire is more casual. Casual western clothing like jeans and a polo shirt are appropriate.

3. How do you greet a business in Singapore?

Greeting with a handshake
Greeting with a handshake in Singaporeans culture

The standard form of greeting in Singapore is a handshake. Indians or Malay Singaporeans may not shake hands with women. Chinese Singaporeans may bow to greet you.

Greet senior executives first. When addressing your Chinese business associate, use the person’s title and surname.

4. How are business meetings held?

Business meetings follow a standard format. They start with a round of introductions. Introductions follow a specific order, with a senior executive introducing juniors.

Before discussing the main agenda, attendees engage in small talk. Singaporeans won’t interrupt you during your presentation, so ask questions to encourage participation.

5. What is business card etiquette?

After greetings and introductions, exchange business cards with your counterparts. The most common business card etiquette in Singapore is to use both hands to receive and give cards.

Give cards with the name facing outward, so the recipient can read it immediately. If you’re meeting a Chinese business partner and your cards are written in English and Chinese, present the Chinese side first.

When given a card, study it before putting it in your card case. Don’t write on business cards, and don’t fold them. Carry enough business cards if you’ll attend an event or multiple meetings.

6. How to negotiate with Singaporean businesses?

Business negotiations are generally slow-paced because of protocol and the need for consensus. Singaporeans despise conflict, so it’s essential to be patient and avoid pressuring them into making a decision.

Decision-making is a group process that involves many stakeholders. Hierarchy is based on age and seniority, with the older and more experienced people making the decisions.

7. How to deal with Government Bureaucracy/Officials?

When dealing with government officials, don’t offer them gifts or money. Gifts are a major red flag to Singapore officials, who may see a gift as a bribe.

According to Transparency International, it is the 5th least corrupt country. Bribery is a serious crime that can lead to imprisonment.

Official languages in Singapore are English, Malay, Tamil, and Mandarin. The locals use an informal dialect called Singlish.

8. What are business social dinner etiquettes?

Sharing food is the norm, so wait until all food is served before eating. Don’t expect appetizers when invited to a business dinner in a Singaporean restaurant. Your host will order the food, not you. If your host is Chinese, start eating after your host. If there is a chopstick rest, place chopsticks on it once you finish eating.

If invited to a Malay home, be punctual. Common practice is to serve dinner immediately but without drinks and appetizers. Wash your hands before eating; eat with your right hand.

9. What is gift policy?

Like business cards, give and receive gifts with both hands. Business gifts aren’t required, but if you bring one, wrap it. Avoid wrapping gifts in black or white; these colors are the norm when mourning.

If gifting a Chinese Singaporean, avoid these gifts: knives, mirrors, green hats, clocks, and white or yellow flowers. Wrap gifts in gold or red.

10. How to foster business relationships?

Fostering business relationships starts with being polite, respectful, and patient. Like Indian business culture, Singaporeans might ask personal questions about your family and personal life. Don’t take offense; it’s how Singaporeans build relationships. Be sure to answer honestly and with respect.

Listen carefully, and try not to interrupt when someone else is talking. When building rapport, avoid discussing politics and religion. If invited out for dinner or drinks, don’t turn them down.

11. What is email etiquette?

When writing emails, follow letter-writing etiquette. Use formal language and avoid slang, abbreviations, and emoticons. Use formal salutations (e.g., Dear Sir or Madam) and closings (e.g., Sincerely).

12. What are Business Hours?

Standard business hours in Singapore are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with an hour break for lunch. The employment act 1968, part four states that:

“an employee must not be required under his or her contract of service to work —

(a) more than 6 consecutive hours without a period of leisure;

(b) more than 8 hours in one day or more than 44 hours in one week”

In reality, the hours vary from industry to industry. To put this into perspective, here are the reported average hours worked per week in 2021:

  • Manufacturing: 42.8 hours
  • Financial & Insurance Services: 42 hours
  • Retail Trade: 41.1 hours
  • Information & Communications: 40.9

Singapore Business Etiquette – A Quick Summary

To Do’s ✅To Don’ts ❌
Be punctualTouch someone’s head
Be patient during negotiationsSmoke in public
Speak in a calm toneDiscuss politics or religion
Listen carefullyPoint with your foot


Tabitha is a curious and enthusiastic writer who believes in the power of words and the importance of good manners. Etiquette is her passion, and she enjoys sharing her knowledge with others. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time with her family.

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