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The people

Chinese 76%
Malay 15%
Indian 6%
English is the working language while the official languages are Chinese, Malay and Tamil. Singlish,
which is essentially English generously peppered with local slang and dialects.
Business Culture:
Body language
Corporate culture
Dining and entertainment
Business gifts
Body Language

Never touch a person's or child's head. The head is considered sacred.

Silence is an important element of Singaporean communication.
Rather than say 'no', they might say, 'I will try', or 'I'll see what I can do'.
In Singapore, the direct look may be interpreted as disrespect, or worse as
aggression. Catch your counterpart's eyes for a second, then immediately
lower your head and look down.

Corporate culture
Shake hands with everyone present at a business meeting. Shake hands again when leaving. A
gentle squeeze lasting 10 to 12 seconds is ideal Rememeber that Your handshake
should be firm.
Singaporeans may bow slightly as they shake your hand. A slight bow for Chinese or older people is
Always talk straight and get right to the point with Singaporeans
Business cards are exchanged upon being introduced. Exchange business cards with both hands
after you are introduced.
Men and women do not traditionally shake hands, since Muslim men do not
touch women in public. Men and women may shake hands, but the woman
must extend her hand first
Dining and Entertainment

Allow the host to order all the dishes.

Indians always wash their hands before and after a meal. In a Malay home, you will be given a
small bowl of water and a towel. Use the water to wash your hands, not to drink it
When entertaining Malay associates (who are Muslim) avoid conducting business on Fridays or
during the Ramadan (the Muslim fasting month).
Never serve alcohol or pork. Most Indians do not eat beef as well.
avoid scheduling meetings between noon and 2pm, they have lunch in that period

Business gifts

Gifts are presented and received with two hands, and opened after the presenter leaves
Gifts with connotation of cutting, such as scissors, are not appropriate as they symbolize conflict
For the Chinese, the number 4 rhymes with the word for death meaning that it is important not to
give anything in a set of four
Clocks are also considered inappropriate gifts, as the Chinese expression for giving clock has
connotations to death
For your Malay associates, avoid products made from pigskin and alcohol as these goods
contravene the laws of Islam.
A gift may be refused three times before it is accepted. This demonstrates
that the recipient is not greedy.
Do not wrap gifts in white, blue or black paper as these are mourning
Flowers do not make good gifts as they are given to the sick and are used at
Do bring fruits for children


Singapore is a multiethnic society comprising of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian

The general advice would be to do as the Romans when in Rome and be courteous at all times
As a general rule avoid discussions about topics like religion, racial issues and politics
Singapore has an official policy against discrimination of women, and Singaporean women are
gaining a wider acceptance in business.