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 10 May 2019  

Singapore is consistently voted one of the easiest places in the world to do business. It’s also a melting pot of culture and commerce, home to four national languages and several distinct cultures. If you’re doing business in Singapore, take note of these local etiquette tips and insights to help your meeting go smoothly – whether for an event at MICE in Marina Bay Sands or elsewhere.

Dressing right

Business attire

Singapore’s a cosmopolitan country and generally keeps to international standards of business. That said, there are a few nuances that Singaporeans are used to when dealing with each other for business purposes. High on the list is dress code.

Given the city-state is typically warm and humid – owing to the fact that it sits roughly one degree north of the equator – smart business shirts and pants or skirts without jackets or blazers is fine. Of course, it all depends on the culture of the particular company you're doing business with. You can even give the tie a skip if the meeting is a less formal affair.

To bow or not to bow?

business etiquette

When meeting a business acquaintance for the first time, a handshake is sufficient. Bowing is unnecessary unless a specific culture requires it. Maintain a normal amount of body contact, and allow personal space between you and your interlocutor.

You may notice Malays greeting each other with a handshake before briefly placing their palms over their own hearts. This is a cultural greeting that you aren’t expected to emulate if you’re not of Malay heritage. If in doubt, go for a simple, polite handshake and a warm smile.

Exchanging business cards

business card

As with standard networking practice, business cards play an important role in Singapore, and are usually extended upon first meeting. The polite standard is to proffer the business card with both hands, with the letters oriented towards the receiver.

Accepting a business card is also done with both hands as a sign of respect. While most will not take offence at immediately pocketing a business card, it’s good practice to view it briefly before leaving it on the table face-up during a meeting.



In some offices and just about every private space you’ll be asked to remove your shoes. This is normal. If requested, simply leave your shoes at the door. Also be mindful of gift-giving. When a business partner invites you to a social event, a token such as a bottle of wine works fine.

Alternatively – if your hosts abstain from alcohol for religious reasons or otherwise – bring a box of chocolates. Tipping is not practiced in Singapore but is appreciated. The city is a global hub and home to travellers from around the world. Exercising basic sensitivity and asking if in doubt will likely result in a much more productive business trip. 
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