Singapore Business Etiquette

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Business Etiquette
Lists of business etiquette ‘do’s and do not’s’ can be pages in length and while they are a useful starting point in cultural knowledge, they do not bring about cultural strategic thinking. Business etiquette closely mirrors cultural values so having an understanding of the overall concepts of a culture (such as it being high-context, high-diplomacy, low assertiveness, high power distance, relationship-based, etc). Understanding these concepts along with relevant examples, is helpful in preparing to do business in a new culture. Armed with this knowledge and having an attitude of openness and heightened sensitivity will allow you to notice reactions and pick up on signals that will guide you in your interactions with unfamiliar cultures. (Earley, Ang, Tan, 2006). Singaporean business relationships and interactions tend to be hierarchical in nature with a high power distance and formal chain of command. There is a high cognition of position and status. This is shown in formality and deference to leaders and elders. “Wealth and status may supersede age distinctions…There are great differences between formal and informal events, situations, and places.” (Countries and their Cultures, Etiquette section, para. 1) Examples of this in business interactions include: • “When entering the meeting environment, let a senior member lead, followed by the next senior member, and so on. This follows local custom and allows your hosts to keep tabs on who's who. Hierarchy reigns. The Singapore team will sit facing the visiting party, with persons of equal rank sitting opposite each other” (Worldroom, para. 6) • “Always wait to be told where to sit. There is a strict hierarchy that must be followed” (Kwintessential, Business Etiquette and Protocol section, para. 4) • “If you are addressing someone more junior than you are (in terms of rank in the company), it is acceptable to address that person by the first name. In fact, this will make him or her more comfortable. If you are addressing someone more senior than you are (in terms of rank in the company), be sure to address the person with a title and last name. If someone has a professional title such as ‘President’, ‘Doctor’, or ‘Professor’, address him or her accordingly.” (Executive Planet, Singapore: First Name or Title-Part 1 section, para. 5) • “If you are part of a delegation, ensure that the most important members are introduced first. If you are introducing two people, state the name of the most important individual first.” (Executive Planet, Singapore: Let’s Make a Deal-Part 1 section, para. 18) • “Stand when…your manager or someone higher in rank than you enters a room” (Executive Planet, Singapore: Let’s Make a Deal-Part 1 section, para. 19) • “Avoid publicly debating, correcting, or disagreeing with an older person or superior. The older person or superior will only 'lose face', and, consequently, you will lose the respect of others. This rule should also be followed when you are with your boss and are meeting with Singaporeans.” (Executive Planet, Singapore: Let’s Make a Deal-Part 2 section, para. 5)

Knowledge of the Singapore business time orientation and the tempo is another consideration. Singaporean business time orientation is more exact and punctual than social time orientation. • “Although Singaporeans tend to arrive late for social events, being late for business appointments is paramount to an insult” (Worldroom, Punctuality section, para. 1) • “Punctuality is important for all business appointments. It is considered an insult to leave a Singaporean business executive waiting” (Executive Planet, Singapore: Appointment Alert section, para. 1) • “Although you should make the effort to be on time, once in a while a Singaporean may prefer to arrive a few minutes late so as not to appear overly eager or anxious, especially if the person has been invited to an event at which food will be served”...
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