Serious business

Etiquette tips for doing business in Singapore

DESMOND SO, founder of the East-West Institute of Applied Etiquette, gives his tips on how to do business in Singapore



The climate in Singapore is hot and humid, so you will more often than not see the average salaryman dressed in just a long-sleeved shirt and tie; full suits are reserved for important meetings and conferences. Because torrential downpours are so frequent, always have an umbrella.



Expect the handshake to be slightly longer than what you would get in the West. Allow women to initiate handshakes and be aware that Muslim women might not shake hands except perhaps with other women. Many Muslims and Indians do not have or use surnames. Introductions are made in order of seniority.



Don’t be late. Let seniors take the lead, both physically when entering a meeting and in running through agenda points. Singaporeans are efficient and can be quite direct at meetings. Don’t expect much small talk. Discuss money openly and directly and be aware that deadlines and deliverables are taken seriously.


Business Cards

Business cards are exchanged at the beginning of meetings using both hands. Your name, in the language that the person can understand, should be facing the recipient. Give business cards to everyone present to show respect. Be sure to take a moment to read a card before storing it.


Faux Pas

Singaporeans are proud of their corruption-free society, so don’t be surprised if gifts to business counterparts are turned down. Avoid discussing religion and politics. Eating durian is a personal choice; be aware that some public places do not allow the pungent fruit.

Cathay Pacific flies to Singapore from Hong Kong 63 times a week


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