Singapore Expat — Know the Country and the Culture

Known as the Republic of Singapore, it can be found in South Eastern Asia, and comprises islands between Malaysia and Indonesia.

The official languages are English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil. English is widely spoken and is the usual language for business and administration.

The Risk Rating for Singapore is Low.  It is among the safest destinations in the world and is considered the most secure location in South-east Asia.

General Cultural Tips
Singapore is one of the most overtly Western cities in Asia.

The government has worked hard to promote Chinese culture and ensure that what it regards as ‘Asian values’ are preserved and respected.
It is advisable to respect traditional customs, festivals and ceremonies, even if they slow or impede business processes.
Smiles are sometimes used to hide embarrassment and discord, therefore sometimes Singaporeans may smile or laugh at times that Westerners find inappropriate.
Approximately 15% of Singapore Malays are Muslims and observe Islamic customs, such as the ban on alcohol, with varying degrees of strictness. These should be respected.
As with Muslim custom, the left hand is regarded as “dirty”, therefore when among both Hindus and Muslims, use the right hand to eat, pass food and objects or to touch another person.
If offering a gift to a Singaporean, they may decline it a number of times before accepting to avoid looking greedy, be persistent, and the gift will eventually be accepted.
When receiving a gift, do not open it immediately in front of the giver, as this may cause embarrassment.
Chewing gum in public places or dropping it on the ground is an offence, gum can be imported for personal use in private only.
It is an offence to smoke in air-conditioned restaurants, department stores, cinemas, public elevators and hospitals, those breaching these regulations are liable to be fined.

Business Cultural Tips
Upon introductions, business cards are usually exchanged and they should be presented and received with both hands on the card. Is is respectful to read the card carefully and if in a meeting, keep all business cards in plain view on the table.
Punctuality is regarded very highly and is important.
Establishing good social relationships is vital in setting up a successful business association, invitations to social engagements should be accepted to ensure this occurs.
Business suits tend to only be worn at official occasions, business dress is usually informal, with open-necked shirts and slacks/skirts the norm.
Asians in general try to be non-confrontational, if there is hesitation with an unenthusiastic ‘yes’ it may in reality mean ‘no’.
The government is extremely sensitive to political criticism, and visitors are advised to avoid discussion of political issues on first acquaintance, especially when dealing with officials.


Tips for Businesswomen
Although Singapore is a safe destination and there are no specific risks for female travelers or businesswomen it is advisable to follow commonsense security precautions such as dressing modestly to avoid drawing unwanted attention, saying no politely to invitations that would take you beyond your personal comfort levels.

Tipping is neither expected nor encouraged as most restaurants and hotels impose an 10% service charge. However, visitors may tip waiters for exemplary good service.

Working week: Monday to Friday
Banking hours: 09.30-15.00 on weekdays, closing at 11.30 on Saturdays.
Office hours: 09.00-18.00 Monday to Friday; and a few hours on Saturday morning.


Want to know more about the cost of living in Singapore? Calculate how much you need to earn in Singapore to have the same spending power that you have now. Register, Purchase and Run the Salary Purchasing Calculator (SPPP).


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