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Proper Business Etiquette in Singapore

In business, first impressions are everything. If a person does not make a positive first impression when they walk into a business meeting, they may as well turn around and try somewhere else. It is difficult to overcome a negative first impression.

On the other hand, making a positive first impression will help a business person reach their goals that much faster. The right impression can help a person gain the attention and the respect of the people they are meeting with. The problem is that the things that make a good first impression in one country may result in a negative first impression somewhere else. If a person is traveling or moving to Singapore for business, they need to understand what is expected if they are going to make a positive first impression.

The Dress

The way a person is dressed will make a big impression on the people they meet. Business people in Singapore often mimic the dress of other western cultures. While it may be acceptable to dress in certain ways, if a person is not sure exactly what is expected, they are better off overdressing for a business meeting.

With a suit and tie  you generally can’t go wrong. The problem that many people have with this is the weather in Singapore. It is often hot and humid and that may not be the best weather for a suit and tie. There will be occasions where dress pants and a dress shirt with a light jacket are acceptable most occasions dress pants and a dress shirt jacket optional, but that is not guaranteed.

It is a good idea to wear a suit and tie when you are not completely sure of what type of dress is appropriate. If the weather is too hot and if others are not dressed as formally, it may be acceptable to remove the tie and the jacket. By wearing it at first, you will have the optional to remove it later.

When it is hot, people will sweat. This is not the type of appearance you want at a business meeting. If this is the case, you can lighten the mood by commenting that its a little warm  and then removing your jacket and tie. My experience is that they will smile and make a comment about not being used to the weather. That will help the others understand why you are removing the jacket. It will also give them a chance to tell you that removing it is not acceptable and that you will have to learn how to deal with the weather.

The first meeting

When you are first introduced to another individual, it is important that you offer them signs of respect. It is not necessary to bow to the person that you meet. It is acceptable to give a nod to elders if you choose. You should shake hands with everyone that is present.  Unlike some places, punctuality in Singapore is important. Being late  sets you up for a bad first impression, so make sure that you are on time.


All business meetings require some form of conversation. The type of conversation that is made will play a role in the impression that is made. Westerners will often start out a meeting by handing out their business cards or name cards. This is not  always the case in Singapore let them take the lead. The cards should not be exchanged until there has been some type of rapport established between the two parties. Once that has been done, the cards can be exchanged, but there are specific rules that need to be followed for this. Take the time to find out about these rules before you travel.

When engaging in conversation,   It is okay to include talk about personal life when you first meet someone. The talk should not be too personal, but it can be a good way to break the ice at the start of a meeting. It is best to sit face to face with the person that you are talking to and keep the door at your back. If you are facing the door, this could be a sign that you are trying to leave quickly and that is not the impression that you want to make.

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Most of the rules should be common sense for a business person. They are not etched in stone, but can help make a good impression. If a person is not sure how to act, they should follow the lead of the other business people. That will help them earn the respect of those that they are meeting with.

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