Singapore’s multi-cultural background makes for a dynamic package contained within 70 square kilometers. Lying less than two degrees north of the Equator, the climate is hot and humid with average daily temperatures ranging from 25°C to 32°C. The four official languages are English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil, although English is most commonly spoken.
Singapore is known for its efficiency. This cosmopolitan city has excellent medical facilities and public transportation. It also has a progressive policy of attracting foreign talent into the country, such as skilled workers, professionals and entrepreneurs, to help local talent maintain Singapore’s position as a leader in various industries such as finance and medicine. Most of the world’s major banks are located here, but, in order to open an account, you will have to produce copies of your passport, a letter from your employer, and a statement from your bank in your home country.
You will need to apply for an Employment Pass in order to work or conduct business in Singapore. For eligibility criteria, check with Ministry of Manpower at http://www.mom.gov.sg. Also, depending on your employment terms, check with the Internal Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) regarding your income tax responsibilities for Singapore.
Despite its progressive, Western outlook, Singapore’s multi-ethnic background can cause some culture shock to newcomers. While handshakes are commonly used in greeting, it’s wise to wait for your Singaporean counterpart to initiate the handshake. Although it is acceptable for women to shake hands with both sexes, some may choose to simply nod politely when introduced.
Punctuality is important, especially for business appointments, and business cards are imperative. On first meetings, business cards are usually exchanged. Remember to offer your card with both hands, with the card facing the recipient, and to give a card to everyone present. And, when you receive a card, read it carefully before putting it away in a cardholder or placing it on the table. Always have your cards with you.
Diplomacy is highly prized in Singapore, so remain courteous, never raise your voice, or appear to be aggressive, and speak in calm and quiet tones.
The rule of thumb for Singapore would be to take in the big picture but to remember to pay attention to the details.
When visiting a Malay or Indian home, remove your shoes before entering. If invited to dinners, remember to leave a little on your plate once you’re full because an empty plate suggests that you may still be hungry. If you are planning to host a party with Muslims in attendance, remember to choose a restaurant that serves halal food. As a rule of thumb, do not touch any one, especially those of the opposite sex, as it can be seen a sign of aggression or flirtation. When gesturing, use your entire hand with the palm up. Using your finger to point is considered rude.
Singapore also has strict laws and heavy fines on smoking, chewing gum, littering and spitting in public. At customs, especially, be specific in your declaration of items being carried. A “couple” of bottles will not be interpreted as “several” bottles – it will be taken to mean that you are carrying two bottles. Any discrepancy or failure to accurately report the items being taken in may and can result in a hefty fine.