5 Things You Need To Know When Going On A Business Trip In Singapore

It is hardly any wonder the dazzling, modern city of Singapore is South East Asia’s biggest international hub. Home to some of the most renowned skyscrapers and luxury buildings in the world, Singapore is an almost inevitable stop for business travellers in the region. Of course, while Singapore is [arguably] the best choice for business, for those travelling to Singapore for the first time it can be a daunting prospect, particularly with the number of laws and customs to remember. With these 5 need to know tips and insider knowledge, business in Singapore will be a breeze.

1. Introductions - When making introductions for the first time and in formal meetings, etiquette can vary somewhat from culture to culture, so try to remember these simple rules beforehand. If the person has a Chinese name, always use their title and family name followed by his personal name. If they have a western name like "Thomas" or “Alice”, they should be introduced in the same way as in the West, i.e. given name before family name. The majority of Malays do not use a family name, instead they use their own personal name followed by bin [son of or binti [daughter of] before their father’s personal name. Most Indians, similarly, use their personal name followed by s/o [son of] or d/o [daughter of] and the father’s personal name. 

Business cards are exchanged in Singapore at every social and business event, so make sure you come prepared with a well stocked supply. Both when giving and receiving business cards, it is important to do so respectfully, with two hands. It is common courtesy to show an interest in each card you receive, after which you should lay it in front of you on the table. Never write on the business card or casually stash it away, as this can be misconstrued as disrespectful.

2. Communication – If you’re on business travel Singapore, then communication is high priority. While the official languages of Singapore are Chinese, Malay and Tamil, the working language is English. There is also a local vernacular, Singlish, which is essentially English generously peppered with local slang and dialects. 

You won’t have to worry about staying connected in Singapore, as many international mobile phone companies have roaming agreements in place. If you are planning to stay for a long stay in Singapore, it’s cheap and easy to buy a local SIM card (you need to show your passport to buy one). Internet access is easy to find, and most cafes and accommodation in and around Singapore offer public access.

3. Look Sharp – For your upcoming conferences in Singapore you’ll want to look business ready. Despite the tropical climate in Singapore, long-sleeved shirts and ties are still the usual call for men, while smart business wear is recommended for women, and jackets for formal events. Of course, in a hot and humid environment it can be a challenge to not look wilted and damp, so where possible, avoid walking for anything more than 10 minutes to preserve your sharp look. Singapore also has its fair share of rainfall throughout the year, so be sure to have an umbrella or a sleek looking raincoat on hand.

If you’re used to popping in a chewing gum to keep fresh, you’ll have to learn to do it discreetly and discard it carefully, as purchasing or importing chewing gum is illegal in the country. A safer bet is to swap the gum for something else.  

4. Entertain - Corporate entertaining in Singapore is very popular, with business often being done over corporate lunches and dinners. As long lunches are not uncommon in Singapore it’s a good idea to avoid scheduling meetings between noon and 2pm. If entertaining a Muslim Malay associate avoid conducting business on Fridays or during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Never serve alcohol or pork and be aware that majority of Indians do not eat beef. When it comes to picking up the bill, the inviting party of a business social event usually takes care of this.

Keep in mind that smoking is not always socially acceptable, and is prohibited in a number of places, so you should always research ahead of time to avoid causing any offense or a rather hefty fine.

5. Travel and Stay - Travel in Singapore is relatively stress-free, as the transportation system is well connected, and you can easily take the bus, train, or taxi to get from A to B. Singapore taxis and share-ride services are usually easily available during non-peak hours and the MRT is fast and convenient. When travelling during rush-hour it’s wise to take the MRT to avoid needing to budget extra time and money for the drive, especially as punctuality is very important for meetings in Singapore.

There are plenty of places to stay in Singapore, but make sure you choose one to suit your needs, particularly when travelling to Singapore for a conference. Novotel Clarke Quay overlooks the banks of the Singapore River in the heart of downtown Singapore. There’s plenty of space to relax after a busy day, in one of 403 extra-spacious guest rooms and suites, plus you don’t have to go far for fine-dining or a true taste of the local cuisine, as there are over 150 restaurants and bars right outside the hotel doors. You can even hold your event or meeting right at the hotel as there are a great selection of event spaces and conference rooms to choose from on-site. Plus, the hotels convenient location makes it ideal for business travellers, being just a 20 minute drive from Changi Airport.