If you think that business meetings around the world are all substantially the same, you would be incorrect. While business is still business everywhere you go, intercultural dynamics can vary substantially. There are local idiosyncrasies and distinctions that all international entrepreneurs should keep in mind.
Singapore is a bustling international business hub full of expats and foreign entrepreneurs from a variety of industries. Hundreds of meetings take place every day in many of the country’s meeting & conferencing rooms. To help your business meetings in Singapore run smoothly, it is essential to know a little bit about business meeting etiquette in the country.
Let’s look at some of the more important points to remember when practising good manners during a meeting in Singapore.
While business cards are still a fixture of meetings around the world, their exchange takes on much greater significance in Singapore. Following an introduction, you should present your business card to your fellow meeting participants with both hands. When you receive your colleagues’ business card, take it with both hands and look at it intently for a moment before putting it into your briefcase or wallet. This is done to show respect for your business partners.
Out of respect to the local linguistic sensibilities, you should print out some two-sided cards before arriving in the country one side printed in English and the other in Mandarin. While English is commonly understood in the country, this is by no means universally the case.
Remember that Singaporeans are highly polite and reserved in general. There tends to be an implicit style of communication that is used in business contexts. Listen carefully for verbal cues that may not be readily apparent to foreigners.
For example, hesitation in an agreement may signal that your colleagues may object to what you are proposing. Disagreement is often done with extreme politeness to avoid causing embarrassment for anyone in the room.
Above all, never become angry or visually frustrated during or after a meeting. This will instantly cause you to ‘lose face’ or respect in the eyes of your colleagues and may do irreparable damage to your reputation.
Diligent preparation is vital for any meeting to run smoothly. This is even more pronounced in the Singaporean context. Make sure to schedule your meetings well in advance and always arrive at the location on time. You might lose face and damage your reputation if you do not follow this protocol.
Make sure to choose a meeting space that will give the occasion the respect and seriousness that it deserves. If you are a flexible or remote worker and lack access to established meeting facilities, look for a premium provider of meeting room rental space to ensure that your meeting location is fully equipped with all the essential technology that you need.
As in other countries, sometimes business meetings take place over a meal. However, in Singapore, it is rare for important matters to be discussed over breakfast. Usually, the meal of choice for business meetings is lunch. Depending on the nature of your meeting, you can expect that the length of the conversation may extend well into the afternoon so make sure to clear your schedule if the occasion is important.
Also, do not forget to practice using chopsticks. While western cutlery is commonplace, you will want to make sure to match your colleagues and be on the same page when dining out.
Following this advice and reading up on some of the additional specifics of Singaporean business life can give your business the best chance of making a good impression with your local clients. Study up, use common sense and good manners and you are sure to impress your new business partners.