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Doing Business in Singapore

Singapore is a relatively westernised nation, but it does have business customs that differ from those in New Zealand. It is important to follow them to avoid offending or alienating business contacts.

Market Key Facts

Key Source Regions/Cities


Direct Routes into New Zealand

Singapore - Auckland
Singapore - Christchurch


Singapore Airlines

Leave Entitlement

14-25 days per annum


5,460,302 (July 2013 est.)


Official languages: English, Mandarin, Malay & Tamil


Singapore Dollar (SGD)

Total Outbound Travellers

7,753,000 million (2011)

Peak Booking Periods

February/March and August/September (during consumer travel fairs)

Peak Travel Periods

Mid-November to December

Data sources:
CIA World Factbook (Currency, Language)
www.singstat.gov.sg (Total Outbound Travellers, Population)

Doing business in Singapore

  • Singapore is relatively westernised, but it does have business customs that differ from those in New Zealand. It is important to follow them to avoid offending or alienating business contacts.

  • Seventy-seven per cent of the population is of Chinese origin, 14 per cent Malaysian and 7 per cent Indian. These groups have retained their cultures and traditions.

  • The official language of Singapore is English, but ¬†Mandarin is also ¬†commonly spoken, as are Southern Chinese dialects Malay and Tamil. Singaporeans are expected to learn English, which is considered to be the language of administration and international business.

  • Business cards are necessary in all business introductions in Singapore. Cards should be handed over with both hands. When receiving a card, make a point of looking at it carefully for a few moments. This is considered a sign of respect and politeness. Dress is generally conservative.

  • Many Chinese Singaporeans have both a European name and a Chinese name. The surname or family name usually follows the European name. The Chinese name follows the surname, eg, Andrew Tan Yew Meng - the surname here is Tan and the person should be addressed as Mr Tan. However Singaporeans are also quick to drop formalities depending on the situation and how comfortable they feel with the person. You may then reciprocate by using their European name.

  • Pay careful attention to body language. Singaporeans do not always express their disagreement verbally. Many are reluctant to say 'no' because it could offend.

  • Decision making can be very centralised. The smaller the company, the more likely is the boss to decide everything. However, even in large companies, decision making can be very autocratic.

  • Contacts are very important in Singapore and who you know counts. Establishing personal relationships can take time. Business lunches often help cement working relationships. Golf is a great relationship builder. Other conversation areas include football (European and English) and family.

  • Muslims do not eat pork or drink alcohol. Strict Buddhists and Hindus do not eat beef.

  • The most popular way of gaining information is via the internet, newspapers and travel fairs.

Want to know more about doing business in Singapore?

Visit the New Zealand Trade & Enterprise website.