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Donald Moore

Living in Singapore, from USA

"I moved to Singapore to build up my own business. In fact, it was easier than expected. With InterNations I quickly got in touch with the lively expat community here."

Barbara Sciera

Living in Singapore, from Australia

"Settling as an expat woman in a different culture is always hard. But with InterNations I got to know many other expat spouses that helped me."

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Singapore at a Glance

Singapore’s Business World

Thinking about working in Singapore? The city state offers job opportunities in various sectors as well as a high quality of life. With the InterNations guide, you will learn all you need to know about the economy, social security and business etiquette in Singapore.

Business and Job Opportunities

The Internet with its many online career services and job databases is probably the best resource for people looking for a job in Singapore from abroad. In addition to well-known international search engines, there are plenty of Singapore-only job sites tailored to the expat market. ContactSingapore maintains a good job portal plus useful links to other career sites in Singapore. Alternatively, ask your nearest Singapore Overseas Mission for a list of international companies operating in Singapore.

If you are an entrepreneur looking for business opportunities in Singapore, you may find the website GuideMeSingapore useful. It offers up-to-date information on business incorporation and relocation to Singapore. Their industry guides provide industry-specific information for staring a new business in Singapore, and they also offer regular business formation trends reports as well as tax and incorporation handbooks. 

Expat spouses looking for work in Singapore might find the Foreign Manpower website of the Ministry of Manpower quite useful. It provides a list of all registered employment agencies in Singapore, including performance ratings. Teachers, especially of English, are always in high demand.

Social Customs

People coming to Singapore from a non-Asian background will soon notice that certain customs and values differ considerably from those in their home country. In a business environment, the dress code is often the only thing which remains on the fairly informal side. However, this depends on specific employers and industries.

Women should bear in mind that a considerable percentage of the population comes from an Islamic background and may therefore stray on the conservative side of fashion, particularly in a business environment.

When it comes to greeting people, a nod and a smile usually suffice, especially between members of the opposite sex. Shaking hands is acceptable among men, but for religious reasons, some women prefer not to be touched by men. Physical contact in general is to be avoided, as it can be perceived as a sign of lacking respect for the individual.

Respect and Hierarchies

Respect, both for others and for oneself, is the all-governing principle in interpersonal relations in Singapore. It is vital to never “lose face” or to shame another person. This can happen very easily, for example, by expressing anger or by allowing a junior employee to deal with a senior.

Hierarchy and formality thus play a big part in business relations, and you should always be aware of status, rank and the correct title of the person you are dealing with. Unless they ask to do otherwise, people should be addressed with their title and surname.

Women make up more than 50% of Singapore´s workforce. However, although formally enjoying equal rights, they are mostly employed in lower wage positions than their male colleagues.

Business Dinners

Good personal relationships are rather important between business associates in Singapore. It is thus advisable to always accept dinner invitations from business contacts. While Chinese people tend to dine out on such occasions, people from other cultural backgrounds may prefer to entertain at home.

Small gifts are appreciated on such occasions, but be aware of cultural and religious customs when choosing a gift. In general, giving business presents should be avoided as it can be mistaken for bribery, but invitations should be reciprocated if possible.

Further Information

Also take a look at our in-depth articles on Jobs and Businesses in Singapore. These include, for example, pieces on Starting a Business or Working Conditions in Singapore.

InterNations Expat Magazine