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Business Etiquette

English is widely spoken particularly in business circles. Business is conducted on a largely western model but some Chinese business ethics prevail. 

Generally Singaporeans are a very respectful people and will forgive a cultural faux pas but it is good to know the basics. For instance, business cards are exchanged on every business and most social occasions.

It is a common courtesy to give or receive the cards with both hands. Hold the business card at the edges, with your name facing the recipient. Ideally you should wait for your Singaporean counterpart to initiate the exchange as it is often the most senior ranking person that will introduce him or herself first. Upon receiving the card take a moment to study the card and learn the name. 

It is OK to ask how to pronounce the name correctly rather than making a mistake. Do not pocket the card immediately upon receipt. If you are seated at a table with several people, place the card in front of you on the table. This is seen as a sign of respect and will also help you remember the names! 

There are more do's and don'ts around selecting your seat at the table. The majority of Singaporeans are Chinese and in Chinese culture it is important for them to see the exit. They prefer not to sit with their backs to the door so it will be gracious if you select the seat with your back to the door!

The dress code may be different to what you are accustomed to. In many instances Singaporeans may not wear jackets or ties to meetings. This is not a sign of disrespect but rather a practicality as the climate in Singapore is hot and humid and not conducive to layers of clothing. 

It is not unusual to see the Prime Minister appear on TV in a short sleeved, open collar shirt. Generally sectors such as banking and law will be dressed in full business attire.

Food is central to Singaporean culture! Your Singaporean host will most likely issue an invitation to enjoy a meal together. A refusal will be very offensive! Your host will probably encourage you to try some of the local delights. 

If you do not care for something it is OK to say so but be polite! Knowing how to use chopsticks will go a long way to impressing your Singaporean host. 

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