Singapore is a sovereign city-state and island country in Southeast Asia, south of Malaysia. Previously a British colonial trading post, Singapore gained independence from the UK in 1963 and combined with other former British territories to create Malaysia. Only two years later, in 1965, Singapore split from Malaysia to become a nation of its own. The country is a highly multi-ethnic society made up of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasians. Now a leading global business hub and one of the wealthiest nations worldwide Singapore is renowned for its transformation from third world country to first world country in one single generation.

The World Bank ranks Singapore as the easiest place in the world to do business in, with a highly developed and free-market economy. Indeed, Singapore is known for its reliability, quality, integrity and productivity, ranked as the most open and one of the least corrupt globally. This makes the prospect of doing business in Singapore very attractive to companies from all over the world.

To attract even more foreign investment, the government has introduced a number of employment permits and passes, quotas, foreign tax levies, minimum insurance requirements and other incentives. Other market strengths include a highly skilled and educated local population, excellent infrastructure and 50% of the world’s population within 6 hours flight.

The only potential challenge to doing business in Singapore relates to the size of the country and its small population.

While English is the main working language, the official languages are Chinese, Malay and Tamil. There is also a local vernacular of Singlish, though this is predominantly English along with some regional slang. Business etiquette is largely relationship-based while Singaporeans are also highly cosmopolitan in their outlook. Being a nascent country and with such a diverse history, the culture is equally influenced by both East and West. The World Business Culture website will aid business ventures into Singapore so as to ensure maximum success and rewards.


Singapore is often seen as a stepping stone into Asia. Singapore is a successful Asian city state which has seemingly managed to marry the best of western influences whilst maintaining a thoroughly Asian feel. Is it any wonder that so many global organisations choose Singapore as their pan-Asia base, seeing it as a perfect blend of geography, economic prosperity and political stability?

The city certainly punches above its weight in terms of economic success, educational achievement and the high standards of living which are almost universally enjoyed. Singapore’s economic miracle has been much documented over the years. The foundations laid during the formative years of Lee Kwan Yew’s tenure as Prime Minister have served well over the decades and managed to keep Singapore right at the top of the global success tables.

If you are looking to do business in Asia, it is difficult to ignore the appeal of Singapore – not just as a base to explore the rest of the region but also as an attractive market. Singapore is a consumer paradise with millions of affluent consumers eager to purchase the best that the world has to offer.

Doing business in Singapore could be very good for you but it is important to take on board local cultural norms and expectations about how business should be conducted. Don’t be fooled by the veneer of westernisation you are likely to encounter when you arrive – the thought processes driving business decisions are decidedly Asian. Don’t assume that the highly cosmopolitan business contacts you meet will automatically understand your approach because such assumptions might well jeopardise an otherwise lucrative relationship.

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Singapore business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips