Unlike its neighbours in Southeast Asia, Singapore is not a low-cost country, and businesses will not find much benefit from cost arbitrage. Instead, it has a knowledge economy with a highly skilled workforce, is more suited for advanced manufacturing as well as high tech products and services, and will serve as a platform for expansion within the region.
Background: Singapore is one of the wealthiest economies in the world, ranked among the top 10 in terms of GDP per capita. It is also a highly educated society; almost 60% of residents have a post-secondary school education, and more than one-third of the population has a university education.
The demand for luxury goods is high; owning such items is seen positively as a status symbol, and Singaporeans are willing to invest in these big-ticket items. However, this then drives Singaporeans to seek out savings where they can, resulting in them becoming highly cost-conscious in other areas. Consumers comparison shop for the best price, as well as actively seek out and take advantage of discounts, special offers, loyalty programmes and reward points.
Background: Singapore is a hierarchical society, and luxury goods show one's socioeconomic status, whether actual or aspirational. Additionally, Singaporeans are known to describe themselves as kiasu, which means "afraid to lose". This includes not wanting to lose out on a good price or a good bargain.
Singapore uses advanced treatment technologies to further purify conventionally treated sewage (wastewater), which is then added into reservoirs and treated again in conventional water treatment plants. 40% of Singapore's water supply comes from this recycled sewage. Known as NEWater, it is cleaner than tap water and is drinkable; however, it is mainly used for industrial purposes.
Background: Singapore relies principally on its neighbouring country Malaysia for its water supply. This has led Singapore to pursue alternative sources of water in order to achieve greater self-sufficiency.
This is a common misconception – while it is illegal to import chewing gum into Singapore, it is not illegal to chew gum.
Background: Singapore has a reputation for being a "fine city" due to the fines imposed for misdemeanours such as smoking in non-smoking areas, not flushing public toilets, littering, and vandalism. It is an orderly, law-abiding society. Maintaining order, safety and cleanliness are important, especially in a country with a high population density, and there is respect for authority.
The Merlion is a fictional creature. It was designed as a logo for the Singapore Tourism Board in the 1960s. Its lion head reflects the name of Singapore (singa means lion in the Malay language), while its fish tail represents Singapore's origins as a fishing village. Although the Singapore Tourism Board has since changed its logo, the Merlion remains an iconic symbol of Singapore and can be seen in tourism-related items and statues around the island.
Background: Tourism is a major industry in Singapore. Singapore has a well-developed tourism infrastructure, well-run attractions, and very strong destination branding. It has managed to claim aspects of culture and cuisine as uniquely Singaporean when they are, in fact, local to the Southeast Asian region and not just Singapore. This is an example of how Singapore makes the best use of the limited resources it has.
While it is acceptable to disagree, discuss different viewpoints, and provide constructive criticism, these should be communicated diplomatically. Negative messages are best expressed in private. This is to avoid making the other party "lose face", i.e. feel embarrassed or insulted in front of others.
Background: Singapore is a hierarchical, collectivist society. Respect is shown to people in positions of authority or seniority. It is important to be mindful of other people's feelings and reputations, and maintain good relationships.
Singapore is ranked as one of the easiest places to do business in the world, with effective and efficient policies and processes, including those for international companies. In return, Singapore expects good corporate governance, and it is the responsibility of businesses to comply with its requirements.
Background: Realising that it could not depend on its minimal natural resources and small domestic market, the Singapore government actively cultivates a market-oriented and open economy, making it a top destination for multinationals.
While relationships are important, the biggest influencing factor will be the value or competitive advantage that one brings to the table.
Background: While Singapore is a collectivist society, it is also highly meritocratic. Bear in mind that it is also a long-term oriented society; a lasting, trusted, and strategic relationship is more valued than a short-term, opportunistic relationship.
One may observe some similarities between the culture in China and Singapore, such as Confucian values as well as both being hierarchical, collectivist societies. However, Singapore is a diverse, multicultural society. It has its own unique local culture, as well as influence from its foreign-born/expatriate population. Therefore, be aware and mindful that you will be interacting with people from different cultures, especially in a business setting.
Background: The local Singaporean population is multi-ethnic, consisting of Chinese, Malays and Indians. There is also a large foreign-born population, such as Malaysians, Chinese nationals, as well as expatriates and migrant workers from all over the world.
Granted, there are many ways to measure innovation, but Singapore has been consistently considered one of the world's most innovative economies. For example, in the Bloomberg Innovation Index 2021, Singapore was ranked the 2nd most innovative country in the world, while the US dropped out of the top 10 rankings.
Background: The Singaporean government actively creates a conducive environment to foster innovation, positioning itself as a centre of research and development, and attracting innovative international start-ups. As its labour force is limited due to its small population, Singapore is aware that it needs to drive economic growth through developing human capital as well as increasing productivity and innovation.
Singaporeans are proud of their heritage. While traditions, customs and rituals are observed and preserved, they have a more cultural rather than religious significance. For those who are religious, this is usually a personal matter, and religion does not play a significant influence in society and business.
Background: While Singapore is a secular state with no official religion, it is one of the most religiously diverse nations in the world. Its many places of worship and religious holidays serve to respect and celebrate its diverse population.
National servicemen will remain in the defence force as reservists until the age of 40 (or 50 if a commissioned officer), and can be called up to serve up to 40 days a year for training and other activities to enable them to remain operationally ready. Employers and business owners have certain obligations to support this, such as granting the employee a leave of absence for the period of service, not discriminating against the employee due to their absence, and applying for make-up pay from the government if the employee's service salary does not match their civilian salary.
Background: National service was initially introduced in Singapore by the British colonial government and was later made mandatory in 1967. The majority of servicemen serve in the armed forces, with a smaller number serving in the police force and civil defence.
The small packets of tissue on the tables in the food court indicate that the seat has been reserved by someone, who is at that moment queuing up to buy food. Do not sit there or remove the packet of tissue.
Background: Singapore is an orderly society, regardless of whether this order comes officially from rules and regulations, or unofficially based on societal norms. It is also one of the safest cities in the world with a very low crime rate; you might also see belongings such as bags and electronic devices being left unattended temporarily.
Is Singapore more innovative than the United States of America? Is it illegal to chew gum in Singapore? Try out this quiz and learn more about Singaporean culture and business!