Business Etiquette in Asian Countries

While Singapore is a very Westernized culture compared to other Asian countries, business is still built on the same founding principles as other Asian countries. Most of the principles here are applicable in the workplace, but also in the school environment. In general, business in Asia is more focused on the group rather than the individual. This stems from the familial ties in Asia. Business emphasizes family and kinship more than the individual, as in the U.S. To be successful in Asia, the first thing is to ensure that you are willing to put in the long hours to get to know the people you are working with. In Asia, it isn’t about just signing a contract. It’s only when your Asian business colleague is fully willing to trust you that you will make any progress.

“Face” is an important concept in Asia. “Face” is essentially preventing embarrassment at all costs. You can lose face, save face, and give face. You should avoid putting possible partners in situations where they are required to contradict their superiors, give black and white answers, or make them uncomfortable in any way. This is typically regarded as not only disrespectful, but will cause the partner to lose face and thus lose trust in your partnership. It is very much appreciated when you give face to another person. Giving meaningful gifts, complimenting them to their superiors, or other positive affirmations give face to another person.

Another important business etiquette is the importance of exchanging business cards. You should have your information printed in English on one side and your language printed in the local language on the other side. Have plenty of business cards, as they are exchanged frequently. When you first meet someone, it is normal to give them a business card, even if you never anticipate doing business with them. When exchanging business cards, you should hold the card with both hands and present it to your counterpart.

A final business etiquette is becoming fluent in popular phrases of the country you are visiting. While most business in Asia is conducted in English, it is important to recognize that English is never their first language, and phrases in their native language could go a long way. Essential phrases like hello, good to meet you, and thank you could make the difference between a business deal gone right or wrong.

In Singapore, business people are accustomed to Western business practices. Almost everyone speaks fluent English and is comfortable enough with Western practices. That being said, first impressions are important and being prepared and comfortable with standard Asian business practices will show strong interest in conducting business in Singapore.

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