Global Business Cultural Analysis on Singapore

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Singapore, officially recognized as the Republic of Singapore, is athriving nation. The country is increasingly gaining recognition as amajor international commercial hub. This is due to the increasingeconomic development in its service sector, in addition to the use ofmodern e-commerce business strategies. The country, which is locatedto the Southeast of Asia, provides the best business environment inthe Asia Pacific region and globally. Singapore ranks as one of thebest places for companies to conduct foreign investment and trade.

In the following discussion, the paper conducts a global businesscultural analysis of Singapore aimed at demonstrating therepercussions for American businesses that desire to do business inthe country.

Elements and Dimensions


People interact through the use of both verbal and nonverbalcommunication. It is important for business individuals to learnabout the communication cultures of those or the country they wish toconduct business with, to ensure that they have an enhancedunderstanding of each other.

Verbal Communication – Singapore is made up of civiliansfrom different nationalities. Hence, the country speaks in four majorlanguages, which are English, Malay, Chinese/Mandarin and Tamil. Themost common of these languages is English, especially among youngpeople (Chong &amp Seilhamer, 2014). It is used as the firstlanguage when doing business, and students are taught in English.Hence, it is easier for people from foreign countries to do businesswith Singaporeans. Chinese language is mostly spoken in the homeenvironments. Since most of the country’s population is made up ofChinese, it is also common to come across people speaking in thelanguage. The Indians living in Singapore use Tamil language. Malayis an important language among the indigenous population. It is alsothe language used to draft the country’s national anthem.

Nonverbal Communication – it is equally important as the useof verbal communication when doing business in Singapore. Despiteusing English as the common language, it is important for individualsto consider the tone they use when communicating. Singaporeans mainlyspeak in a soft tone and use emphasis on specific important words,which is considered as an indicator of respect. One is also expectedto stop and reflect on what they have been told prior to responding.This demonstrates that a business partner is an attentive listenerand has put into consideration what he or she has been told. Othersignificant non-verbal communication characteristics include facialexpressions and body posture. Singaporeans are concerned about thelevel of face-to-face interactions they have, because they are ableto observe reactions to what they are saying through facialexpressions and changes in body posture.


Apart from the many languages spoken in the country, there aredifferent religions. These include Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism,Taoism and Islam. There is also a small percentage of the populationthat identifies itself with no religion. It is possible to dobusiness between individuals from different regions, provided thatrespect for the differences in belief is put into consideration.

Islam – a substantial number of Singaporeans are Muslims (Yip&amp Ainsworth, 2013). They adhere to the teachings of Allah ascommunicated by their prophet Muhammad (Chew, 2014). These teachingsare based on the writings in the Quran, which comprises of the wisdomthat all followers of Islam must use in their daily operations. Thereligion preaches on the significance of love, peace as well astranquility among all Muslims (Tahir, 2012). According to thereligion, Allah guides them into becoming better people.


The ethical considerations of the country are based of Confucianethics. Singapore has a highly prevalent Confucian perspective, whichputs into consideration the rights of all individuals based on theright to equality, dignity and human worth (Tan, 2012). In addition,Confucian ethics suggests that all civilians should endeavor to actin manners that depict them as noble people, which is achieved viaself-cultivation (Tan, 2012).

Values and Attitudes

The country has a set of shared values among all the ethnicities andreligions, which are aimed at ensuring civilians, are able to livepeacefully. The values include the submergence of personal identity,obeying authority and commitment to the different groups in thecountry (Tan, 2012). Singapore’s government endeavored to unite allits civilians through its shared fate. This comprises of thedevelopment of institutional as well as conceptual contexts that canbe used by communities to bring them together, but at the same timemaintaining their cultures and religions. The country’s values arefounded on five principles. These are the need for consensus, insteadof conflict, the recognition of the family as a fundamental unit ofsociety, support for each other, respect for all individuals andliving together harmoniously.


Manners are very important when doing business in a foreign country.There are significant disparities in the manners of most Singaporeanswhen compared to other countries, which should be put intoconsideration by foreign businesses. They begin with howintroductions are made between individuals who do not know eachother. The introduction ought to be made using a title, family nameand the personal name.

Another important consideration is the need to exchange businesscards after meetings. The cards must be treated respectfully, givenand received using both hands. When an individual from a foreigncountry is given the business card, it should be properly placed infront of the person on the table in order of seniority of the peoplepresent during the meeting. It is disrespectful to write on the cardor carelessly place it in a folder, as such actions might beconsidered as forms of disrespect by Singaporeans.

When attending business meeting, both men and women are expected tobe dressed presentably and may carry gifts. Gift giving is importantamong Singaporeans. When giving the gifts, they should comprise ofsomething that is not locally available in the country.


The country has different ethnicities. Customs differ depending onthe ethnicity. However, because Chinese are the majority population,business customs are largely influenced by the Chinese culture.

Singaporeans have a calm demeanor in addition to being soft-spoken.They always follow an agenda when conducting business, which involvesonly discussing about the business. They do not include personal lifeissues in their business discussions. Small talks might be includedin the business meetings, but are limited to issues about localattractions or food (Henderson, 2014).

Another custom relates to business negotiations, which happen at aslow pace. Singaporeans are not confrontational hence, there verbalagreement might be misunderstood as agreement of an opinion. They uselong poses prior to responding during a discussion. A differentcustom is that Singaporeans are strict on time keeping. They expectthat individuals will plan in advance for meetings and will bepunctual in attending the meetings.

SocialStructures and Organizations

SocialClasses – just like othercountries, Singapore has different social classes. People are dividedinto high, middle or low social classes. Those from the high socialclasses comprises of politicians or wealthy business individuals.They are the most affluent members of the society. It is possible todifferentiate Singaporeans based on their class structures. Forinstance, the wealthy citizens travel by use of cars or cabs, becausethese are the most costly modes of transportation in the country. Thetax charged on cars in the country is very high as compared tocountries such as America. This makes it impossible for most peopleto afford private cars, and owing a car is a reserve of those fromthe high class. The middle class individuals use trains, while thelower class uses buses.

Crime– the country has a very low crime rate as compared to othercountries. However, this does not imply that there are no crimes inthe country. In specific, Singapore deals with the problem of humantrafficking especially among the lower class. According to Wong(2014), the country has been unable to effectively deal with thisissue, despite having laws that prohibit trafficking.


Singapore’s governmentendeavors to provide a well rounded education to all its civilians,and in the process nurture them to become responsible adults that cantake care of their society, nation and family. Education is under themanagement of the Ministry of Education, which is in control of theadvancement and administration of all state owned schools. Theeducation system is highly regarded globally.

Pre-School Education– it comprises of the child care as well as kindergarten sector.Children attend pre-school from the age of two months up to six yearsof age. Kindergartens are also categorized under pre-school, and theyprovide instruction to children aged four to six years. There is ahigh rate of participation in education at this age, as 95% of allthe children in Singapore are enrolled in either child care ornursery classes, which provide formal pre-school education (Ting,2015).

Compulsory Education– in Singapore compulsory education refers to the requirement thatevery child aged six and below 15 years must attend school. It ismandatory for all children to be enrolled in national primaryschools. It is illegal for parents to fail to enroll their childrenin primary education. The only exemption is children with specialneeds, home-schooling and children attending designated learninginstitutions.

Upper SecondaryEducation – depending on thestudent’s performance at the primary level, they are placed innormal (academic), express or normal (technical) courses as secondaryeducation. Due to the difference in performance, it is believed thatstudents have different learning capabilities, which explains thedisparity in courses offered at the secondary level of education. Theexpress course entails teaching students about life skills, knowledgeskills and content based on subjects such as languages, arts andhumanities. In the normal course, students are allowed to choose thesubjects they would want to study. However, language is a compulsorysubject.

Higher Education– after completing secondary education, students enroll invocational, tertiary or university education. In order to joinuniversity, students must excel in A levels, which involves a 2 yearstudy at pre-university. Tertiary education is mainly offered at thecountry’s polytechnics, while vocational education is offered bythe technical training institute.



Englishis used as the main language by locals when doing business. Despitecoming from the same country, the locals may speak in any of the fourlanguages. Hence, English is considered as a formal language that isunderstood by all individuals. However, locals may opt to speak intheir language when doing business with individuals who speak thesame language. Singaporeans place emphasis on the use of non verbalcommunication. Hence, it is common for them to conduct their businessin low tones and express themselves through facial expressions andbody posture.


Despitethe fact that there are many religions in the country, Islam appearsto be the most dominant. The different religions imply that everyfaith has its guiding principles concerning how business should beconducted. In specific, Islam emphasizes on the need for integrityand treating all individuals fairly. Thus, when doing business, it islikely that locals depend on the teachings of their faith to ensurethat they do what is right.


Confucianethics are the guiding principles under which business is conductedin Singapore. Confucianism upholds that all individuals have a rightto equality as well as human dignity. Hence, Singaporeans aresupposed to be noble individuals, have the virtue of humanity andengage in self-cultivation. This applies to how the individualsrelate with others, especially when doing business. Locals should actin manners that are ethical, by treating all people they relate withequally and with dignity.

Valuesand Attitudes

Sincethe country has a set of shared values, it implies that all citizens,regardless of their ethnicity or religion are guided by commonvalues. They guide Singaporeans in ensuring that they engage inactivities that uphold the common good of the country. The valuesalso unite all civilians, which makes it possible for them to dobusiness together despite their different ways of life. Also, localsare able to enter into business agreements that are based on sharedvalues and attitudes.


Manners refer to the etiquette required when dealing with otherindividuals. Singaporeans have specific manners that must be observedwhen doing business. Locals have their unique way of referring toeach other. For instance, senior business persons must be referred tousing a title, which is seen as a sign of respect.


Localsstrictly adhere to their customs as they are considered as theguiding principle in how they form relationships with other people.Specifically, when doing business, many customs are put intoconsideration, which include how individuals respond during businessmeetings, the tone they use, punctuality and how they presentthemselves.

SocialStructures and Organizations

Sincethe country is divided into classes, this influences how and who formbusiness relationships. People from the high social class are likelyto relate with those of the similar class. Hence, when conductingbusiness they treat themselves as equals. However, in the scenariothat an individual from a lower or middle class engages in businesswith one from a high class, the first group is expected to respectthe position of the latter.


Thecountry’s education influences more civilians to become businesspeople. The different levels of education shape children from anearly age to become independent civilians. By emphasizing oncompulsory education, students are able to gain access to the sametype of education. This means that as students grown into adults,they are able to share the same ideals, which makes it possible forlocals to enter into business agreements, based on shared agendas.

Comparison with U.S. Culture and Business

Singaporeand USA

Thereare a number of differences between America and Singapore in regardto culture and business practices. Both countries speak in the samelanguage, which is English. In Singapore, English is the mainlanguage of communication, while America is an English speakingnation. Thus, it is possible for business individuals from bothcountries to do business together as they can be able to communicate.However, communication differences are also apparent between bothnations because the US is a low context nation, while Singapore is ahigh context nation. In low context, individuals exchange ideasfreely without much reflection on what is being said. Contrary, inhigh context, a lot of caution must be exercised when communicating.There are common pauses in communication, aimed at giving thereceiver of a message time to reflect on what has been said by thesender prior to responding.

Religionin both countries differs. American largely comprises ofChristianity, while Singapore has four major religions. However, theUS is more tolerable of the different religious beliefs, which makesit possible for them to interact and do business with othernationalities that are not predominantly Christian. In addition,freedom of religion is exercised in the two countries, which resultsin mutual respect for the spiritual ideals of others. Mutual respectin turn enhances the possibility of success when doing business.

Thereis a disparity in the shared values between America and Singapore.The US is highly individualistic, which means that individuals areexpected to look after themselves. In such a society, individuals arelikely to engage in business practices that result in personalbenefits. On the contrary, Singapore is a collectivist society. Thismeans that individuals are supposed to look after the wellbeing ofall members of society. As such, the lack of shared values may have anegative impact on how people from both countries do business.Assuming there is a conflict of interest, the individualist societymay be more concerned about their wellbeing at the expense of others(Zhang, Liang &amp Sun, 2013).

Inregard to education, it is mandatory for children to attend school inboth the US and Singapore. The education system comprises ofkindergarten, primary, high school or secondary and higher education.The states expect that children are enrolled in school as soon asthey are of age.


Theuse of Hofstede’s analysis makes it possible to have an enhancedunderstanding of the disparities in culture between the US andSingapore, and how these differences may affect business. Thetheorist uses cultural dimensions as a strategy in analyzing the areaof business management. The analysis focuses on individualism,uncertainty avoidance index, masculinity, power distance index andlong term orientation. The scores between the countries differ onsome of these aspects of analysis. For instance, Singapore scoreshigher in its power distance index. Thus, the country is highlyhierarchical as individuals depend on authority to make decisions.When a junior employee is making a business decision, he or she mustfirst consult with management. America has a low power index becauseemployees are given the freedom to make decisions without consultingauthority. Thus, at times managers may not be involved in businessdecision making.

TheUS has a high score in regard to individualism. The country does notplace much emphasis on the common good of society. Instead,individuals work towards the fulfillment of their personal needs.Singapore scores low on individualism. The country is collective asit emphasizes on the need for cohesion between all members of thesociety. Singapore has a low level of uncertainty. The country isguided by a set of shared values, which means that the civilians areexpected to act in certain manner. This in turn reduces thepossibility of uncertainty. America has a high level of uncertaintydue to the widespread freedom of expression in the country.


Analysisof Facts

Itis possible to conduct successful business in Singapore, forindividuals from the United States. Both countries are strategicpartners. Putting into consideration the factors that have beendiscussed in above sections, a number of issues must however be putinto consideration. For instance, the US must understand the mannersand customs of Singaporeans prior to entering into businessagreements. This ensures that Americans are well prepared on how tobehave, how to relate and the expectations of their potentialpartners. It also reduces conflict and enhances the possibility ofbusiness success. Other factors that must be put into considerationrelate to the shared values in Singapore. Considering that America ishighly individualistic, it must consider the collectiveness ofindividuals in Singapore. Thus, they must present their business in away that demonstrates how both parties are likely to benefit, asopposed to how the US is likely to benefit from doing business withSingapore.


Strengths– Singapore has attracted many businesses due to its economicadvantage over other nations. The country is rapidly developing withnew business initiatives that are highly likely to benefit the US aswell. Also, Singapore is not corrupt, which enhances the possibilityof successful business based on ethical ideals.

Weaknesses– the collective society and high hierarchy in Singapore might actas a hindrance for American business success. The Singaporegovernment is strict and might restrict free operations ofbusinesses, for instance it exercises press control (Edge, 2014).

Opportunities– Singapore has free trade agreements, with over twenty tradepartners. As such it is easier for overseas businesses to operate inthe country. The partnerships enhance the likelihood of growth forcountries that invest in Singapore. In addition, the country has afavorable environment for operating business.

Threats– the threat of attacks by militants from neighboring nations. Thiscould affect business operations between the US and Singapore. Suchattacks might eliminate the favorable business environment inSingapore.


Foreigndirect investment regards to any form of investment made in a foreigncountry aimed at gaining interest from operating outside one’seconomy. US businesses are likely to benefit from FDI due to theenhanced possibility of better returns on money invested inSingapore. Large organizations that invest in Singapore are likely tobenefit from the technological developments in the country, as wellas have direct access to suppliers. The movement of labor from the USto Singapore may also be cost effective for multinationals, as theyare able to access cheap labor in the foreign country.


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