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Do;s and Don;ts in Singapore
Learning the social customs and traditions of a country before you visit that country can prove to be beneficial in the long run and specially in building up relationships.
As someone once said, "Etiquette would not seem to play an important part in business, and yet no man can ever tell when its knowledge may be of advantage, or its lack may turn the scale against him."

Will and grace
Each country has its own specific customs and social graces and it is important to know them well in advance in order to avoid inconvenience as well as embarrassing situations. Going to any country presupposes that the person travelling is doing the groundwork on what works and what doesn't in that country.

Conducting business in the country, cross-cultural relationships, practices, meetings, relocating, establishing business, proper communication, presentations and traditions, practical tips on proper dress, introductory topics, prices, bargaining, concessions, body language, overcoming an impasse, decision-makers and reaching an agreement-there are so many facets about what one needs to know before visiting a country. Of course, the depth of the knowledge would be a function of the purpose and the duration of the visit.

Singapore is a country, which is fast emerging as a popular tourist, business, commercial and even educational destination and it has got its own set of business, gifting and social etiquettes.

Social sense
In Singapore, accepting social invitations of any kind would be a good idea as these occasions are integral to developing easy and familiar relationships. It is always advisable to respond to invitations received in writing. If personal attendance is not possible, sending a company representative helps. Some good topics on which to start a conversation include food, scenery, arts, music, and tourist attractions. Subjects like religion; personal relationships, money, racism, sex, politics and criticism of bureaucracy should be avoided. The other important etiquette tip is to remember to remove your shoes before entering places of worship (except for churches and synagogues) and all private residences.

It's business
It's common for Singaporeans to exchange business cards. Always receive cards with two hands and always treat the card with respect-don't stash it in your pocket without paying attention to it. The business card is an extension of a person's identity and status and should be given due attention.

Many businessmen in Singapore like to play golf and a lot of business networking is often done over the golf course. Knowing how to play golf may come in handy and be profitable.

Generally, spouses may be invited to dinners but not to lunch. Business discussions are however to be avoided on any occasion when spouses are present. The country has a strong 'coffee culture. And often the client meetings maybe held over a mug of coffee at Starbucks or Coffee Beans.

Like many Asian countries, Singaporeans show great respect for elders and even in meetings the higher ranked and elder members should be addressed first. As a rule of thumb, personal names or nicknames should be avoided unless and until invited to do so or until a strong friendship has been established.

Gift tips
Some things don't change across countries. In Singapore too people will usually refuse a gift before accepting it so that they do not appear greedy. But a bit of insistence will ensure that they accept the gift. Upon acceptance, the person gifting ought to say that he (or she) is pleased that he or she has accepted the gift. Singapore prides itself on being the most corruption free state in Asia. And so there are strict laws against bribery. Therefore preferably, a present can be given as a welcome gift or a thank you gift but very expensive items should be avoided. Ideal gifts could be-chocolates, a souvenir from one's own country, a corporate gift with one's company logo etc.

Unwrapping a gift in front of the giver is definitely not the done thing in Singapore. Nobody wants to look greedy and impatient. Moreover, if the gift turns out to be a poor choice, it will result in awkwardness. Instead, the recipient will briefly say 'thank-you', set aside the gift, to open it later.

Singapore has one of the toughest customs regulations in the world. Narcotics are particularly sensitive issue and all medicines require a prescription confirming its validity. There are severe penalties for the illegal possession of medicines so outsiders need to keep that in mind very carefully.

Body language
The head should not be touched in the Singaporean culture as it is believed that head is the home of the soul. Care should be taken while crossing legs: the sole of the foot should never be pointed out or inadvertently shown to other people. Since most Malays are Muslims, be aware of specific behaviors that would offend them. For instance, remember to use the right hand to shake hands or hand things to people, since the left hand is considered unclean.

Table manners
Also it's advisable not to share food or allow the serving cutlery to touch the plate at communal dinners. The main rules regarding table manners revolve around the use of chopsticks. Don't stick them upright in any dish, don't gesture with them, and don't suck on them. Dropped Chopsticks are also considered bad luck.
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Posted on : 19/11/2005
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