Known for its diverse and multi-cultural community, Singapore is home to the 4 dominant races – Chinese, Malays, Indians, and Eurasians, along with foreigners who work and live in Singapore. When setting up a company or moving to Singapore, it is always important to understand the country’s people and culture.
The People of Singapore
The 3 most common ethnic groups in Singapore are:
Chinese – 75% of the population
Most are Fujian and Guangdong descendants
Malays – 15% of the population
Oldest community in Singapore
Most are of Indonesian descent – Baweanese or Javanese
Indians – 7% of the population
Primarily consists of Malayalis, Tamils, and Sikhs
Sinhalese and Pakistani descents are also included
FUN FACT: Singapore introduced the Ethnic Integration Policy in 1989, setting racial quotas on the flat ownership in each HDB block and neighbourhood.
With the diversity of racial groups, English was selected as the primary medium of instruction and communication. The other three languages that are commonplace in Singapore are Mandarin Chinese, Malay, and Tamil.
TIP: Besides these languages, Singapore also have their own unofficial language – Singlish! Be sure to ‘study’ some Singlish words to fully immerse yourself in the Singapore culture.
What is the Singapore Culture like?
The many racial and religious groups in Singapore make the country’s festival celebrations colourful, they include:
With various religions, Singapore has a wide array of commemorative festivals as below, with key occasions celebrated as official public holidays in Singapore.
Chinese New Year
Hari Raya Puasa
Hungry Ghost Festival
Doing Business in Singapore
Despite the diverse racial mix in Singapore, the government ensures every race has equal opportunities by enforcing labor laws to fight against racial discrimination.
If you are looking forward to starting a business in Singapore, you should take note of some of the local business customs:
Avoid conducting business meetings during Ramadan or on Fridays, nor should they serve alcohol or pork when doing businesses with Muslims
Do not serve beef to Hindus
The person who invited someone else to any social or business events should pay the bill, but the other party can reciprocate during the next event
Punctuality is important – those who are running late for a meeting must let the other party know in advance
Foreigners in Business
Many foreigners are interested in investing in Singapore because of the grants available and the pool of skilled professionals. Also, the business culture in Singapore is conducive and polite, with the government looking to attract skilled foreign talents.
If you’re a foreigner looking to incorporate a company in Singapore, there are certain procedures that you will need to undergo before you can operate in Singapore such as registering your company, securing a visa, and more.
If you would like to have a meeting with your business partner, be sure to schedule and confirm the meeting ahead of time. It is very rude to arrive late to a meeting – if you are going to be late, inform the host beforehand and apologise.