Difference in working culture of Malaysia & Singapore
Table of Content
Table of Content
What Malaysians must know about working in Singapore?
Singapore is considered to be one of the best places in the world to work. Expatriates from all over the globe are flocking to this international city-state today to work. This tiny region is one of the world's freest economies. is also highly ranked when it comes to business competitiveness and economic growth, ranking well above countries like the United States. It also beats many western countries in areas like city infrastructure, technology, lifestyle, education, health care, safety, etc., due to which people around the planet want to work and settle there.
All countries have a different business culture. The history, traditions, past, geography, climate, society, economy and lifestyle affect and form a particular business culture. That is why; the way a business is managed differs so much from nation to nation and continent to continent. Singapore is believed to have a very efficient working population and no wonder they have some of the best companies like Singapore Airlines and Temasek. Let us see how different factors influence the work culture in Singapore.
Singapore gained a historical importance in trade and business because it is a massive port and we all know that cities that were ports have always been major centers for development, be it Dubai, Mumbai, Boston, Rio de Janeiro, Southampton, Hong Kong, Sydney and many more. Singapore is the busiest port in the world, considering the total shipping tonnage. The micro state was formerly occupied by the Japanese, Malay, Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and the British. So now we know how many cultures have influenced the culture of Singapore. After its independence from the British, Singapore attracted foreign direct investment on a large-scale and over the years it grew as a trading and financial hub that it is now. It is also the fourth largest forex trading center after London, New York and Tokyo. Furthermore, one needs to be well trained in the area of and cross-cultural management to be able to work in a different country.
Singapore officially the Republic of Singapore, is a off the southern tip of the , 137 kilometers (85 miles) north of the . An made up of 63 islands, it is separated from by the to its north and from 's by the to its south. Singapore is highly urbanized but almost half of the country is covered by greenery. More land is being created for development through .
Singapore had been a part of various local empires since it was first inhabited in the second century AD. It hosted a trading post of the in 1819 with permission from the . The British obtained sovereignty over the island in 1824 and Singapore became one of the British in 1826. Singapore was by the Japanese in and reverted to British rule after the war. It became internally self-governing in 1959. Singapore united with other former British territories to form Malaysia in 1963 and became a fully independent state two years later after separation from Malaysia. Since then it has had a massive increase in wealth, and is one of the . The economy heavily depends on the industry and service sectors. Singapore is a world leader in several areas: it is the world's fourth leading , the world's second biggest casino gambling market, the world's top three oil refining centre. The is one of the five , most notably being the . The country is home to more US dollar millionaire households per capita than any other country. The World Bank notes Singapore as the easiest place in the world to do business.
Singapore is a with a of parliamentary government. The (PAP) has won every election since the British grant of internal self-government in 1959. The has its foundations in the system, but modifications have been made to it over the years, such as the removal of . The PAP's popular image is that of a strong, experienced and highly qualified government, backed by a skilled and an with an emphasis on achievement and ; but it is perceived by some voters, opposition critics and international observers as being authoritarian and too restrictive on individual freedom.
Some 5 million people live in Singapore, of who 2.91 million were born locally. Most are of , or descent. There are : , , and . One of the five founding members of the , Singapore also hosts the Secretariat, and is a member of the , the , and the .
The English name of Singapore is derived from the Malay Singapura (सिंहपुरLion City), hence the customary reference to the nation as the Lion City. Lions probably never lived there; the beast seen by , founder of ancient Singapore, who gave the city its name, was most likely a tiger.
Picture above shows Victorious Japanese troops marching through Singapore City after British at the .
The earliest known settlement on Singapore was in the second century AD. It was an outpost of the empire, named ('sea town'). Between the 16th and early 19th centuries, it was part of the . In 1613, Portuguese raiders burnt down the settlement and the island sank into obscurity for the next two centuries.
In 1819, arrived and signed a treaty with on behalf of the to develop the southern part of Singapore as a trading post. In 1824 the entire island became a British possession under a further treaty whereby the sultan and the transferred it to the British East India Company. In 1826 it became part of the , a British colony. Before Raffles arrived, there were around 1,000 people living in Singapore, mostly and a few dozen . By 1869, due to migration from and other parts of , Singapore's population had reached 100,000.
During the invaded culminating in the . The British were defeated, and surrendered on 15 February 1942. British Prime Minister called this "the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history". The of ethnic Chinese after the fall of Singapore claimed between 5,000 and 25,000 lives. The Japanese Singapore until the British repossessed it in September 1945 after the .
Singapore's first general election in 1955 was won by the pro-independence , leader of the . Demanding complete self-rule he led a delegation to London but was turned down by the British. He resigned when he returned and was replaced by , whose policies convinced Britain to grant Singapore full internal self-government for all matters except defence and foreign affairs.
In elections in May 1959 the won a landslide victory. Singapore had become an internally self-governing state within the Commonwealth, with as the first Prime Minister. Sir served as the first , and was succeeded by who in 1965 became the first .
Singapore declared independence from Britain on 31 August 1963 before joining the new in September along with , and as the result of the . separated Singapore from the Federation two years later after between the ruling parties of Malaya and Singapore.
Singapore gained sovereignty as the Republic of Singapore (remaining within the Commonwealth) on 9 August 1965 with Yusof bin Ishak as president and Lee Kuan Yew as prime minister. In 1967 it helped found the and in 1970 it joined the . In 1990 succeeded Lee as prime minister. During his tenure the country faced the , the 2003 outbreak and terrorist threats posed by . In 2004, , the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, became the country's third prime minister.
The national flag of Singapore was first adopted in 1959, the year became self-governing within the . It was reconfirmed as the when the Republic gained independence on 9 August 1965. The design is a horizontal bicolour of red above white, in the (upper-left quadrant) by a white moon facing a of five small white five-pointed stars. The elements of the flag denote a young nation on the ascendant, universal brotherhood and equality, and national ideals.
Vessels at sea do not use the national flag as an . and fly a of red charged in white with a variant of the crescent and stars emblem in the centre. Non-military government vessels such as ships fly a of blue with the national flag in the canton, charged with an eight-pointed red and white in the lower . warships fly a similar to the state ensign, but in white with a red compass rose emblem.
Rules defined by the Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem Act govern the use and display of the national flag. These have been relaxed to allow citizens to fly the flag from vehicles during national holidays and from homes at any time of the year.
Singapore is a with a of parliamentary government representing . establishes as its political system. ranks Singapore as "partly free" in its report, and ranks Singapore as a "hybrid regime", the third rank out of four, in its "". Singapore is consistently rated one of the least corrupt countries in the world by . Executive power rests with the , led by the , and the .
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The president is elected through popular vote, and has some veto powers for a few key decisions such as the use of the national reserves and the appointment of judges, but otherwise occupies a ceremonial post. The serves as the legislative branch of government. Members of Parliament (MPs) consist of elected, non-constituency and nominated members. Elected MPs are voted into parliament on a "" (plurality) basis and represent either single-member or group-representation constituencies. The has won control of Parliament with large majorities in every election since self-governance was secured in 1959. However, in the most recent parliamentary elections in 2011, the opposition, led by the , made significant gains and increased its representation in the House to 6 elected MPs.
The is based on , albeit with substantial local differences. was entirely abolished in 1970 leaving judicial assessment performed wholly by judgeship. Singapore has penalties that include in the form of for rape, rioting, vandalism, and some immigration offences. There is a mandatory for murder, and for certain drug-trafficking and firearms offences. has said that some legal provisions conflict with the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and that Singapore has "possibly the highest execution rate in the world relative to its population". The government has disputed Amnesty's claims. In a 2008 survey, international business executives believed Singapore, along with Hong Kong, had the best judicial system in Asia.
Outline of Singapore and the surrounding islands & waterways
Singapore consists of , including the main island, widely known as Singapore Island but also as . There are two man-made connections to : the in the north, and the in the west. , , and are the largest of Singapore's smaller islands. The highest natural point is at 166 m (545 ft).
There are ongoing projects, which have increased Singapore's land area from 581.5 km2 (224.5 sq mi) in the 1960s to 704 km2 (272 sq mi) today; it may grow by another 100 km2 (40 sq mi) by 2030. Some projects involve merging smaller islands through land reclamation to form larger, more functional islands, as with Jurong Island. About 23% of Singapore's land area consists of forest and nature reserves. Urbanisation has eliminated most primary , with the only significant remaining forest. Even though there is very little primary rainforest left, there are more than 300 parks and 4 nature reserves in Singapore. There are also many trees planted throughout Singapore and almost fifty per cent of the country is covered by greenery. Because of this, Singapore is also commonly known as the 'Garden City'.
Singapore has a with no distinctive seasons, uniform temperature and pressure, high humidity, and abundant rainfall. Temperatures usually range from 23 to 32 °C (73 to 90 °F). averages around 79% in the morning and 73% in the afternoon. April and May are the hottest months, with the wetter season from November to January. From July to October, there is often haze caused by bush fires in neighbouring . Although Singapore does not observe daylight saving time, it follows time zone GMT+8, one hour ahead of its geographical location.
Before independence in 1965, Singapore was the capital of the British and a The country was also the main British naval base in East Asia. Because of its status as the main British naval base in the region, as well as hosting the largest dry dock in the world at that time in the form of the , Singapore was ballyhooed in the press as the ' of the East'. The opening of the in 1869 caused global trade to boom and Singapore became a major trade node in the world, with the becoming one of the largest and busiest ports in the world. Before independence in 1965, Singapore had a of $511, then the third highest in East Asia.
After independence, and a state-led drive for industrialization based on plans by and created a modern economy. Today, Singapore has a highly developed , based historically on extended trade. Along with Hong Kong, South Korea and , Singapore is one of the original . The Singaporean economy is known as one of the freest, most innovative, most competitive, most business friendly and least corrupt in the world. The ranks Singapore as the second freest economy in the world, behind . According to the Singapore is also consistently ranked as one of the least corrupt countries in the world, along with and the countries.
Singapore is the 14th largest exporter and the 15th largest importer in the world. The country has the highest trade to GDP ratio in the world at 407.9 percent, signifying the importance of trade to its economy. The country is currently the only Asian country to have AAA credit ratings from all three major credit rating agencies – Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch. Singapore attracts a lot of because of its location, corruption-free environment, skilled work force, low tax rates and advanced infrastructure. There are more than 7,000 multi-national corporations from the United States, Japan, and Europe in Singapore. There are also 1,500 companies from China and another 1,500 from India based in Singapore. Foreign firms are found in almost all sectors of the economy. Singapore is also the second largest foreign investor in India. Roughly 44 percent of the Singaporean workforce is made up of non Singaporeans. Over ten have been signed with other countries and regions.
Singapore also possesses the world's tenth . The currency of Singapore is the , issued by the . It is interchangeable with the . The Singaporean economy depends heavily on exports and refining imported goods, especially in manufacturing, which constituted 27.2% of GDP in 2010 and includes significant electronics, petroleum refining, chemicals, mechanical engineering and biomedical sciences sectors. In 2006 Singapore produced about 10% of the world's foundry output. Despite its small size, Singapore has a diversified economy, a strategy which the government considers vital for growth and stability.
also forms a large part of the economy, and 10.2 million tourists visited the country in 2007. To attract more tourists, in 2005 the government legalised gambling and allowed two casino resorts (called ) to be developed. Singapore is promoting itself as a hub: about 200,000 foreigners seek medical care there each year, and Singapore medical services aim to serve one million foreign patients annually by 2012 and generate USD 3 billion in revenue. Singapore is an education hub, and many foreign students study in Singapore. Singapore hosted over 80,000 international students in 2006. There are also more than 5000 Malaysians students who cross the every morning with hopes of receiving a better education in Singapore. In 2009, 20% of all students in Singaporean universities were international students. The students were mainly from , China and India.
Singapore is a world leader in several economic areas: the country is the world's fourth leading , the world's second biggest casino gambling market, one of the world's top three oil refining centres, the world's largest oil-rig producer, and a major ship-repairer. The is one of the five . The World Bank has praised Singapore as the easiest place in the world to do business and ranks Singapore the world's top logistics hub. Lastly, the country is also the world's fourth largest foreign-exchange trading centre after London, New York and Tokyo. As a result of and a slump in the technology sector, the country's GDP contracted by 2.2% in 2001. The Economic Review Committee was set up in December 2001 and recommended several policy changes to revitalize the economy. Singapore has since recovered, largely due to improvements in the world economy; the economy grew by 8.3% in 2004, 6.4% in 2005, and 7.9% in 2006. After a contraction of 0.8% in 2009, the economy recovered in 2010 with a GDP growth of 14.5%.
Most work in Singapore is in the , which employed 2,151,400 people out of 3,102,500 jobs in December 2010. The percentage of unemployed economically active people above age 15 is about 2%. Poverty levels are low compared to other countries in the region. The government provides cheap housing (in the form of Housing Development Board flats) and financial assistance to poorer people. Singapore has the world's highest percentage of millionaire households, with 15.5 percent of all households owning at least one million US dollars.
As of 2011, the resident population of Singapore is 5.18 million people, of whom 3.25 million (63%) are while the rest (37%) are permanent residents or foreign workers. 23% of Singaporean citizens were born outside Singapore i.e. citizens. There are half a million permanent residents in Singapore in 2011. The resident population does not take into account the 11 million transient visitors who visit Singapore annually. The median age of Singaporeans is 37 years old and the average household size is 3.5 persons. Due to scarcity of land, four out of five Singaporeans live in known as flats. In 2010, three quarters of Singaporean residents live in properties that are equal to or larger than a or in private housing. House ownership rate is at 87.2%. penetration rate is extremely high at 1,400 mobile phone subscribers per 1000 people. Around 1 in 10 residents owns a car.
In 2010, the total fertility rate was 1.1 children per woman, the third lowest in the world and well below the 2.1 needed to replace the population. To overcome this problem, the Singapore government has been encouraging foreigners to immigrate to Singapore for the past few decades. The large number of immigrants has kept Singapore's population from declining. Singapore traditionally has . Singaporean unemployment rate has not exceeded 4% in the past decade, hitting a high of 3% during the and falling to 1.9% in 2011. About 40 percent of Singapore's residents are foreigners, . The government is considering capping these workers, although it is recognized that they play a large role in the country's economy. Foreign workers make up 80% of the construction industry and up to 50% in the service industry.
In 2009, the government census reports that 74.2% of residents were of , 13.4% of , and 9.2% of , while and other groups form 3.2%. Prior to 2010, each person could only register as a member of one race, by default that of his or her father, therefore, mixed-race persons were solely grouped under their father's race in government censuses. From 2010 onwards, people may register using a "double-barreled" classification, in which they may choose one primary race and one secondary race, but no more than two.
is the most widely practiced religion in Singapore, with 33% of the resident population declaring themselves adherents at the most recent census. The next largest religions, in order of size, are , , and . The proportion of Christians, Taoists and non-religious people increased between 2000 and 2010 by about 3% each, while the proportion of Buddhists decreased. Other faiths remained largely stable in their share of the population.
There are monasteries and Dharma centres from all three major traditions of Buddhism in Singapore: , and . Most Buddhists in Singapore are Chinese and are of the Mahayana tradition. Chinese Mahayana is the most predominant form of Buddhism in Singapore, with missionaries from Taiwan and China for several decades. However, Thailand's has seen growing popularity amongst the people (not only the Chinese) in the past decade. , a Japanese Buddhist organisation, is practised by many people in Singapore, but by mostly those of Chinese descent. has also made slow inroads into the country in recent years.
Singapore has four official languages: English, , , and . English is the first language of the nation and is the language of business, government and medium of instruction in schools. The and all laws are written in English. 80% of Singaporeans are literate in English as either their first or second language. Chinese Mandarin is the next commonly spoken, followed by Malay and Tamil. is based on , and forms of English spoken range from to a known as . Singlish is heavily discouraged by the government. According to the 2010 official census, nearly one in three Singaporeans speak English as their home language.
Chinese is the most common home language, used by about half of all Singaporeans. is the most common version of Chinese in the country, with 1.2 million using it as their home language. Nearly half a million speak other Chinese languages (which the government describes as "dialects"), mainly , , and , as their home language, although the use of these is declining in favour of Mandarin and English.
is the "national language", a ceremonial rather than functional designation to reflect the country's history. It is used in the national anthem "" and in military commands. Today Malay is generally spoken within the community, with only 16.8% of Singaporeans literate in Malay and only 12% using it as their home language. conduct their businesses in English, and official documents written in a non-English official language such as Chinese, Malay or Tamil typically have to be translated into to be accepted for submission. Translators are also required if one wishes to address the in a language other than English. Around 0.1 million or 3% of Singaporeans speak as their home language. Even though only Tamil has official status, there have been no attempts to discourage the use or spread of other Indian languages.
Singapore – Chinese, Indian and Malay culture
Singapore is a very diverse and young country. It has many languages, cultures and religions for a country its size. Due to the many different languages and cultures in the country, there is no single set of culturally acceptable behaviours.
When Singapore became independent from the in 1965, most of the newly minted Singaporean citizens were uneducated labourers from , and ; although a sizeable minority of middle-class locals, known as the , also existed. With the exception of the Peranakans who pledged their loyalties to the land, most of these labourers pledged their loyalties to their respective homelands of , and . The Chinese, for instance, wore pigtails to signify their loyalty to the Chinese emperor and remitted money to China. After independence, the process of crafting a Singaporean identity began. Both ex -- (who was Prime Minister for over 30 years) and -- have stated that Singapore does not fit the traditional description of a , calling it a nation in transition. They pointed out that Singaporeans do not all speak the same language, share the same religion or have the same customs. Even though is the first language of the nation, according to the government's 2010 census, 20% of Singaporeans, or one in five, are in English. This is an improvement from 1990 where 40% of Singaporeans were illiterate in English.
Unlike many other countries, languages, religions and cultures in Singapore are not delineated according to or . For example, amongst , one in five are , another one in five are and the rest are mostly or . One-third speak English as their home language, while half speak as their home language. The rest speak other at home. are more religious in comparison. Only 1% of them are . 60% of Singaporean Indians are Hindus, 20% are Muslims and 13% are Christians. Four in ten speak English as their home language. One in three speak and one in ten speak as their home language. Each Singaporean's behaviour and attitudes would therefore be influenced by, amongst many other things, his home and his .
Singapore is generally conservative socially but some liberalisation has occurred. At the national level, , where one is judged based on one's ability, is heavily emphasised. Racial and religious harmony is regarded by the government as a crucial part of Singapore's success and played a part in building a Singaporean identity. The national flower of Singapore is the .
Many national symbols such as the and the make use of the , as Singapore is known as the 'Lion City'. The country also has a which is recited every day by students in public schools. There are 11 major in Singapore annually.
Singaporean employees work an average of around 45 hours weekly, which is relatively long compared to many other nations. Three in four Singaporean employees surveyed stated that they take pride in doing their work well, and that doing so helps their self-confidence. Due to scarcity of land, four out of five Singaporeans live in known as flats. Singaporeans generally take off their shoes before entering their homes. Live-in are quite common in Singaporean, and there are nearly 200,000 domestic helpers in Singapore. As with most countries, vehicles and people keep to the left side of the road. Unlike some Western countries and countries in the , Singapore does not have a culture of , and the country has one of the lowest rates of drug use in the world.
Foreigners also make up 42% of the population and have a strong influence on Singaporean culture. named Singapore the most globalised country in the world in 2006 in its . The in its "" ranks Singapore as having the best quality of life in Asia and eleventh overall in the world.
Customs and Rituals
Month of the dead
For Budhist and Taoists, for the month of death celebration, theybegin on the first day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar. On this day, Taoists and most Buddhists believe that the Gates of Hell will open and Yan Luo Wang - the king who rules the realm of the dead - gives special permission for all the dead spirits to come up to earth for a month-long visit. Both Taoists and Buddhists see this period as an opportunity for the dead to be relieved from the sufferings of hell, and return to visit their living beloved.
To honour their visit, Taoists and Buddhists families will prepare a sumptuous meal for their deceased loved ones with lots of their favourite foods. Then there will be the requisite visit to the Buddhists goods shop to buy stacks of hell notes (paper money), gold paper, green joss sticks, red candles on wooden sticks and other paper paraphernalia. Note that green joss sticks should be used for the dead. Yellow joss sticks are usually used for praying to gods.
In the past, the shops in Singapore sold only joss sticks, some basic styled clothes made of coloured paper and gold leafed paper money. Today though they believe, Hell has become an expensive place with rampant inflation, as one can probably tell by looking at hell notes, which are basically poorly printed money-lookalikes in denominations of $1,000,000,000,000 and above! Some more devoted families will spend the weeks before that folding gold paper into the shape of ingots.Aside from money, families of the dead believe their dead ancestors shouldn’t be deprived of the comforts of the living world so you can buy Rolex watches made of gold foil paper (in three dimensional forms), jewellery sets for the ladies, mobile phones, clothes, shoes, hats, and or small sized cars. The rich (or very guilty or blessed people) will sometimes buy entire bungalows made of paper complete with troops of servants and maids. The bungalows are so large they’re placed on trucks which carry them in a procession to the furnace for burning.
Every member of the family will take turns to pray with joss sticks at the dead ancestors asking them for protection, welcoming them to earth and asking them to partake of the offerings. Some plucky ones may even ask for lucky numbers for buying 4D or to ask for answers to certain questions using lots.Another set of the same items will also be set aside for the Good Brothers. “Good brothers” is the name for all the unfortunate dead spirits who have no one to offer them food and hell notes.
Zhong Yuan Festival
The Zhong Yuan Festival is the fifteenth of the seventh month where all the ghostly celebrations culminate to a peak. By this time, the number of live shows would have peaked and everyone gathers for large offering ceremonies.
On this day -- and until the end of the seventh month -- Buddhists and Taoists will give another offering of money and incense to the dead to send them on their jolly journey home with presents. These items also help smooth the way in hell for the dead ancestors so the guards and other “good brothers” in Hell can treat them with favor.There’s aunique and bizarre believes of dos and don’ts by Singaporean folks during this festivals:
What you don’t “see” or “hear” won’t hurt you
During the Seventh Lunar Month, ghosts who died tragic deaths or mischievous spirits are more inclined to pull a fast one on the living. If you see a stranger waving or calling out to you in the middle of the night, or hear any strange (read ‘unnatural’) noises, do not for a moment acknowledge its presence or you might fall into its lure.
Watch your step!
The burnt offerings, foodstuff and other items on makeshift altars that you’ll see everywhere during the seventh month is meant to appease the dead. Spirits come by to partake of the feast and claim these offerings, so treat such items with respect and never step on the burnt offerings. If you do step on it by mistake, remember to apologies for disturbing the meal. You may look silly muttering to yourself, but it’s not half as bad as being spooked or ‘harassed’ afterwards.
Don’t extinguish the’ lamps’
According to certain folk beliefs, each human has three ‘spiritual lamps’ that ward them from evil spirits: one on each shoulder and one on the forehead. If a voice calls out to you from behind, and you turn halfway to acknowledge that person that turns out to be something not quite, you run the risk of extinguishing one of the ‘lamps’ on your shoulder. This invariably reduces your protection against evil spirits. So if you want to acknowledge someone’s call especially at night, turn your full body around, and try not to just look back to answer the call. If you’re the one doing the calling, try not to tap your friend on the shoulder to make him turn around because that too will extinguish the flame on his shoulder. (This is not restricted to the Seventh Lunar Month).
Get the lucky numbers
While people are making the offerings, they often ask for lucky numbers believing that the dead have great powers, such as seeing into the future and the ability to predict the week’s winning lottery numbers.
Be generous and don’t mix the fires
They believe do not to ‘mix fires’ of two separate offerings. So when someone’s ready to start burning their offerings, and someone else has just finished burning their offerings in the common bin, they’ll often wait till the previous offerings are completely burned and that the fire has died before putting in theirs. Just to ensure the offerings go to the right guys, not the guy before.
An ingot is worth more than paper money
While most people just burn the gold-leafed paper money in stacks, some families go through the trouble of folding the money into shapes of ingots. Apparently this increases the value of the money that is used in hell. While this doesn’t address the inflation issue described above, it does make for easier burning because of the air pockets.
Don’t feed yourself to drowned spirits
And finally, an important advice for the younger generation from parents is to refrain from swimming anywhere during the seventh month. You run the risk of drowned spirits inviting you into the deep waters while you frolic in their home ground. Jacuzzis and long-kangs (sewage drains) included.
Work Culture in Singapore
Since a lot of Chinese, Indians (mainly from the southern peninsula), Malaysians and British have been settling in Singapore since a long time, the country has 4 official languages - Mandarin, Tamil, Malay and English. You will see a lovely blend of all these cultures in Singapore. Working in the Singaporean way is also the same! If you end up in a medium to large-scale organization or probably in a huge multinational, you might have a British or Chinese CEO, a Swiss or Dutch manager, a Korean or an Indian colleague and a Japanese business partner. This is just an example given by my Malaysian friend working at a multinational bank in Singapore, but this is just how mixed your work place could be. Intriguing or great enough?
Well, I think it is simply awesome to work at a place like this. By and large, the work culture in Singapore is a mix of Asian and Western influences. The government of Singapore allows various cultures to grow and foster together harmoniously. The large multinationals and companies have a very western culture of operating whereas their smaller local counterparts and government organizations have a more traditional Asian style of operating. Singaporeans are very disciplined and strict when it comes to work and life in general. About 75 percent of the Singaporeans are of Chinese descent and so the Chinese work culture and values predominantly exist in the place.
Hierarchy and Collectivism
Work culture in Singapore is of a high power distance, which means there are clear authority structures and social status is defined by your position in the society and workplace. People at lower levels respect higher authorities. Respecting elders and seniors comes from Confucianism that still exists in the Chinese culture and Asian cultures. In such a hierarchical society or workplace, juniors do not openly question or argue with superiors. Using of surnames or titles while addressing is also important like in any other Asian country. Collectivism prevails versus individualism, as in, people always work as a part of a group and this sense of group affiliation to a company or school or family is quite important than a person's individual status, unlike in a western country. In western societies, there is an emphasis on personal achievements, personal progress, self-determination and independence.
People strive for excellence by themselves and the one who shows such a capability is highly rewarded. But, in many Asian cultures, like in traditional Singaporean culture, group harmony and collective decision-making is a part of the work culture. The collectivist culture is one where in people work together and shares their rewards instead of striving for individual recognition. Nevertheless, we can expect a western style competition and individualism at multinationals operating in Singapore. But a lot of business owners from western countries who visit Singapore for business deals and have meetings with owners of local and small Singaporean businesses, come across a huge difference and clearly see how collectivism still prevails in a modern society.
Rules and Regulations
Singapore is famous for its strict rules. There are many signs that tell you what is not allowed and it's hard to miss these signs. It can be very weird but you have to prepare for these rules. The work culture in Singapore is somewhat similar to that of China, Japan and Korea in some aspects. In many local and government organizations, there is an established way of working which is followed by all employees. There are a set of rules for every situation and arguing is not common. In such organizations, bosses do not want you to show over enthusiasm and too many new ideas at work. But they would encourage you to work creatively in the set restrictions and boundaries as Singapore is trying to get more innovators than followers to improve itself in the current competitive market.
Your family background and income is important. Along with your skills and performance, your credentials have value and it matters which university you graduated from and what degrees you have. People normally talk less, do not speak loudly and rudely to each other, irrespective of their position. Communication is indirect, subtle and implicit and you would normally not see people losing temper. In local firms, there may also be more restrictions related to office behavior, work timings and other work related issues. In organizations that follow a western culture, all the above may not be true and there will be more openness and individuality.
Work culture in Singapore is quite flexible as regards to white collar jobs. They work 8-9 hours a day, 5 days a week. Professional jobs do not require you to work over time, but if it is so, you are paid 1.5 times the basic hourly rate. If you work on a normal off day or a holiday, you would be paid 2.5 times the basic hourly rate. Remember that the workforce of Singapore is ranked number one by the international surveys in terms of labor market, labor force and human resource and ranked second for its labor market efficiency. At work, you would need to observe a bit and then interact with people because you need to be aware about their distinct customs and religions before doing so. So wait till you know, as Singaporeans, or rather a lot of East and South East Asians, take time to make friends and long term relationships. You would also need to know how to approach different people as many religions prevail - Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism being dominant with others like Christianity, Taoism and Atheism. Things change from organization to organization because Singapore has many industries. If you are not going to work at an organization that follows the western style of working, you will have to learn how to care for and show more respect to your elderly and experienced co-workers, even if you are going to be their boss.
Business and Meetings
Making appointments well in advance is extremely important. Be punctual at meetings and other functions. You should be well prepared for your meetings with detailed presentations, along with charts, updated figures and slides. Expect the same organized behavior from your managers. Again, remember to be subtle and not aggressive in your presentation, especially if you are trying to make a deal or a negotiation. Do not speak or answer quickly, as it shows you do not think much. If you are the one listening to the presentation then do not question directly but encourage your audience to talk. Do not criticize openly. Always give the non-verbal communication a priority. Small informal meetings are common before real business discussions. If you are not happy with a deal or want changes from the opposite party, you need to have a detailed discussion later on. If disagreements are conveyed too fast, openly and loudly, it may be considered arrogant, although you may feel good that you have spoken things 'clearly', like in your home country. In negotiations and in many other aspects, there are many similarities between the business culture in Singapore and China. Decisions are taken with a consensus and expect Singaporeans to be tough with price negotiations. Discipline, commitment and deadlines co-exist in this culture.
JoAnn Meriwether Craig, aptly described the concept of face in the Singaporean context, in her book Culture Shock? Singapore (2001, revised ed.) as a “measure of one’s internal quality, status, good name, and good character”. "Face" plays a particularly important role in many Asian cultures. With extreme care taken to maintain one’s own sense of personal and public integrity and the integrity of others in social interaction. It “involves the entire group (the family, the school, the neighbourhood, the work place, the city, and the country)”. If one’s “face” is lost – that is, embarrassed – the whole group’s “face” is lost, hence a group embarrassment rather than a personal embarrassment. In the Singaporean context, causing the loss of someone’s “face” is akin to publicly humiliating him. The preserving of “face” is most obvious in hierarchical relationships i.e. children taking care to preserve the “face” of parents, students taking care to preserve the “face” of teachers, and yes, employees taking care to preserve the “face” of superiors and employers.
As a foreign employee who has just landed a job in Singapore, keep the following "face" saving tips in mind:
- Do not correct your employer/superior’s mistakes in public.
- Do not question your employer/superior in public.
- Do not disagree with their employer/superior in public.
- Do not refuse your employer/superior outright. Employees may publicly comply to unreasonable demands with an agreeable “yes” but the “yes” is often accompanied with signs of non-compliance (“it might be difficult…”).
- Do not engage in public display of anger or confrontation against your employer/superiors.
When one causes the loss of a Singaporean’s “face”, the former has somehow publicly humiliated the latter. The consequences of “face” loss are dire i.e. distrust, resentment, bitter feelings etc.The best approach is to discuss matters of disagreement and confrontation discreetly, delicately, indirectly and in private. For example, if you want to request for a higher salary, do so while giving the employer some “face”. Take the pay raise negotiation behind closed doors. Approach your employer with a calm tone and friendly smile. Once he/she has seems receptive, gently steer him towards your contributions for the company. Be careful not to overplay your efforts, though. Finally, allow your employer time to think it through.
Most of the important aspects of the traditional work culture in Singapore are discussed above, but the younger generation is increasingly adopting the culture of Egalitarian societies. Some traditional aspects are changing slowly. A lot of organizations in Asian countries including Singapore are adopting the western and a very modern style of working. To understand a culture, you need to be understanding and patient. You will have a lot to learn once you are in the Lion City. If you love being in an advanced country with different ethnicities, learning new cultures and mingling with all kinds of people without prejudices, then vibrant Singapore is the place to work and live in.
Difference in working culture of Malaysia & Singapore
Singapore and Malaysia tends to have very similar culture and practices in business. For example, both the countries have the same management style, which is hierarchically oriented and group-oriented in approach. However, there are a few slight differences between their working cultures, which are as follows:
Malaysia working culture is mainly influence by Islam. The religious duties are observed and the working day is punctuated by prayer in many offices. Some provinces observe Friday as the day of rest and close for business. Kuala Lumpur maintains a more Western weekly pattern - although some offices open on Saturday morning. Ramadan, the month of fasting, is observed and levels of effort and motivation can, naturally be affected. Government departments often find themselves understaffed at this time, making the processing of visas and other official business somewhat tardy.
On the other hand, Singapore is probably the most heavily Western influenced of all the Asian economies with regard to approach to business. The legacy of its colonial past, combined with its status as the number one destination for US and European organizations to locate their Asian Head Offices has resulted in many Western attitudes and processes being adopted. This apparent willingness to assimilate some Western business practices
Both the Malaysia and Singapore’s businesses are extremely hierarchical in nature. The two countries all stress the over-riding importance of respect and duty. This need to show respect to which it is due will obviously manifest itself in a desire for a clearly defined hierarchy to be established where reporting lines are transparent and where bosses make decisions and then instruct their subordinates accordingly.
However, many Singaporean companies originated as family-run businesses and this adds weight to the push for respect for seniority. The CEO of a family business will tend to be the oldest male family member working at the organisation with other senior employees also being family members. Thus, within traditional Singaporean organisations, all key decisions will be made at the very senior levels, with those decisions being delegated down the chain of command for implementation
Compared to Malaysia, Singapore’s government has introduced very tight legislation governing the issues around gift giving. They work hard to avoid the corruption scandals which have tainted other Asian societies in the past. It is, therefore, less common for gifts to be given and received in Singapore than in many other countries in the region.
English is widely used in Singapore as the 'common' language because of its apparent neutrality as well as its importance in the international business arena. Many Singaporean schools run the curriculum in English. Therefore, levels of English are extremely good in Singapore and foreign business people who also have a good command of the English language will have little difficulty communicating. Most Malaysian people will also speak their own native language and also Bahasa Malayu in business meeting, which is used as a 'bridge' language across the various ethnic divides.
Besides, Singapore sets a much higher requirement than Malaysia on good communication and mutual comprehension to avoid many misunderstandings flow from differing concepts of the appropriate or inappropriate use of language. In Singapore, humour can often be misunderstood or not understood at all and as such is best avoided.
Business Dress Code
Dress codes in business in Singapore reflect the climatic conditions and tend to be more informal than Malaysian. Thus men will often wear shirt and trousers with no tie. Women tend to wear lightweight business suits. Accessories should be of good quality. Due to their characteristic of kia su, they will always make sure their attire is branded although informal.
In Singapore, dinner is the most common form of business entertainment. Business entertaining is very important in Singapore and don't be surprised if business dinners are scheduled for every night of the week. However, it is more common to be invited out for lunch in Malaysia as business entertainment performs an important function in the all-important relationship building process.
Singapore Attraction places
Both visitors and tourists will definitely be awed by Singapore's clean and green image, with glossy shops, restaurants and food centres, all of which epitomize the fusion of the Chinese, Malay and Indian cultures. These experiences will make for an educational yet truly enjoyable trip.
Below are the top 10 tourist attractions in Singapore.
The Singapore Integrated Resorts are the two prime casino resorts in Singapore, and . Exciting theme park attractions, classy shopping, fine dining, luxurious hotels, and not forgetting the 24-hour casino arcade - they have it all.The best way to soak in the culture is to wander around the streets of ethnic neighborhoods to catch a glimpse of their daily life in the following three ethnic quarters.
The make for the ultimate traveler’s delight. The ramshackle rows of shops are a treasure trove of Indian artworks, antiques, textiles, music and . Be sure to visit the 24-hour , where keen bargainers will find great shopping deals, making the trip down to Little India an experience they would love to relive all over again.
Chinatown is a culture-fanatic's haven. Fine Asian antiques, statuettes, house ware, exotic souvenirs and can all be found here. Walk through rows of old amidst the hearts of the Chinatown district, and see a side of Singapore's Chinese heritage one never see anywhere else in the world.
Heading through the streets of Kampong Glam, one find in abundance the handicrafts, textiles and boutiques that are distinctive of the Malay culture in Singapore. And aside from shopping, don't miss out on the delicious served at the many eateries and restaurants around here.
Undoubtedly the top Singapore attraction, especially for people on a family vacation.Sentosa is Singapore's premier island attraction, with always something to do for everyone. Set on the southern tip of Singapore, it is lined with the finest sandy beaches. So, if you're looking for some outdoor fun and relaxation, head down to Sentosa Island and have the time of your life.
Another one of the top Singapore attractions for people on family vacation and wild life lovers. With the new addition of and to the park in 2008, it's now a real kid's paradise. Be sure to arrive early for a full day of fun and excitement that awaits visitors.
Learn about the history of Singapore River while strolling along the river bank. You will discover a number of well preserved which were built during the colonial era. The river is so long that it has been divided into 5 quays: Raffles Quay, Collyer Quay, , , and Robertson Quay. With an array of never-ending shops, alfresco restaurants and night bars ¨C it is also the perfect place for a relaxing getaway.
The Esplanade Singapore can be spotted from afar, distinguished by its unique spiky architecture and its modern exterior. This is the place to get a glimpse of Singapore's art and culture apart from the various and ethnic quarters. Visitors will also be thrilled to know there are free indoor performances daily at the concourse.
One of the top Singapore attractions for shoppers, Orchard Road is a shopping belt with a vibrant range of as well as . The malls are interlinked seamlessly to boost the enjoyment of your shopping experience. Mall after mall of endless retail therapy, this is shopping in a whole new light.
Just a short distance from Orchard Road, the Singapore Botanic Gardens and are two must-visit Singapore attractions for nature lovers. It is not only one of Singapore's top attractions, but also one of the world's great venues for botanical study. Visitors usually come here to take a stroll along the nature walks, admire the , have picnics, or simply enjoy the serenity.
Churchill And The Lion City - Shaping Modern Singapore by Farrell, Brian P. (Ed.) , 1st Edition 2011
- Singapore Shifting Boundaries: Social Change In The Early 21St Century by Lim, William S.W.; Sharon Siddique; Tan Dan Feng 1st Edition 2011 Oxford Enterprise
- JoAnn Meriwether Craig - culture Shock, Singapore 2001, revised ed.
Singapore MRT map