Working Culture in Singapore – a Newcomer’s Guide


In this guide, we delve into the details of Singapore’s work culture and provide newcomers with insights to navigate the business landscape.

Its important to understand the working culture in Singapore before getting involved.

Singapore is a cosmopolitan city-state in Southeast Asia that has become a hub for businesses around the world. It offers a vibrant and dynamic work culture that attracts newcomers from various parts of the globe.

In this guide, we will delve into the details of Singapore’s work culture and provide newcomers with insights on how to navigate the business landscape.

Understanding the Singapore Work Culture

Singapore has a highly competitive and fast-paced work culture that is focused on efficiency, productivity, and quality. Employees are expected to work hard, be punctual, and deliver results. The work culture is heavily influenced by the country’s Chinese, Malay, and Indian roots, resulting in a unique blend of traditional and modern values.

Hierarchy and Respect

The Singapore work culture places a great emphasis on hierarchy and respect for authority. The boss is viewed as the ultimate decision-maker, and employees are expected to follow instructions without question. This doesn’t mean that employees cannot offer feedback or suggestions, but it should be done respectfully and constructively.


Collaboration and teamwork are highly valued in the Singapore work culture. Employees are expected to work well with others and contribute to the team’s success. It is common for companies to organize team-building activities and outings to foster a sense of camaraderie and build stronger relationships.

Work-Life Balance

While Singapore has a strong work culture, there is also a growing emphasis on work-life balance. Employers are recognizing the importance of their employees’ mental and physical health and are providing more opportunities for flexible working arrangements, such as remote work or flexible hours. This helps employees to better manage their personal and professional commitments.

Business Etiquette

Business etiquette in Singapore is also unique and should be observed by newcomers. Here are some tips to help navigate the business landscape:

  • Dress professionally and conservatively, especially in formal business settings.
  • Exchange business cards with both hands and read the card before putting it away.
  • Use titles and surnames when addressing people, especially in formal settings.
  • Avoid being overly direct or confrontational in conversations.
  • Always arrive on time for meetings and appointments.
  • Be mindful of cultural differences and customs.

Working Hours

Working hours in Singapore are typically 40-45 hours per week, with a lunch break of half an hour to an hour. Most professional and managerial jobs do not require overtime work, but if applicable, it is paid at one and a half times the basic hourly rate. Pay for working on holidays and normal days off is two and a half times the normal rate, and overtime work is limited to 72 hours per month under the Employment Act.


Singapore is a multicultural country, and it is important for foreign employees to understand the behavioral patterns of their colleagues from different ethnicities. Chinese employees value hierarchical relationships, and introductions should be made in order of seniority. It is also important to clarify how colleagues prefer to be addressed. Malay/Muslim employees value Islamic values, and refrain from close contact with the opposite sex, perform short prayers during office hours, and avoid consuming non-halal products when in the company of colleagues.

It is essential to keep in mind these unwritten formalities when dealing with Singaporean colleagues and employers to ensure smooth working relations and reduce culture shock. Maintaining harmony, avoiding conflict and confrontation, and building rapport are important in Singaporean work culture. It is crucial not to cause anyone to ‘lose face’, so disagreements should be discussed delicately and indirectly in private, and not in public.

Do bear in mind that although this is just a guideline for the etiquettes in Singapore and not everyone practices everything mentioned above.

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