Thinking of doing business in Singapore? You’re not alone. The city-state is well-known as a regional financial center and a gateway to the Asian market for foreign companies. Its low corporate taxes and generous personal tax brackets make it even more attractive to foreign investors, with numerous exemptions and no taxes levied on capital gains.
But, like anywhere, there are certain quirks to be aware of when doing business in Singapore.
Mastering the art of doing business in Singapore
Let’s start with the good stuff.
Make yourself understood
Singapore has an English-based bilingual education system, and there is broad support for the use of English as a primary language in public. But as an ethnically and linguistically diverse city, alongside English, students learn a second “Mother Tongue” language corresponding to their identity.
That’s good news for international workers, who can expect to converse in English with the city-state’s citizens easily.
The Keys to the City
Singapore’s central business district is known as the “Central Area” or “The City” and occupies the city’s old harbor. As the financial heart of the city, it’s home to the headquarters of numerous businesses, such as Singtel, Singapore’s largest telecommunications company, and OCBC Bank, the second-largest bank in Southeast Asia—as well as the Singapore Exchange.
The area combines impressive modern architecture with historical locations such as Clarke Quay, a bustling restaurant and nightclub area.
Fifteen Years on Top
Rounding out the things to know about doing business in Singapore is that, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), it is the world’s best place to do business—and has been for the last fifteen consecutive years.
The ranking takes the next five years into consideration, with Singapore’s continuing dominance bolstered by the signing of South East Asian regional free trade agreements, which EIU expects to pay dividends in the coming years.
How not to stumble in Singapore
So far, so good. But just because Singapore is an excellent place to do business doesn’t mean there aren’t certain surprising obstacles to trip prospective business people up.
Keep your shirt on
Feb 27, 1996. On the very same day the first ever Pokémon game was released in Japan, a law was coming into effect in Singapore making it illegal to be naked in your own home (not that we’re suggesting there’s any link between the two). More specifically, under Section 27A of the Miscellaneous Offenses (Public Order and Nuisance) Act, Chapter 184, a person cannot be naked in a private place while being exposed to public view, or else they will risk a fine or jail time.
And that’s not hypothetical. In August 2009, taxi driver Chua Hock Hin was fined $2,600 for being naked in his flat in view of his neighbors.
Under Section 6(1)(a) of the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act, enacted in 1998, it is illegal to “hack” into someone else’s wireless internet by joining it without permission (even if it’s unsecured). Falling afoul of the law means a maximum fine of $10,000 or three years imprisonment.
That being the case, you should stick to 5G unless you’re absolutely sure who the Wi-Fi connection belongs to.
I swear it wasn’t me
Finally, you should probably think twice before vocalizing your frustrations publically. According to Singaporean law, anyone who “utters any obscene words in or near any public place, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 months, or with fine, or with both.”
Don’t think you can skirt around the rules by singing rude words instead, as the law also covers that. So make sure to check the lyrics before belting out your favorite hit.
Swing by the Singapore Business Show
Hopefully, you’re now fully equipped with the knowledge to thrive in Singapore—in business and otherwise. But it would be impossible to mention the city without also discussing the Singapore Business Show, happening on the 30th and 31st of August 2023.
The event, which features 300 exhibitors, 250 speakers, and an expected 5,000 visitors, caters to entrepreneurs, business owners, and startups looking to do business in the city. We’ll be there as exhibitors ourselves, so come along and say hi to us at stand 825.
And what’s more, our co-founder and Chief Product Officer, Vamsi Krishna, is among the speakers. Catch his deep dive into how hiring talent worldwide to build a borderless workforce can give businesses a competitive advantage at Seminar Theatre 4 on 31 August.
In this article, we’ve only scratched the surface of doing business in Singapore. If you want a comprehensive overview, visit our free Talent Wiki Singapore page for the lowdown.
And if you’re interested in hiring talent from Singapore or anywhere else, Multiplier is here to help. Talk to our experts to find out more.