One thing that everyone will tell you about Singaporeans is that they love food. They love to eat and love to share their time with friends and family!
However every country has its own specific. Every country has its own customs.
Singapore has succeeded in creating a multi-cultural society with remarkable tolerance for differences. One is first and foremost a Singaporean, and then a Chinese, Malay, Indian, or other. This huge diversity has strongly influenced the way people live and do business.
In Japan, I found it very normal to set up all “social-business” meetings in the evening. After a while I even started to enjoy late meetings… I had enough time to finish my work and sometimes do some extra things before meeting with the partner or customer.
However to my big surprise, when I started to do business in Singapore, I could feel some resistance in the air. Of course what I have done was I took my habits from Japan (unconsciously) and implemented them in Singapore. If you do some things for long enough, they become a norm to you and you even do not notice when…
So, whenever I have invited my Singaporean partners over for a dinner, they never said no to me, however I could feel that there is something in the air… some rush, some tension.
Luckily it took me a short while to understand the rules… And honestly speaking, there are only 2 of them:
Singaporeans LOVE to spend time with their families
Singaporeans LOVE to have business breakfast!
As simple as that!
When I started to propose business breakfasts instead of late dinners, I could immediately feel the difference. It was much more appreciated!
But then, I had another challenge… If you do business dining, you all know that there is a difference between breakfast and dinner! Some things just simply cannot be done or said over the morning coffee… however in terms of Singaporeans, my advice would be, do business breakfast, prove yourself, build a relation, and as a friend, move to evening dining.
Also, do not forget that you will have a lunch break to accommodate. From my experience, lunch is also very welcome in Singapore, however I must say, that I can see that breakfast is received with much more enthusiasm.
On the other hand… if you are considering entertaining you Japanese business partners, do not even bother thinking about inviting them over for a business breakfast! In Japan, you DO late dinners. STOP. In Tokyo it would be even difficult to find a place to have a decent business breakfast, unless you are ok with hotel breakfast – I am not.
Good luck with all business dining in Singapore and Japan!
What is your experience with business dinners, lunches and breakfast? How does it look like in other countries?