Founded as a British trading colony in 1819, Singapore joined Malaysia in 1963, but withdrew two years later and gained its independence. It subsequently became one of the world’s most prosperous countries, with strong international trading links, (its port is one of the world’s busiest) and with a per capita GDP above that of the leading nations of Western Europe. Singapore is located in the South-eastern Asia, islands between Malaysia and Indonesia. Because of this strategic location, Singapore has been known as a trading center almost continuously since the 7th Century, when it was a Sumatran seaport called Temasek.
Singapore has probably gone through more changes in the last 30 years than any other country in the world. Family life is particularly important to Asians. The socialization of children within the family creates powerful patterns, which will remain with your counterpart for life. You will be dealing with the families of your customers, employees, bankers, and other business counterparts. Singapore was settled originally by male immigrants seeking work. Because they left their extended families behind, most families in Singapore consist of only one or two generations.
Today, Singapore is a modern multiracial state. Seventy seven percent of the population is Chinese; fifteen percent is Malay; six percent Indian or Pakistani; and two percent European. Singapore has four official languages: Malay, Mandarin, Tamil, and English. The national language is Malay and English is the primary business language. The three Asian cultures of Singapore, Malay, Indian, and Chinese, have been influenced by Western culture since the arrival of Portuguese traders in the Sixteenth Century.
By the time the British dominated the island, some three hundred years later, local Asians were feeling the full brunt of western imperialism. Its aggressive mercantile spirit and confident Christianity left certain marks, such as the use of English for business. Singapore is one of the world’s few city-states. A city-state is a small self-governed country, primarily dependent upon the commercial activity of a single city. City-states were common in the ancient world and the Middle Ages. Today only a few survive: Monaco, San Marino, and Singapore.
The political history of Singapore is closely intertwined with the person of Lee Kuan Yew, the country’s dominant political figure and the only prime minister ever elected. In Asia culture exerts a predominate influence upon politics. There are considerable differences between Asian political systems based upon groups and conformity; on the other hand Western systems derived from concepts of individual rights. Asians prefer the conformity of their own traditions because they want a settled, and harmonious society.
Also they tend to be less concerned about legality than westerns. Singapore has one of the fastest growing economies of the world. Although Singapore has no significant natural resources, its geographical location is key in its success, it possesses a developed infrastructure, a good communications system, political stability and a disciplined work force. Singapore’s ability to build export business, develop high technology, and function as a regional base of international corporations, allowed it to create a dynamic economy highly dependent on International trade.
In order to operate successfully in Singapore you will need to understand how its economy developed, how it functions, its strengths and weaknesses, the standard of commercial etiquette, and techniques for business negotiation. Business people are people first. As such, culture is a primary determinant of behavior. Singapore’s per capita gross national product exceeds six thousand dollars. Singapore has managed to succeed in business without creating an underclass mired in poverty. There are no homeless.
Half the population lives in low rent or government-assisted housing. The government encourages home ownership. Health, sanitation and recreation standard approximate those in the west. Education is in some ways better. Singapore has no important mineral or agricultural assets. Its domestic market is small. But the Government formula that created Singapore’s vibrant economy includes investment in people, incentives for business and free trade policies. Much of Singapore’s commercial and economic development was financed through private savings.