Arriving in a foreign location always presents many challenges, and Singapore, with its deeply ingrained culture and traditions, is no different.
What you say, the way you say it and the way you dress can send unintentional or mixed messages to your colleagues.
If you are a foreigner working here, how do you manage the messages you send out and how do you communicate effectively in Singapore's multicultural workplace?
The first impression your Singaporean colleagues will have of you will be based on the way you dress.
Singaporeans are generally very business-oriented, hard-working and professional, and image, protocol and hierarchy are more formal than in some Western countries.
How you dress might imply your attitude towards your work, so dress professionally. When meeting colleagues or business associates for the first time, try to keep your questions neutral.
If you are not meeting for business, ask questions to give locals the chance to demonstrate their knowledge about their city.
Talking about hobbies is a good way to start off in conversation, as is light talk about business and travel. Comparing cultures, including subjects like recreation and career, will be of interest to both parties.
Be careful to keep comparisons descriptive rather than evaluative. Talking about family is fine but be careful not to be too inquisitive.
Ask about the country - what to do and the sights to see. Listen more, talk less; follow the conversational depth of the person with whom you are speaking.
Do not be surprised if you are asked some seemingly direct questions, for example, about salary or age.
If you are uncomfortable with these questions, it is acceptable to offer indirect answers such as, "I earn a reasonable amount, about the same as others".
Humour across cultures can be difficult. Save humour until later. Get to know each other first.
Eye contact is important when you are talking to someone, but staring at somebody for a long time or avoiding eye contact is inappropriate.
It is also important to bear in mind that it is impolite to use eye contact only for the main person when you are in a group meeting. Gestures are not used to a great extent.
Time spent at work is seen as commitment and loyalty to the job and contributes to "face". It is very important to give and save face for your Singaporean colleague.
When a work-related problem occurs, it is better to try to solve it privately with the person involved.
If it has to go public, try to blame it on non-human reasons such as the time pressure or the market condition to save your colleague's face, so that people can work together to find the solution to resolve it.
How you address your colleagues and your supervisors depends a lot on the familiarity and formality of the parties and the situation.
It makes life easier for a lot of Westerners to just call their Singapore colleagues by their first names instead of remembering the complicated or rather unfamiliar Chinese names.
In general, Singaporeans are less demonstrative than Westerners. They may stand slightly farther away when speaking.
Eye contact is important, though there may be less when the speaker is younger or of a lower social status compared to the listener.
There are countless nuances and subtle gestures in the Singaporean culture and its sub-cultures.
Expats living in Singapore for years confess to only slowly gaining an understanding of what they are.
For the new or recent arrival, the best advice for communicating in a multicultural Singapore workplace is to look to more established expatriates for guidance.
Or you can approach executive coaching firms which can assist you in understanding the basics of Singapore business and social practices.