So, in short, today went so much better than I thought! Everyone was so lovely and welcoming, and by the end of Day 1 I felt quite settled, as if I’d been working there for ages!
So my day started with a tour of the office, which is on the 23rd floor of the Singapore Land Tower so it has amazing views over the city! I was taken through all 4 departments, and introduced to the partners and to the managing partner. After this I was giving my desk and introduced to the associate who I’d be working with. I’m really lucky to be getting a chance to sit in each of the departments – finance, corporate, energy and litigation/disputes resolution. They’re really doing their best to facilitate me and give me a proper idea of the broad range of sectors to work in.
I found most of the tasks I was assigned quite complicated, particularly because I haven’t done any financial work before. I had to research some Regulations and see how they applied to a particular transaction deal the associate was working on… so that all sounds pretty horribly boring, but surprisingly once I got started, I wasn’t too bad! Then he took me out for a coffee and we chatted over all the options for an international career so this was great first hand advice.
In the afternoon when I was given some information regarding business cultures in their Singapore office, and in some of their other key offices around the world, and how their employees are expected to act when visiting foreign offices and clients in foreign countries. Singapore has an extremely multicultural and ‘melting pot’ culture – but the largest ethnic groups are the Chinese, Malays and Indians. So many of these Asian customs and etiquettes are followed. However, as a former English colony, many Western customs are also applied – particularly in international firms like these. Despite this, we are guided on how we are expected to act with dealing with clients from different cultures. E.g. amongst the Malay race (Muslim) some customs from the Middle East are followed, and addressing strangers in formal situations by their names (even if they have name tags) is considered rude. Instead, “Mister” and “Ms.” are to be used. If Indian clients give us presents, then we are expected to open these in private, to do so otherwise is also considered rude. And when working with Chinese clients, we should never overtly say “no”. Instead, it is much more polite to say “I will see” or something along those lines. Another really important thing we are to remember when working in China, or with Chinese partners, is the etiquette regarding exchange of business cards. The card must have our names in both English and Chinese, and when offering the card, it must be held in both hands, with the Chinese side facing the recipient. I didn’t realise this, but in the Chinese culture, it’s considered very rude to simply put the card away in your wallet – you must first examine a business card and read it all, and then put it on the table you’re sitting at, and only put it away in your wallet when you are getting up to leave the meeting! And common to all asian business cultures is that they do not like confrontations, so you must be careful not to be too direct or harsh.
Soo, in my first day, I’ve seen the inner workings of an international law firm, in a country other than my own. AND, given the uniqueness of how multicultural Singapore is, I’ve learned not only about business operations here, but in many of the Asian cultures. And, I’ve gained some insight into how I must act if I go to work in any other Asian countries, like China & Hong Kong, India and Malaysia.