Culture and Language

About Singapore - Culture & LanguageAbout Singapore - Culture & LanguageAbout Singapore - Culture & Language

This page covers information on culture and language of Singapore. Understanding the culture and heritage of Singapore, the different races and languages like Singlish.


Singapore Culture

Singapore is a cosmopolitan society where people live harmoniously and interaction among different races are commonly seen. The pattern of Singapore stems from the inherent cultural diversity of the island. The immigrants of the past have given the place a mixture of Malay, Chinese, Indian, and European influences, all of which have intermingled.

Behind the facade of a modern city, these ethnic races are still evident. The areas for the different races, which were designated to them by Sir Stamford Raffles, still remain although the bulk of Singaporeans do think of themselves as Singaporeans, regardless of race or culture. Each still bears its own unique character.

The old streets of Chinatown can still be seen; the Muslim characteristics are still conspicuous in Arab Street; and Little India along Serangoon Road still has its distinct ambience. Furthermore, there are marks of the British colonial influence in the Neo-Classical buildings all around the city.

Each racial group has its own distinctive religion and there are colorful festivals of special significance all year round. Although the festivals are special to certain races, it is nonetheless enjoyed by all.

In Singapore, food is also readily and widely available. There are lots of cuisines to offer. We have, Chinese, Indian, Malay, Indonesian and Western, Italian, Peranakan, Spanish, French, Thai and even Fusion. It is very common to savour other culture's food and some of the food can be very intriguing. Indian food are relatively spicier, whereas Chinese food is less spicier and the Chinese enjoy seafood. Malay cooking uses coconut milk as their main ingredient, that makes their food very tasty.

You can refer to our Eating in Singapore section for a list of recommended food outlets in Singapore.


Religion in Singapore

Most Singaporeans celebrate the major festivals associated with their respective religions. The variety of religions is a direct reflection of the diversity of races living there. The Chinese are predominantly followers of Buddhism, Taoism, Shenism, Christians, Catholics and some considered as 'free-thinkers' (Those who do not belong to any religion). Malays have the Muslims and Indians are Hindus. There is a sizeable number of Muslims and Sikhs in the Indian population.

Religious tolerance is essential in Singapore. In fact, religions often cross racial boundaries and some even merge in unusual ways in this modern country. Younger Singaporeans tend to combine a little of the mysteries of the older generation with the realistic world that they know of today.

Religion is still an integral part of the cosmopolitan Singapore. Many of its most interesting buildings are religious, be it old temples, modern churches, or exotic mosques. An understanding of these buildings do play a part in contributing to the appreciation of their art.

Chinese Temples

Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, and ancestral worship are combined into a versatile mix in Chinese temples.

Followers of the Tao (The Way) adhere to the teachings of the ancient Chinese legend, Lao Tzu. They are concerned with the balance of the Yin and Yang, which are opposite forces of heaven and earth, male and female. Feng Shui, literally translated as wind and water, also originated from Yin and Yang. Ancestral worship is common and the spirits of the dead, like the gods themselves, are appeased with offerings.

Most Buddhists are of the Mahayana school although there are some from the Theravada school. In Singapore, the Buddhist faith is linked with Taoism and the practical doctrine of Confucianism.

Islam

The Malays in Singapore are Muslims. A few of the Indians are also Muslims, but even more uncommon are the Chinese Muslims.

Islam has a fundamental influence in the lives of those who follow the Prophet of Allah, Muhammad. The religion involves praying five times a day, eating only "halal" food, fasting during Ramadan, and going to Mecca on the Haj (pilgrimage). Halal food means food that has been specially prepared as according to the religion's dietary requirements.

Hinduism

As the Indian immigrants migrate to Singapore, they brought with them Hinduism. The early temples are still the central points of rituals and festivals, which are held throughout the year.

Christianity

One will be able to find Christian churches of all denominations in Singapore. They were actually established with the arrival of various missionaries after the coming of Sir Stamford Raffles. Together with Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism, Christianity is considered one of the four main religions today. There is quite a large number of Christians on the island.

Others

Minority faiths are not forgotten. There are at least two synagogues for the Jews and Sikhs. The Zoroastrians and Jains are also represented in Singapore.


Language in Singapore

The four official languages of Singapore are Mandarin, Malay, Tamil and English. English is the most common language used and is the language which unites the different ethnic groups. Children are taught in English at school but also learn their mother tongue to make sure they don't lose contact with their traditions.

Expatriates and foreigners may encounter language problems in the beginning of their stay in Singapore as many Singaporeans use Singlish to communicate. Singlish is a mix of English with other languages mixed into the English, sometimes phrases can end with funny terms like 'lah', 'leh', mah'. Chinese commonly use their own dialects to communicate, and sometimes, inter-dialect groups don't understand one another's language, as the language is vastly different. Except for Hokkien and Teochew, which have a closer link. The Malays use the language among their fellow races and the Indians speak Tamil. But whatever the race or religion, the country's community unite as one nation, where most religious or racial gaps are being bridged.

Singapore English has its origins in the schools of colonial Singapore. In the nineteenth century very few children went to school at all, and even fewer were educated in English. The people who spoke English and sent their children to English medium schools were mainly the Europeans, the Eurasians (people of mixed racial ancestry), some of the small minorities, such as the Jews, some of the Indians and Ceylonese, and also a group of Chinese people usually called the Straits Chinese, who had ancestors of long residence in the region, and who spoke a variety of Malay usually called Baba Malay which was influenced by Hokkien Chinese and by Bazaar Malay.

The fact that all these children would have known Malay probably explains why most of the loan words in Singapore Colloquial English are from Malay. The largest group of teachers were Eurasians, and there were also many teachers from Ceylon and India. European teachers were never more than a quarter of the total teaching staff in a school, and they usually taught the senior classes. These Europeans may have been from Britain (which at that time included Ireland) but were also from the USA, Belgium and France. The children in these schools would have been exposed to many varieties of English.

In the first twenty years of the twentieth century, English medium education became popular for all groups. Girls started going to school in larger numbers too. By the 1950s nearly all children went to school, and the majority were educated in English. By the 1980s. all education was in the medium of English (with children learning another language alongside English).

Singapore English grew out of the English of the playground of these children of various linguistic backgrounds who were learning English at school. As more and more of its people experienced learning English at school, English became widely spoken, alongside Singapore's many other languages. Since Singapore became an independent Republic in 1965, the use of English has increased still further. For many Singaporeans, English is the main language. Many families speak English at home and it is one of the the first languages learnt by about half of the current pre-school children.

Nearly everyone in Singapore speaks more than one language, with many people speaking three or four. Most children grow up bilingual from infancy and learn more languages as they grow up. Naturally the presence of other languages (especially various varieties of Malay and of Chinese) has influenced the English of Singapore. The influence is especially apparent in the kind of English that is used informally, which is popularly called Singlish. Singlish is a badge of identity for many Singaporeans.

Singlish

Singapore English usually come from other languages spoken in Singapore, especially Malay and Hokkien. Speakers of Singlish are not necessarily aware of which language they are from however.

Example:

  • habis - finished
  • makan - to eat
  • chope - to reserve something
  • cheem - difficult, complicated
  • ang mo - a white person
  • rojak - mixed, a mix of
  • liao - finished, the end
  • kiasu - afraid to lose mentality

Speakers of Singlish will usually end his sentence with a distinctive exclamation. The three most common are ah, lah, ley and what.

Examples:

  • OK lah, bye bye.
  • Don't like that lah.
  • You are going there ah?
  • No parking lots here, what.
  • The price is too high for me lah.
  • And then how many rooms ah?
  • It is very troublesome ley.
  • Don't be like that ley!
  • I'm not at home lah. That's why ah.
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Re: Employment pass being delayed

subashgk007:
Okay, while writing this completed 62 days from the date of EP application. Still in pending.. Looks to be a wait forever.

Re: Epipens

Lophophora:
Hi,

My 11-year old had an anaphylactic shock during the first days upon our arrival in Singapore. He was treated by an allergy specialist at the NUH, who gave us an Epipen. I can give you the Doctor's name if you need it.

Re: RE: Re: 20M American- Looking for friends

ecureilx:


Drinking in Clark quay et al is the best way to spend $ on expensive drinks !

Not that other places are much cheaper

Citizenship approved

yesitsme:
Learnt a great deal from this forum. So one additional input for those following trends on this forum..(not that I believe in trends though when it comes to ICA :))

Nationality: Indian (yes...some odds exist however unfavorable :))
Duration of stay in Singapore: 15 years (for most part as PR)
Education: Masters in Engineering from NUS
Employment: Engineering professional with a manufacturing firm (European company)
Income: 110K+ (single income family. house wife and two daughters part of the application)

Processing time: close to two years :)

Grand Duchess St Patrick's - any views welcome!

Simmerdown:
Hi folks,

Moving to SG from London in Sept'16. We have had been looking for a 4 bed 2500+ sq ft property East Coast as my wife will be working at Changi Biz Park. Not a lot going on in that range tbh.

Currently considering a couple of options. One of which is the Grand Duchess (the other is a landed house)

I welcome any and all opinion on this property: tenants, management, location, life with kids (we have x2 under 3) etc.

In particular, if you have any views on how easy/difficult it is to get in/out at peak time i.e. is it a pain in the harris for a taxi pick up... I'd be much obliged.

Many thanks,
Simmer.

Re: 20M American- Looking for friends

sundaymorningstaple:
I'm familiar with Memphis and Nashville due to Graceland and the Grand Old Opry which my wife sang in back in 1981. (She is also known as The Singapore Cowgirl - now retired). I also live in Louisiana in the late 70's-early 80's so am rather familiar with most of the larger cities in the "deep". I'm originally from MD but my sister is in FL and one of my step-brothers is outside of Birmingham niy but used to live in Atlanta and in Duram where he went to Duke many years ago. My mother is from the coal mining camps of W. 'by god' Virginia (Bluefield). But I came here on a 12 month contract in 1982 and never left. ;-)

Re: 20M American- Looking for friends

Jacruz:

Memphis is actually a decent sized city so not many mountains where I am either haha and thanks for the tip! I went out last night to a club in CQ and it was pretty fun but definitely more pricey than I expected, but hey that's what the job is for :lol:

Re: 20M American- Looking for friends

sundaymorningstaple:
Whoa! You're definitely a fish outta water! No mountains here! Booze, got. Broads, got. Good music venues, no got. Count on one hand maybe and still have one left to point with (which is rude here - point with your thumb). ;-)

Re: EP pass is in Pending status since 4 weeks.

sundaymorningstaple:
Where do I start...



Hi again sunday
Apologize that I just skimmed it indeed
But appreciate it, thank you for answering me

But frankly speaking, I disagree with the statement saying "Foreigner trying to take jobs needed by locals, Or their own citizens.", man. As I said that everybody is trying to get a job, no one is snatching anyone's job. When there's an open vacancy it means everybody from all over the world is allowed to apply including the singaporean itself, doesn't it?



Even when a company is about to apply a SPass for the foreigner, they do need a quota which means a quite numbers of local workers (singaporean / PR) in his company. Isn't it fair enough? Do you get what I mean? Before the company apply the Pass for the foreigner, they do have to hire quite numbers of singaporeans. Thats the first thing they need to do. The quota is 5:1, isnt it? Or maybe even more than that.



So the question is, why does the company itself prefer foreigner to the local themselves? There must be a reason, ain't it? Either it's about the salary issue or maybe the quality of the employee.



But there are a few ridiculous things I know.
1. Apply EP / SP -> need to pay, even when it's rejected, the money won't come back.



2. Apply PR -> invest certain amounts of $$$, you will get it. Or working for few years, you apply, pay the fees, doesn't guarantee you will get it.



Let say, there are 100 companies apply for EP/SP and 500 foreigners apply for PR. How much Singapore earn from it? Worst case, if it's rejected they will still earn tho ](*,)



I won't say Singapore government has 'sucked' a lot of foreigner's or company's money, what I mean is to apply for the foreigner itself, the company had paid the price already. The government can use the money to open an industry just for the local, at least that's what my country does for those unemployment local.



I'm sorry for my bad English
I don't mean to argue or blame anyone, I just wanna share my thoughts

God bless you, sunday :)

It's a rough world we live in. Singapore has a very finite land mass, no hinterland and no resources other than her citizens. So, with that in mind, the Government has no choice but to kowtow to the wishes of the citizenry who are responsible for keeping the current government in power.

sms

20M American- Looking for friends

Jacruz:
Hey y'all,

My name is Alex and I'm from Memphis, TN. I have an internship here in Singapore until December so I'll be here for a little while.
I'm looking for people who would like to go out to the bars/clubs around here. I'm also planning on doing all the regular touristy stuff so I'd also like to meet people who want to explore the island more and travel to nearby cities.

If you're seeing this post on the same night it's posted I'll be going out to the clubs tonight so send me a message if you want to tag along! If you see it later still feel free to send me a message if you want to meet up and we can exchange numbers.

Re: EP pass is in Pending status since 4 weeks.

Rorie:
So, you didn't read the Newsfeed that I just pasted and what I just wrote. Instead you just skimmed it looking for an asnwer that YOU needed. Local Unemployment just went up from 2.6% to 3.1%. Employers are not downshifting and hiring locals for several reasons, the biggest is asking basic salaries. So, I don't blame the employers, however, the government is going to make it so hard to hire foreigners that the local companies will have to fall in line or the company's are going to wind up.

Think about it. To whom does the Singapore Government owe it's allegience to? Foreigner trying to take jobs needed by locals, Or their own citizens. The answer is obvious. So if the Employers won't do it, the government will, but at the same time, the government isn't going to make a blanket ban as that doesn't give them any manuveur room. But only the cream of the crop is going to get in. The rest are going to play a waiting game until their money runs out. That is the way it stands at the moment. So, if you have deep pockets stick around. If not, maybe you better save what you do have.

Hi again sunday
Apologize that I just skimmed it indeed
But appreciate it, thank you for answering me

But frankly speaking, I disagree with the statement saying "Foreigner trying to take jobs needed by locals, Or their own citizens.", man. As I said that everybody is trying to get a job, no one is snatching anyone's job. When there's an open vacancy it means everybody from all over the world is allowed to apply including the singaporean itself, doesn't it?

Even when a company is about to apply a SPass for the foreigner, they do need a quota which means a quite numbers of local workers (singaporean / PR) in his company. Isn't it fair enough? Do you get what I mean? Before the company apply the Pass for the foreigner, they do have to hire quite numbers of singaporeans. Thats the first thing they need to do. The quota is 5:1, isnt it? Or maybe even more than that.

So the question is, why does the company itself prefer foreigner to the local themselves? There must be a reason, ain't it? Either it's about the salary issue or maybe the quality of the employee.

But there are a few ridiculous things I know.
1. Apply EP / SP -> need to pay, even when it's rejected, the money won't come back.
2. Apply PR -> invest certain amounts of $$$, you will get it. Or working for few years, you apply, pay the fees, doesn't guarantee you will get it.

Let say, there are 100 companies apply for EP/SP and 500 foreigners apply for PR. How much Singapore earn from it? Worst case, if it's rejected they will still earn tho ](*,)

I won't say Singapore government has 'sucked' a lot of foreigner's or company's money, what I mean is to apply for the foreigner itself, the company had paid the price already. The government can use the money to open an industry just for the local, at least that's what my country does for those unemployment local.

I'm sorry for my bad English
I don't mean to argue or blame anyone, I just wanna share my thoughts

God bless you, sunday :)

Re: EP pass is in Pending status since 4 weeks.

sundaymorningstaple:
So, you didn't read the Newsfeed that I just pasted and what I just wrote. Instead you just skimmed it looking for an asnwer that YOU needed. Local Unemployment just went up from 2.6% to 3.1%. Employers are not downshifting and hiring locals for several reasons, the biggest is asking basic salaries. So, I don't blame the employers, however, the government is going to make it so hard to hire foreigners that the local companies will have to fall in line or the company's are going to wind up.

Think about it. To whom does the Singapore Government owe it's allegience to? Foreigner trying to take jobs needed by locals, Or their own citizens. The answer is obvious. So if the Employers won't do it, the government will, but at the same time, the government isn't going to make a blanket ban as that doesn't give them any manuveur room. But only the cream of the crop is going to get in. The rest are going to play a waiting game until their money runs out. That is the way it stands at the moment. So, if you have deep pockets stick around. If not, maybe you better save what you do have.

Re: EP pass is in Pending status since 4 weeks.

Rorie:
Simples. Didn't you bother to read the local papers or watch local news on the TV? Singapore is trying to get rid of foreigners. They don't want to close the door but they want people to go away. If by holding up the issuance of the working visa, they can cause the companies to withdraw the offer and maybe hire a local then they will do it. The company's here will not voluntarily cut their reliance on Foreign Manpower. The local unemployment rate for the last quarter went from 2.6% to 3.1% in the last quarter. I reckon it's going to get worse before it gets better. They will probably stall until you cannot afford to stay or your visas run out and you have to go back home empty handed unless you are in a segment of the industry here that they just cannot afford to send the foreigners home.

http://www.mom.gov.sg/newsroom/press-re ... se-2q-2016

Hi Sundaymorningstaple
Thanks for replying

Yes, man. I've checked everything and everywhere
More over Singapore is going to increase the qualification for EP as well

I came from Indonesia, luckily I'm staying in Batam. So it's not really costly for me. But the thing is, what is the main problem? Why does singapore want to 'kick off' the foreigners?

I believe it's not only me that waiting for the EP status, pretty sure still many others is doing the same. Keep waiting and waiting

I don't mean to complain, but everybody is just trying to work tho. Just like everybody else, including the singaporean itself.

Re: Hiring Lines for Exchange-student English Tutors

sundaymorningstaple:
Try asking BBCWatcher, he thinks he's doG's gift to the English speaking world.