About Singapore

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.
Related Page

   
Re: Singapore Informal Conversations with Customers

rajagainstthemachine:
Back on the subject of Informal conversations with customers. I was at the post office today, the customer was a Japanese woman. The post office tried to deliver her package but she wasn't there at home, so she'd come to the Post office to collect it. The lady at the counter genuinely wanted to help her but the manner in which it was put across to the woman seemed rude/authoritative, and then the two women wouldn't let each other complete their sentences, the Japanese woman was peeved that she had to come all this way to the post office and only to be told by the woman at the counter that they didn't have the package.
Moreover things went bad when the lady at the counter asked for her ID, to which she flatly refused. She then left cursing under her breath and the lady at the counter slammed something on the table. The next girl in line was trembling a bit as she approached her turn.
Totally avoidable circumstances in my opinion.

Re: Shoplifting record few years back can apply Spass?

the lynx:

singapore five year back

Tough. You can try but you were already rejected twice...

Re: Shoplifting record few years back can apply Spass?

oliver191:

singapore five year back

Re: It's that time again - thoughts of applying for PR

MrBear:

I feel it is better to apply after you are on EP for a while (atleast 6+ months after you change from your PEP).

Just my 2 cents, if some major part of the details that you provided earlier, is suddenly changing in the second application, it is better to explain to them on why you are changing that.

Cheers, Unless anyone else gives a reason I don't see why waiting is not the best approach.

I'll note in the side letter I write explaining why the change.

thanks again.

Re: It's that time again - thoughts of applying for PR

singaporeflyer:

I guess that you have made up your mind to apply and just wanted us to say yes-please apply? because if u read my reply earlier I said it would be better to apply after 4-5 years, but you say that you will be completing 5 years after the 6 month wait after submitting the application. Is it better to wait a bit more and then reapply? Anyway Good Luck !

SF,

Sorry if I wrote that wrong, I have not made up my mind. What I was trying to say is IF I submitted it today I would be on 4.5 year and by the time I got the interview it would be 5 years so would fall in your recommended time frame.

Truth be told I was more worried about the PEP ending and then switching to an EP is it makes sense to do at the same time or wait some more, I'm not sure what is the best way with the PEP ending.

i.e PEP end's switch to EP for 1-2 year then apply for PR or PEP ends switch to EP and submit PR application same time.

Timing aside, do you foresee any issue with the deceleration of my wife's race changing?

Thanks for your advise I am listening even if my keyboard skills make you think otherwise.

MrB

I feel it is better to apply after you are on EP for a while (atleast 6+ months after you change from your PEP).

Just my 2 cents, if some major part of the details that you provided earlier, is suddenly changing in the second application, it is better to explain to them on why you are changing that.

Re: Singapore Informal Conversations with Customers

sundaymorningstaple:


The fines or the Generations? :cool:

Re: PHL Embassy BS?

ecureilx:
a person I know has to get a business visa to go to Philippines, time for processing they state is six weeks!! what the hell? how can a person who needs to travel frequently surrender his passport to the PHL embassy for six weeks?
the only other way is to apply a single entry visa each time.. and thats now what he is doing.
it seems to be a money spinning technique for the embassy.

mmm, actually they have their own 'processes' to make the 6 week requirement, i.e. many people employed, many documents triple checked etc, so all have to put up with it

Heck, even spouse of Filipino Nationals get "probationary" multiple entry visa .. for example

Not money spinning, just a way to ensure the dozens of employees can be busy doing nothing ..

let's not go there anyway ..

Nakatago: thanks for the tip on travelling via Clark, then again, per the Land Transport Rules (another huge monster employer), the busses from AC aren't allowed to advance sell tickets to Baguio as of now, so .. back to square one ! Manila / NAIA it is ..

Re: It's that time again - thoughts of applying for PR

MrBear:

I guess that you have made up your mind to apply and just wanted us to say yes-please apply? because if u read my reply earlier I said it would be better to apply after 4-5 years, but you say that you will be completing 5 years after the 6 month wait after submitting the application. Is it better to wait a bit more and then reapply? Anyway Good Luck !

SF,

Sorry if I wrote that wrong, I have not made up my mind. What I was trying to say is IF I submitted it today I would be on 4.5 year and by the time I got the interview it would be 5 years so would fall in your recommended time frame.

Truth be told I was more worried about the PEP ending and then switching to an EP is it makes sense to do at the same time or wait some more, I'm not sure what is the best way with the PEP ending.

i.e PEP end's switch to EP for 1-2 year then apply for PR or PEP ends switch to EP and submit PR application same time.

Timing aside, do you foresee any issue with the deceleration of my wife's race changing?

Thanks for your advise I am listening even if my keyboard skills make you think otherwise.

MrB

Re: Singapore Informal Conversations with Customers

x9200:
Probably the only way with all the (pre)conditioning around for already close to 2 generations (and some well beyond) would be to impose fines (and more importantly, execute them).

Re: Amazon Server EC2

ecureilx:
Is there zero outage because they build redundancy into their overall app arch and know how to appropriately handle breakage? (10 instances per location sure sounds like it) or are you saying that every single one of those 10 instances across has never had a single impact of any kind? Considering entire Amazon regions have gone offline in the past year (and it makes the news) I'm
Skeptical.

well, Vmotion in action ?

To be honest, I did dig up a year's outage report on the apps, but there was ZERO outage indicated on availability !

No kidding !

Re: Singapore Informal Conversations with Customers

earthfriendly:
Hmnnn.....don't think shaming works in the long run. And it creates a whole sleuth of problems unto itself.

Re: New arrival travel documents

ecureilx:


I'm surprised the guy knocked.

Singapore couriers are known to just slide that "no one at home. call us for redelivery instead" slips under your door.

I share your surprise, the reason he had to knock is that the batteries in the door bell had died without me realising. I would have expected him to try the door bell then just leave the slip.

For me, only Singpost did that.

DHL/Fedex, they called as long there was a number on the AWB

Re: F/25 Russian - Looking 4 new friends

rajagainstthemachine:


Tell that to the hordes of Indian men who'd suddenly inundate OP with responses.:twisted:

Thats an exercise in futility. :?

Re: F/25 Russian - Looking 4 new friends

rajagainstthemachine:


This implies that a Russian can stop being Russian. :???:

Russians can never stop being Russian. :wink:

Re: F/25 Russian - Looking 4 new friends

rajagainstthemachine:


This implies that a Russian can stop being Russian. :???:

Okay, he is Russian-born, but effectively Israeli. How's that? #-o

He is probably Jewish.