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.
Related Page

   
Re: RE: Re: Tenancy agreements/leases and your rights as a tenant

ecureilx:
I am a bit more optimistic than SMS, but surely this is not the case you leave the apartment on December by paying the prorated commission fees only. If you demonstrate you acted to minimize the damages my guess would be 4-5 rental amounts, plus the commission fee (prorated), plus the difference in the rent and any other related expenses.
This number is based on a reasonable time the LL may need to find a replacement, plus some compensation. If you find a reasonable tenant and agree to cover the difference, my guess is, the amount will be lower providing the LL acted unreasonably refusing to accept the substitute tenant.

And yes, these are basically your only two options unless the LL is an active philanthropist, what is seldom the case in Singapore.

With some rentals down by 50% at some areas, I doubt the landlord will accept anything to replace his golden egg laying goose.

After all in Singapore landlords are in the business of only profit - never the occasional business loss ;) while other businesses have to suck up the occasional loss.

The Newest Serviced Apartment in Singapore– Oasia Residence

Since1819:


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is the latest addition to the Oasia brand by Far East Hospitality. Located in the West Coast area, Oasia Residence sits on the fringe of the city’s bustling science and technology cluster. Exemplifying a tranquil home away from home, it appeals to astute business travellers who seek wellness within the comfort and familiarity of a city.



• 10-min walk to Clementi MRT station
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• 10-min drive to International Business Park, Science Park and one-north
• Near National University of Singapore and National University Hospital



The residence offers . All apartments are fully furnished and equipped with the comforts and convenience of a modern home, including a living area, kitchenette, unlimited Wi-Fi access and thoughtful touches such as a premium selection of TWG tea. You’ll also enjoy a suite of wellness offerings to help you journey well during your stay, such as a fitness centre, a tennis court, a swimming pool and barbeque pits.
















The Newest Serviced Apartment in Singapore– Oasia Residence

Since1819:


Be the first to experience the newest serviced apartment in Singapore at Oasia Residence.

For a limited time only, enjoy 35% off your stay with breakfast and free City Tour. Rates start from only S$250++ per night (min. 7 nights stay). Find out more about the

is the latest addition to the Oasia brand by Far East Hospitality. Located in the West Coast area, Oasia Residence sits on the fringe of the city’s bustling science and technology cluster. Exemplifying a tranquil home away from home, it appeals to astute business travellers who seek wellness within the comfort and familiarity of a city.



• 10-min walk to Clementi MRT station
• 10-min walk to West Coast Plaza
• 10-min drive to International Business Park, Science Park and one-north
• Near National University of Singapore and National University Hospital



The residence offers . All apartments are fully furnished and equipped with the comforts and convenience of a modern home, including a living area, kitchenette, unlimited Wi-Fi access and thoughtful touches such as a premium selection of TWG tea. You’ll also enjoy a suite of wellness offerings to help you journey well during your stay, such as a fitness centre, a tennis court, a swimming pool and barbeque pits.
















The Newest Serviced Apartment in Singapore– Oasia Residence

Since1819:


Be the first to experience the newest serviced apartment in Singapore at Oasia Residence.

For a limited time only, enjoy 35% off your stay with breakfast and free City Tour. Rates start from only S$250++ per night (min. 7 nights stay). Find out more about the

is the latest addition to the Oasia brand by Far East Hospitality. Located in the West Coast area, Oasia Residence sits on the fringe of the city’s bustling science and technology cluster. Exemplifying a tranquil home away from home, it appeals to astute business travellers who seek wellness within the comfort and familiarity of a city.



• 10-min walk to Clementi MRT station
• 10-min walk to West Coast Plaza
• 10-min drive to International Business Park, Science Park and one-north
• Near National University of Singapore and National University Hospital



The residence offers . All apartments are fully furnished and equipped with the comforts and convenience of a modern home, including a living area, kitchenette, unlimited Wi-Fi access and thoughtful touches such as a premium selection of TWG tea. You’ll also enjoy a suite of wellness offerings to help you journey well during your stay, such as a fitness centre, a tennis court, a swimming pool and barbeque pits.
















Re: RE: Re: Living, dating, and tele-working from SG on a tourist visa

sundaymorningstaple:

Btw nice job there hooking up with a local girl, the reason that could have happened was because the local guys here mostly suck.

Attack of the SPG ?

You are too late, I just didn't try to say it that early on, but figured most regulars here would know what I meant.



Re: roasted coffee beans

x9200:
Thanks SE. Will take a look if I am around that area.

Re: Tenancy agreements/leases and your rights as a tenant

x9200:
I am a bit more optimistic than SMS, but surely this is not the case you leave the apartment on December by paying the prorated commission fees only. If you demonstrate you acted to minimize the damages my guess would be 4-5 rental amounts, plus the commission fee (prorated), plus the difference in the rent and any other related expenses.
This number is based on a reasonable time the LL may need to find a replacement, plus some compensation. If you find a reasonable tenant and agree to cover the difference, my guess is, the amount will be lower providing the LL acted unreasonably refusing to accept the substitute tenant.

And yes, these are basically your only two options unless the LL is an active philanthropist, what is seldom the case in Singapore.

Re: Living, dating, and tele-working from SG on a tourist visa

GSM8:

Every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it - as a wise man named Orwell once said :D

Gross generalization and stereotyping. [-X

Re: RE: Re: Living, dating, and tele-working from SG on a tourist visa

ecureilx:

Btw nice job there hooking up with a local girl, the reason that could have happened was because the local guys here mostly suck.

Attack of the SPG ?

Re: PR rejected, need some perspective

Aragorn2000:
Hi all, here are my/our stats:


I tend to be impulsive with these things and my first thoughts on seeing the rejection were "call my boss, ask for a transfer to the head office in US", as I know he would be keen for me to move there and I would likely land there , taking my job and head count with me out of Singapore.. Is it game over for us in Singapore?



what makes Singapore so compelling to you that you are willing to risk the opportunity above?

Re: Living, dating, and tele-working from SG on a tourist visa

sundaymorningstaple:
I tried not to say that, Raj! LOL

Re: Pass opproval after leaving Singapore 2mos ago

capblack:
Thank you very much sir! Hopefully everything would be ok.

Re: Tenancy agreements/leases and your rights as a tenant

sundaymorningstaple:
This is especially so in today's market with so many empty units as the FTs leave the country. The LL may wait a long long time before they can find another tenant.

Re: Tenancy agreements/leases and your rights as a tenant

sundaymorningstaple:
You have just learned a hard lesson. You should insure you read and understand the T and A before signing a contract. They have every legal right to demand AND GET payment for the full term of the lease AND the rebate on the Agents' fee. You do not have a leg to stand on. The LL legally doesn't have to accept you finding a replacement tenant or paying the difference in rental. The contract has you locked in and even if it did have a dip clause, you still couldn't use it as you would have to have a letter from your employer showing your were retrenched/fired and were leaving Singapore. To change unit and remain in Singapore is not a valid reason to exercise a Dip Clause. I'm afraid you have learned a very expensive lesson. I suggest that anything less than full payment of the contract to it end and rebate for the agents fee that the LL agrees on you should take. Any arguments will only see you having to legally pay the full term of the contract lease and the prorata agents fees.

Or you could stay there until the contract ends. Wish I could be more positive but LL's here are sticklers for milking out every last dollar when they can. Additionally, you may find that your deposit will be "just enough" to take care of the repairs of the flat sustained while you lived there (probably none other than normal wear and tear so I hope you also took a couple of hundred photos and kept on CD before you actually moved in for evidence against a damages claim.

Re: Living, dating, and tele-working from SG on a tourist visa

rajagainstthemachine:
I'm surprised that OP hasn't realized that thousands of people who get off the plane each day have that same fabulous thought of checking into Singapore for 90 days and then doing the visa run to Malaysia or Indonesia.
Btw nice job there hooking up with a local girl, the reason that could have happened was because the local guys here mostly suck.