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

   
Before You Exit live in Singapore 2017

ImpactLive:
Exiters alert - BYE will be making a stop in Singapore on 28th Feb for a one-night-only headline performance.

Check out Ticketbox SG for details.

Re: Advise needed for expired PR re-entry permit

Annie12321:
Hi PNGMK

My father is still holding PR, his IC is still valid. However, he cannot visit Singapore due to an expired REP. I think he can still retain his PR if he got very promising investments?? That's what I inferred from the ICA officer.

Since my mom has submit the IC. She is regarded as a foreigner now.

I am still a PR.

yess haha my case is really rare i guess

Re: First PR application rejected...what are your thoughts?

PNGMK:



Actually, my position is permanent here in Singapore until I retire, my company isn't looking to move me. Would it help if I have supporting documents as proof for this in my 2nd application?

What do you have? A series of post dated cheques? A contract? None of that matters - it's worth ZERO. If you are the senior successful whatever you claim to be you know it means nothing.

Renounced PR outside Singapore, how to return to Singapore?

Annie12321:
Hello everyone. My parents got PR via investment in year 2008. However, due to insufficient time stayed in Singapore, the ICA has rejected their REPs (so does mine). My parents left Singapore without renouncing the PR status so that I am still a PR as long as I am staying in Singapore.

My mom wants to visit me in Singapore but when she applied for visitor VISA, she was told that she needs to return her IC. She was told that once she leaves singapore with an expired REP, she is deemed as giving up her PR.

Hence, I returned my mom's IC on her behalf to the ICA last week. Now, my mom needs to apply for visitor VISA but she was told by the agent that she will likely be rejected in this case.

What should I do now? My mom still needs to come to Singapore to deal with the CPF and bank account issues. She also wants to visit me since we are seperated for one year :(

I am 20 years old (below 21 years old), so definitely my mom cannot authorise me to help her deal with bank account and CPF.

Can someone please help me ?? Thank you all in advance!!!

Re: Advise needed for expired PR re-entry permit

PNGMK:
That's interesting. What passport are your parens holding now?

Re: Advise needed for expired PR re-entry permit

Annie12321:
Hello, everyone, i would like to appreciate all the replies!

Some updates. My parents actually left singapore with expired REPs this year Jan. My status is still PR as long as I stay inside Singapore. However, my mom wants to visit me in Singapore. Hence, she applied for visitor VISA but the officer asked her to return her IC to the ICA.

Hence, I returned her IC to the ICA on her behalf. Now, she needs a VISA to come into Singapore to deal with some admin stuff for CPF and bank accounts.

However, when she applied for visitor VISA, she was told that she is likely to be rejected by the ICA.

May I know what should I do now?

Re: Micro Investment Apps

YoungAndBroke:
Unfortunately, seeing a jar fill up with loose change will only entice my urges to run along to the vending machine downstairs far more often than I should. Plus my wife would just smack me silly and find some way to stuff it into her wallet.

Plus the idea of having a penny portfolio sounds like a fun way to watch grass grow.

In all seriousness though, the apps that I did some research on typically have a favourable fee structure and let you invest anywhere from pennies to thousands of dollars. I think its a great way for young people to get their feet wet. Seems simple too from what I saw on apps like...kidding :)

I know its probably a long shot to find, as I get the feeling that Asia in general is still quite behind in the "app entrepreneur" domain.

Importing personal belongings - TradeNet

SimonTheExpat:
So I have my personal belongings (furniture) coming from Australia by ship and Im just trying to work through the webpage



My 'Declaration of Facts' has been approved and Ive emailed the required docs to customs, Im now on step 4. which is

4) Declare a Customs In-Non Payment (GST relief) permit via TradeNet within 5 days of receiving Customs’ approval of GST relief.

So looking at this page 'What You Need to Know about TradeNet'

Im just totally confused about how Im meant to preceed, it seems I have to apply for a TradeNet account and then Declare a Customs In-Non Payment (GST relief) permit, but its the TradeNet account I just have no idea what to do?

Does anyone have any experience in this?

Do I open a TradeNet account? it seems theres multiple ways to do this on this page

https://www.tradexchange.gov.sg/tradexc ... trade.html

it seems like Im going to become a 'declaring agent' which seems like a bit of an overkill to me?

Singapore Girls

danny2015:
Hi, I wonder why does majorities of the girls keep on showing me this expression if our eyes meet or not:

Re: Experiences of living in Singapore - good, bad or funny

s185505:
Thank you for your responses so far.

If anyone is still interesting in sharing/helping i would also love to know about your experiences in working in Singapore. Do you have to have a job to go to before you enter/settle in the country. Is it a case of multinational countries offering you the placement in Singapore or did you choose to go there and search for a job to go to. Are there any rules and regulations about working there that are different, whats the tax system like, do they have NHS.

Sorry I have lots of questions but anything you wish to relay will be fine. Im especially interested in your experiences rather than just the bureaucracy though thats important too!

Re: Watching UK TV [VPN, + indirect channel]

Barnsley:


are you "the" Willie Aames?

Re: Planning to travel Singapore

willieaames:
Have a look at Dunlop st in Little India. It's crawling with back packers and similar style hotels / hostels.

Re: Watching UK TV [VPN, + indirect channel]

willieaames:
Sports is the only real hang up for Cord cutting. It's tough. I've tried hola in the past for accessing uk streaming sites.

Planning to travel Singapore

rakeshj:
Hello Guys, I am backpacker from Dubai, I am planning to travel Singapore in Feb for seven days. I want to know local places to eat, lesser known things to do and affordable accommodation in Singapore. I am glad if you share Singapore Travel Guide also.
Thanks in advance :)

Re: First PR application rejected...what are your thoughts?

x9200:



Actually, my position is permanent here in Singapore until I retire, my company isn't looking to move me. Would it help if I have supporting documents as proof for this in my 2nd application?
I think it's less about the specific position held by the applicant, but potential opportunities the job/experience/profile may create. It was a general remark, so not sure how impactful this would be in your case - I would expect your race and age being probably the primary issues.