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: [need advice] I lost my job and my landlord is kicking me

zzm9980:
Assuming all appropriate taxes were paid to IRAS of course.

Re: [need advice] I lost my job and my landlord is kicking me

zzm9980:


If it was reported is it ok? I'm just curious because I always assumed this was not a problem as long as it was all private property and the owner paid tax, regardless of what kind of pass they were in the country on. I'd actually be shocked to learn if some EP holders weren't buying and renting out investment units.

Re: The first few days

Miss Swan:
We're sticking with public transport, thank you very much! Ha..! It is an absolute pleasure to go by public transport once you've experienced Australian's transport system. Routes, times and fees are a disgrace.

A quick update here. Research seems to be progressing well. I am finding PropertyGuru to be extremely handy and comprehensive. Gumtree looks fairly alright but looks slightly dodgy. I've shortlisted a few choice listings on PropertyGuru. My husband will stay in a hostel for 2 weeks or so and hopefully by then, sort out the accomodation.

Re: [need advice] I lost my job and my landlord is kicking me

kclarins:


Well, we get the idea he isn't the owner. He tells us that we always have to keep our doors locked because the owner wants to come over to check the place. We have no qualms with that -- we even mentioned that just set a time and we can have a chat with the owner. Never happened.

There were only supposed to be four rooms (1 master, 2 other bedrooms, 1 storage) but he built a partition to have another room. When we complained, he said that we are only renting the rooms.

Re: Impossible to get appointment with ICA to apply for PR

the lynx:


Do you know this for a fact / observations / personal experience ?

More like a trend, rather than a fact.

If the popularity of getting PRs is sky-high, I wouldn't be surprised if you have to wait one year for a slot... So checking the website every day for last-minute cancellation is the best way to clinch an earlier slot.

Re: [need advice] I lost my job and my landlord is kicking me

bro75:
Is the person you refer to as the "landlord", the owner of the unit you are staying at?

Re: 26 / M / Looking for friends

paula.cidkelstein:
Hello again guys! the true is I don't know how 'meet-by-forum' works, so this is my Singaporean number if there anyone interested in join some day.
+65 84976616
See you
Paula

Re: 29 / M / German - Happy to meet new people

paula.cidkelstein:
Hello again guys! the true is I don't know how meet-by-forum works, so this is my Singaporean number if there anyone interested in join some day.
+65 84976616
See you :)
Paula

Re: [need advice] I lost my job and my landlord is kicking me

kclarins:

So I don't get this bit from you and SMS. If it is a private property (say condo), a foreigner can own it. Why can't they rent it (or a room) out? Is that explicitly prohibited?

Note that OP never said this was HDB. Later posts make me believe you're right for this case because of shadiness, but your statement here implies that all foreigners just cannot sublet a unit even if they own it.

I never said anything definitive---me using "believe" but OP's additional information reveals the landlord is as shady as f**k, legal or not.

I am renting a room in a condo, with a shared bathroom.

Thank you for your advice. I will be posting ads to look for someone to take over my lease.

Apologies, but where can I post aside from easyroommate? Much appreciate the help.

Re: In global talent survey, Malaysia races ahead of Asian n

Aragorn2000:

Taking up permanent residence in a foreign country then moving back to Singapore is a drastic decision. I doubt it has anything to do with they being used to be coddled by Singapore gov.
In fact, people in western countries are much more coddled by their governments. At least there is no one living on the dole in Singapore. On equal economic conditions, getting a job or running a business in Singapore is not at all easier than in any other western countries.
I personally know a person in Australia. She owns a couple cheap apartments renting out to poor migrants, students (those people who cannot get a proper rent because of lacking reference). She only receives rent in cash to avoid tax. Her net worth is at least 2 millions. Yet she still lives on the dole!
I would call that exploiting the system instead of being able to think for oneself.

Re: BEST Pizza in Singapore!!

Akimbo:


Anyway, guys and gals...do you know whether any of the 21" pizzerias would do a delivery on it? I checked Pepperoni Pizzeria, they don't do deliveries on XXL pizzas :(

Looking to add on for Friendsgiving party tonight

Re: [need advice] I lost my job and my landlord is kicking me

nakatago:


Currently on EP. Landlord is the same.

EP landlord? I don't believe that's legal. One has to be PR or citizen and even with PR, there are a lot of caveats.

So I don't get this bit from you and SMS. If it is a private property (say condo), a foreigner can own it. Why can't they rent it (or a room) out? Is that explicitly prohibited?

Note that OP never said this was HDB. Later posts make me believe you're right for this case because of shadiness, but your statement here implies that all foreigners just cannot sublet a unit even if they own it.

I never said anything definitive---me using "believe" but OP's additional information reveals the landlord is as shady as f**k, legal or not.

Re: [need advice] I lost my job and my landlord is kicking me

sundaymorningstaple:
If you check my posts, I'm referring to those who are here on a G pass. This means they have residency of one form or another. If that's the case, MOM usually doesn't take kindly to those who have a sideline income. Sure, foreign investors can rent out their properties, and they pay 15% offshore taxes on net rental incomes (I take care of one such Condo here out in Lakeside). But to work here and also have an unsubstantiated sideline income that is, in all probability, not being reported to IRAS either is the leverage I was referring to.

PR chances: S'pore father, M'sian Chinese mother, Brit kids

138BCL:
I'm a Singaporean citizen that is likely to be moving back with my family in about 7-8 months time. My current employer will be relocating me from back to Singapore.

I'd like to get thoughts on my family's chances of getting PR with me as the sponsor.

My wife is Malaysian Chinese, and I've got 2 young daughters who were born in the UK and are British citizens (neither Singaporean nor Malaysian). Our profile:
- My expected annual salary S$200k+
- My wife has a postgraduate degree from the UK, but will be a stay-at-home-mum
- We've been married 7 years, marriage registered in Singapore
- We are in the 35-40 age band

We are still overseas at the moment:
- Is it possible to apply for PR whilst still overseas, i.e. a few months before physically moving back to Singapore?
- Is there a minimum residency requirement to be satisfied either (1) at the point of application, or (2) at the time the PR is approved?
- How long do PR applications of this sort normally take?

Lastly, will the following prejudice my application?
- We've been away from Singapore for 15 years and are only looking to return now
- That my children are non-Singaporean because I didn't take up citizenship for them

Many thanks,

Re: Employment pass from my own Singaporean business?

AllBiz:
I thought that might be the case, thanks for sharing. I guess I'll spend another year or two working on developing a track record in a more desirable small business niche before coming to Singapore.