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

   
when locals come here

Sporkin:
Of late there seems to be quite a few posts from locals wanting to meetup, out of curiosity what enters your mind when locals come here to post about meeting new friends etc?

I am a local, I joined this forum because many of the topics regarding ICA and employment of foreigners are applicable to my wife but I never really had the urge to meet up( perhaps its an introvert thing ).

Some people wrote that it sets off alarm bells when you see locals interested in meeting up, would anyone like to share some horror stories? People, places and names protected of course.

Re: Quation on singapore working pass. Help!

P.Raja:
My last boss appilection wp approvel..... now new boss appilecation wp not approvel so pls help my last boss approvel cancel... my email id rajajamuna055@gmail.com phone . 917708294803 now in india pls help my work permit no. 032533922 pothiyappan raja

Re: RE: Re: From George Yeo

ecureilx:

Since when ? I know A ruling party future leader meets him quite frequently.

And he is taken care of (if you are referring to the gentleman, who I think you are referring to).

BUY UK PREMIUM BONDS IF IN SG?

martincymru:
Question: Can you

(a) purchase bonds if UK citizen resident in Sg
(b) continue to hold if you inform them of new Sg address
(c) a non UK citizen hold bonds

The website does not provide the answers
http://www.nsandi.com/why-save-with-us

Re: Master's thesis on Repatriation Adjustment

x9200:
Regardless some Linda's question that are indeed at best confusing, Linda is under some department of Human Resource Management and Leadership. I think she is probably targeting short-term expats changing locations under the same company. I believe majority of expats are like this and this is a different scenario to what most of regulars on this board fall under.
I may be wrong but for me the intention of this survey is more towards the problems associated with sending a manager oversees and having him efficiently implanted back home after 1-3 years.

OK... mebbe... so how does a question like, "It is difficult for me to make new friends", fall into your scenario?
Haha. Cross-screening your general personality/social fit. Otherwise see the first sentence above. The survey is pretty approach inconsistent and not really systematic. It looks to me like it was built form a number of different surveys.

Re: Master's thesis on Repatriation Adjustment

Strong Eagle:
Regardless some Linda's question that are indeed at best confusing, Linda is under some department of Human Resource Management and Leadership. I think she is probably targeting short-term expats changing locations under the same company. I believe majority of expats are like this and this is a different scenario to what most of regulars on this board fall under.
I may be wrong but for me the intention of this survey is more towards the problems associated with sending a manager oversees and having him efficiently implanted back home after 1-3 years.

OK... mebbe... so how does a question like, "It is difficult for me to make new friends", fall into your scenario?

Re: 29 / Korean Girl Looking to meet new people :)

ionas23:
Hi,welcome to Singapore. I m a local. Pm me if you want to catch for a drink juztinlin@gmail.com

Re: Master's thesis on Repatriation Adjustment

x9200:
Regardless some Linda's question that are indeed at best confusing, Linda is under some department of Human Resource Management and Leadership. I think she is probably targeting short-term expats changing locations under the same company. I believe majority of expats are like this and this is a different scenario to what most of regulars on this board fall under.
I may be wrong but for me the intention of this survey is more towards the problems associated with sending a manager oversees and having him efficiently implanted back home after 1-3 years.

Re: Smart Homes

nakatago:
Even though this is in partnership with Samsung, hope they also make it compatible with Apple products. For people who don't use Samsungs. I do not like Samsung products. Quality issue.

https://vulcanpost.com/255071/hdb-first ... singapore/


Then, you'd want to take a look at companies that implement this: http://www.openhab.org

Or some known protocols: http://lifehacker.com/how-can-i-get-sta ... -510246491 (scroll down to "Step Up Your Game with a Central Protocol").

Conversely, your statement could work with Apple instead of Samsung. To Tim's credit though, he has less religious objections to working with other companies than Steve (e.g. I found a job on Apple for an developer). Still, a big machine like Apple would take some time for things to fall into place; maybe during the iphone's eighth generation.

On a personal note, I'd only want a smart home to learn my preferences so that I don't have to keep changing settings (e.g. temperature, lighting), let me remote control things (e.g. "Did I leave the stove on?") or dial emergency services (e.g. burglary, elderly person suddenly not responsive). I don't want my fridge ordering groceries for me or my washing machine tweeting if it's done. I don't want to have my laundry to be literally broadcast to the public.

I'm thinking of DIY-ing some home automation as a learning project; hopefully, that pans out.

Re: From George Yeo

JR8:
And that is why he is under house arrest.

Re: From George Yeo

earthfriendly:
He mentioned about Taoism. Just saw this. I mean we can all live a life that is alive and enjoy each experience as it arises. Labelling, pre-judgements, those kind of things ...... just seem life-deadening.


”Defining creates non-truth,
so do not define.
Do not say what is good and what is bad.”

https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php? ... ry_index=0

Smart Homes

earthfriendly:
Even though this is in partnership with Samsung, hope they also make it compatible with Apple products. For people who don't use Samsungs. I do not like Samsung products. Quality issue.

https://vulcanpost.com/255071/hdb-first ... singapore/

Re: SPR application with wife as 1st applicant and husband as 2nd

sundaymorningstaple:


The key words here being "UP TO". I don't know anybody who has ever done 40 days per year. 2 to 3 weeks is normally the max.

Sundaymorningstaple, the question is if I apply and I get the PR, will I have to go for 2 years full time NS followed by up to 40 days of ORNS, or it will be just upto 40 days of ORNS without full time 2 years NS. Thanks!

What did the very first line of the quoted passage above say?
Did you even bother to read it? Or, did you ONLY read the bolded items? It states it pretty obviously. (full time NS is 24 months, give or take 2 months depending on your physical prowess.

Re: Does having a PEP make you a more favorable candidate?

ecureilx:


my 2 cents ?

if you have a prospective employer, who values you for you ability, and willing to pay the fair wage, the status will be immaterial. Like a company I am working closely with, they are a start up, pay top $ for engineers, and they cross 12K and above a month, and most are on EP, and some guys have never been to Singapore until they secured the job.

If an employer looks at your EP or PEP status or whatever, they are of SME mentality, in which case, the base pay to fulfill your PEP will be not likely to be met

The types who will hesitate are the types who are willing to employ EP holders, as PR/SC means they have to pay CPF, and once an EP Holder gets PR, they will find a way to kick the guy out or negotiate his pay downwards

Don't lower your standards - if you got PEP, you have high standards - look for such high standard Employers !

Re: Does having a PEP make you a more favorable candidate?

curiousgeorge:
You mean more favourable to the company? I guess technically it saves them a little bit of work applying for an EP, but if they are considering candidates at the kind of salary level that is required for a PEP, then chances of refusing the EP are slim anyway. Another way of looking at it - with a PEP you can change jobs more easily than an EP candidate, but a PEP candidate is more likely to be in Singapore already and thus less/no relocation costs.
I think for any company the priority would be the right person for the job. PR and Citizens with the same skillset would be preferable in any case...