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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


  • 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.


  • 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: Air BnB and HDB Rentals

I attended the event last night.

There are 1000 hosts (landlords) now in Singapore and it is increasing daily. The govt are worried about the short term lets; complaints from neighbours etc. Many landlords are breaking the law also.

Concern also that some blocks (HDB and condos) are now tourist ghettos.

If this continues then I am sure govt will take steps.

Tax avoidance also discussed !

Obvious the short term rental market is in turmoil. Legislators unsure how to address the complexities.

Bottom line:
HDB no go - the owners have a lease. HDB can stop AirBNB in it's tracks.
Private Property - I personally consider the URA rules on short term stays to be the result of lobbying by the Singapore Hoteliers Association and I would like to see them challenged. In my view; if the Management Committee for the condo (the owners) decide that they will permit an owner/s to accept short term tenants then that is enough. Otherwise what for we own our own condo freehold?
If I knew any of the flats adjacent to my flat were defacto a hotel I would never rent the place over there. Short term visitors may be a total mess and serious problem for the regular occupiers especially if the visitors are just tourists staying in SG for a few days only. I don't see any practical means to control such visitors, coming for example drunk, noisy and potentially aggressive in the middle of night or early morning when your kids go out school. No, thank you.

We lived once in a place where such adjacent flat appeared to be rented by a company for their visiting staff. The change over frequency was fortunately not high but definitely it was not the type of the neighbour one may look for, visits of some prostitutes/spgs included.

Re: Beowser behavior

Unfortunately I don't think there is any simple solution to such problems (other then expanding further your hardware). Linux won't help it neither. I have the same on an old P4 machine under ubuntu and on my Macbookair. From my experience browser eating resources related troubles just accumulate over its running time and closing this or that window may not necessary help (esp. some flash/java processes seem to get detached from the browser control).

Once a week or so just close/kill the browser (always check with the task manager if it is really killed) and if you have it set to have the tabs/windows restored there will be a minimum harm after reopening.

Still, if you don't have the following plugins installed:
- a flash killer
- ad blocker
install them.
They will significantly limit the browser's resource appetite.

Re: House plants

the lynx:
I used to have Aloe Vera plants in the States, too easy to care for and used them for when I burned myself soldering wires on things, bong injuries, cuts and scrapes, etc.

Would like to have one here for sunburn, admitting upfront I haven't done my due diligence to look for them, any suggestions on where to buy them?

I have never bought aloe vera in Singapore before but I suppose you could give quick call to the usual suspects (Far East Flora etc) and check if they stock aloe vera in pots.

But I would go find rajagainstthemachine and steal a pup from his bunch and transplant it into a pot myself.

True Fitness membership transfer

Dear all,

Would anyone be interested to take up a 37-38 month membership (all clubs access) which expires on 28 April 2018? Its $68/month but would need to do an upfront payment and then a transfer fee of $120. Kindly message me at 92223242/97662825 if you are keen. The consultants at the gym will make the necessary arrangement. Than you and hope to hear from you. I need to transfer for health reasons.


Re: House plants

I used to have Aloe Vera plants in the States, too easy to care for and used them for when I burned myself soldering wires on things, bong injuries, cuts and scrapes, etc.

Would like to have one here for sunburn, admitting upfront I haven't done my due diligence to look for them, any suggestions on where to buy them?

Re: House plants

the lynx:

It looks like this:

You break off one of the thick thorny leaves and peel off the outer layer. It is like cactus where you find cool, water-filled jelly inside.

Harvest those jellies and you can use it for:
1. Desserts (like nata de coco or something inside your refreshing iced beverage)
2. All-purpose cream for burns, cuts, sunburns, acne, insect bites and rash (you can either squeeze out from a cut tip of the leaf or blend the jellies to make a gel cream)
3. Beauty regime (Mrs JR8 should know. It is a well-known traditional herb for hair loss, skin pigmentation)
4. Juice (never tried it before but you need to blend it)

Step-by-step on how to harvest it:

I actually just cut off the tip and squeeze it through like toothpaste if I plan to use the whole leaf at one time but if you want to keep aside some, it is better to just peel and scoop.

TV to watch

Though I dread these kind of threads, have hit the wall with shows to watch, so maybe it's time again for another survey.

It was easy when Mad Men, Breaking Bad and the like were active, now seems a bit of a dry spell.

I know a lot of the current and recent shows, but am sure I'm missing some good ones.

Never cared for anything with zombies or 3-letter acronym crime shows, whatever they call CSI-something these days. The other standbys like House Of Cards are pending the next release, Just Call Saul coming soon, and Episodes is just getting started again.

Re: Beowser behavior

The Chrome Task Manager I use, but interesting on what is installed, no PepperFlash, but I see other things I don't need and which I disabled.

I think the problems are related to the security software that came with my office remote client software.

Re: Beowser behavior

Strong Eagle:
Open the Chrome task manager... under More Tools... you'll get a list of all active pages and processes and their CPU usage... you might be able to ID a specific page.

Go to Chrome plugins... chrome://plugins/... very often you will see two entries for Adobe Flash player... both enabled. Disable the one with the path that contains 'PepperFlash'.

Disable the Java plugin... it's highly unlikely anything is using it, and if a page does want it, it will tell you. Disable any other plugins that you don't use.

Re: Is it legal for Saxo to requote price many times higher

It's got to sting. But share what your position was, so that we can feel for you too.

How about long the CHF/DKK ? Double no-brainer eh. Double-jubble, double profit =>

Re: Is it legal for Saxo to requote price many times higher

From our Germany friends.

Hi, in the german press several laywers explained that there is very littel chance if Saxo tries to get the "virtual" negative balance in this country.

One lawyer requested a expert report from the University another one opened a new website for cheated SAXO Customers as well.

1) He says the terms of SAXO are against European Law saying that legal action should be only in Denmark.

For the negative balance it schould happen in the country of the customer.

For request the customer has against SAXO you can choose. Denmark our your country.

2) The terms and condition of "re-quotes" are not legally complient with German law, so these are ineffective.

Also many other thing in the terms and conditions are ineffective as well.

He thinks Saxo will not sue the customers here and wants to solve this without noise.

If they loose in court in Germany on the negative balance. The customers than have the chance to sue again here to get the rest of the money the request from Saxo.

http://www.anwalt.de/rechtstipps/margin ... 66185.html

http://www.news4press.com/EuroFranken-C ... 66781.html

They have created a website to inform german customers on the news for SAXO:

http://www.peres-partner.com/saxo-bank- ... gin-calls/

Seems SAXO is destroying itself with this behaviour and the truth now coming out now more and more in public.

There only chance to survive is to correct at minimum the negative balance and mitigate the bad reputation a bit.

Not only SAXO but also the market maker model (and capriciousness re-quotes only in favor of the bank) will be history in some time based on this incident.


Re: Is it legal for Saxo to requote price many times higher

Saxo Told to Hand Franc-Trade Details to FSA Amid Complaints

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/ ... complaints

This show what SAXO is doing is not right, irresponsible, and complete lack of intergity

I understand MAS is also in SAXO Singapore office to investigate the legality of the adjustment

Re: Training for Everest Base Camp Trek

there was a member in this forum, who made it to the K2/Baltoro Glacier, Concordia I believe. about 5,000 meters above sea level.

BTW, mount KK is 13,000 feet, and you can stop at any of the midway stops

PS, oddly, In Philippines, I stayed in a place, which was 7,500+ feet above sea level, a bit of headache and all was well .. if you don't mind the misty mountains and chill.

Re: Bedding

Thanks for forwarding these resources. Very helpful.

making new friends! TAKE A LOOK.

hi, my name is yiran, me and my husband are looking for some new friends to chillout.
i am Chinese and he is german, we have lived in Singapore for about 3years, we like watching movie, go out have a drink at club street, or simply bbq at home. we live around harbourfrot,it is a pretty nice area, but sometime we feel a bit lonely, cause most of our friends are back to Germany already, so we figure maybe its time to make new friends. he is an engineer so don't really have much friends form outside work, and i just finished my university and my major is performing arts management.
do contact me if you also looking for some new friends, as long as you can speak english , lol or german.
here is my email,
hope to hear form you soon.