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

   
25M / Singaporean Chinese / Tourism Industry

hyocca:
Hi Everyone,

I would like to welcome all the expats who are currently in Singapore or in the process of coming to Singapore for a working holiday.

My name is Paul and I have travelled quite a bit around the world, the best part about travelling is that you meet different people living in completely unique cultures who shares similar interests and habits. The bond is just special and the friendship is unforgettable.

I seek to make more friends from any part of the region within my age group of course. Lol.
I was previously working as a communications specialist for the tourism industry in Singapore and have also studied in Melb/Perth for my diploma in tourism.

I am the TGIF kind of weekend guy. So I am definitely up for beers at a bar, exploring around cafes, hitting the clubs, UFC preview at Molly Roffey's or even Netflix and Cheetos :D

You can talk to me more, just

Hope you all have a great time in Singapore ~

Regards
Paul.

Re: Beware of meeting weird people from the forum

hyocca:
It saddens me to read this.Totally ruined the forum experience, these weird people.
Over the past few weeks, I have tried messaging both Male and Female posters and only the male guys replied for a hangout. Fair enough :)
But comeón there are nice guys on the forums.
Just give them a chance and speak to them at least.

I recently had a case where a lady on this forum replied my message, gave me her contact. but totally ignored the whatsapp after that. Could have been a post like such she had chanced upon that avoided saying Hello completely.

That's sad. As a lady, you should have figured a strategy to tell which is the bad/good guys. Those asking straight for meaningless sex and those who sincerely seek to make friends with an expat to show them around Singapore.

I am still to open to making friends of any sexes.
feel free to PM me. always here to answer your questions.

Regards
Hyocca
25M/Chinese/Singaporean

Student pass for LTVP holders

K_khan:
hi,

i am an LTVP holder and got admitted to kaplan mba program. however, ICA demands that I will need a student pass to pursue studies in singapore.
my question is what will become of my LTVP after i apply for a student pass? will it get cancelled? I wish to apply for jobs while I do my mba . getting a job seems impossible if I am on a student pass. :cry: :cry: :cry:

Re: Expenses Breakdown and Salary Suggestion - Company transfer but no expat package

Brah:
Everything JR8 said in the post subsequent to this is spot on.

I would add:


The larger demographic are those Westerners not on a expat package. Like many of us on this forum. I could not imagine, even if I was single, to come here for 100k.

To live and save money here on even more than that is difficult.

You do have a deflating property market in your favor.

Re: RE: Submitted application today - had to make a lot of amendments

dynoto:
Hi guys,

I'm just curious if any of you were asked to make amendments during your application submission? I had to make changes in about 5 different places (at least) and was told to populate the Annexe A form on behalf of my company (my company submitted a letter instead of populating the form)? I was also told to write a note to explain the situation. I was also asked to make a new photocopy of my ID because the one submitted was not clear.

Is this normal? Or is my application down the drain? :s

Thanks..

Nothing is down the drain.

I suspect your company HR hasn't submitted anything and playing safe.

Unless they showed the amendments requested by MOM.
Same happened to me aswell.
I wrote my race as Chinese but was told to strike out that portion because none of my certificate identifies myself as a Chinese.




Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
How Chinese are you ? 1% ? 10% ? 50% ?

I understand that Singapore may be getting bit careful with folks claiming Chinese heritage, and that could crowd the crowded city.

Especially those hoping for a one up in passes and PR.

100% well both my mom and dad have chinese ancestry, thing is in indonesia my grandparents decide to play safe by adopting a non-chinese name officially in our birth certificates to better assimilate in society and mitigating any kind of racism or backlash due to having chinese names.

well didn't know that it might have impact down the drain when applying PR :-k

Re: Visa for parent of Employment Pass holder

ravi26:
Hi group!

I have recently relocated to Singapore from India and have joined a European bank under Employment Pass. My mother is dependent on me and needs to join me here. Salarywise, I am eligible to bring my parents along. However, my bank's policies do not allow it to sponsor dependent pass for parents.

I was considering bringing her on short term visitor visa as a workaround but I have been led to believe she cannot stay more than 30 days at a time. I am also worried about requesting extensions every time.

I will really appreciate if anyone has any suggestion? I welcome all suggestions!
It's not your bank. The parents are simply not eligible to have DP under your EP.

http://www.mom.gov.sg/passes-and-permit ... ligibility
You can get a pass for the following family members:

Legally married spouse.
Unmarried children under 21 years old, including legally adopted children.

If your salary is above 10k you can try to get an LTVP for your mother:
http://www.mom.gov.sg/passes-and-permit ... ligibility

but again, your company needs to sponsor the application. Are they also not happy to do it for LTVPs?

Short term visa will only work for 1-3 extensions/reapplications and then she will be asked (at best) to wait half a year or so before coming again.


Thanks a lot for your taking the time to respond.

I earn over 10k a month. My employer is a large bank and has refused to sponsor anyone beyond my spouse and child (I think it's because it's very sensitive to exposing itself to regulatory/legislative attention). I am groping for answers. I admit I accepted the job assuming I will be able to persuade local HR to come around or bring my mom under short term visa (she will as it is want to limit her stay to 2-3 months at a time). I am not at loss to find a solution.

Kindly let me know if you think or know of any way this may be possible.

Best regards,

Ravi

Re: Visa for parent of Employment Pass holder

ravi26:
Hi BBCWatcher,

Thank you so much for your kind response. I receive fixed salary (including pension benefit in cash) just under 12000 per month so I am not sure I qualify for Personalised Employment Pass.

Even if I were eligible, in your experience/knowledge, how open is an employer to allowing such pass to be applied for seeing as how easily it allows the expat employee to switch jobs?

Do you think/know of any other way my mother may be allowed to stay at least 6 months a year (alternating 2 months in and out of Singapore each)? Does MoM make exception on a case to case basis?

I know I am likely asking stupid questions but I am desperate for a solution.

Regards,

Ravi

Re: RE: Re: Free Medical Help in UK for Tourists ?

ecureilx:


Welcome your thoughts. ( Context: Filipino, 2 week holiday, limited means, no insurance ).

Why wouldn't you get travel insurance?

Seems a bit of an oversight.

I guess Martin in enquiring on behalf of somebody else !!

Martin, get the cheapest travel insurance, should be less than 60$, though with high excess.

Re: RE: Submitted application today - had to make a lot of amendments

ecureilx:
Hi guys,

I'm just curious if any of you were asked to make amendments during your application submission? I had to make changes in about 5 different places (at least) and was told to populate the Annexe A form on behalf of my company (my company submitted a letter instead of populating the form)? I was also told to write a note to explain the situation. I was also asked to make a new photocopy of my ID because the one submitted was not clear.

Is this normal? Or is my application down the drain? :s

Thanks..

Nothing is down the drain.

I suspect your company HR hasn't submitted anything and playing safe.

Unless they showed the amendments requested by MOM.
Same happened to me aswell.
I wrote my race as Chinese but was told to strike out that portion because none of my certificate identifies myself as a Chinese.




Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
How Chinese are you ? 1% ? 10% ? 50% ?

I understand that Singapore may be getting bit careful with folks claiming Chinese heritage, and that could crowd the crowded city.

Especially those hoping for a one up in passes and PR.

Re: Free Medical Help in UK for Tourists ?

BBCWatcher:

You can leave the United Kingdom with an unpaid medical bill, true -- assuming you're able to leave. (More on this point in a moment.) But then U.K. Visas and Immigration can stop you from ever reentering the United Kingdom. Starting on October 31, 2011, an unpaid medical debt of £1000 or more that's at least 3 months in arrears is reason enough to deny you reentry and deny future visas. It's possible in the future the U.K. unpaid medical debts travel ban will be extended to the entire European Union since the U.K. is (and probably will remain) a member of the EU.

A medical calamity might mean you can't physically leave the United Kingdom, i.e. that you're not medically fit for travel (at least not without special medical transport) or you're dead. The U.K. government is under no obligation to pay for special medical transport or for repatriating your remains. Adequate insurance covers such contingencies, too.

Re: Advice On Moving to Singapore

Phoe1993:
Okonu sent you my CV comments welcome.

This is brilliant advise thank you, i have looked into qualifications here in the UK most take several years to complete and costs are high. with that said you can do intense smaller courses with a shorter period of time but these will effect my job at present which would not be effective for me.

My father has an extensive background in commodities from being CEO at ABN AMRO and UBS during his career, which inspired me to purse a career in Finance. but as mentioned i have an extensive background in sales on a national and international scale.

Re: Visa for parent of Employment Pass holder

BBCWatcher:
There is a possible solution. First, apply for a , assuming you meet the higher financial requirement (at least $12,000 per month if you're an Employment Pass holder). If approved, then you can apply for a LTVP for your parent as your own sponsor, without your employer's involvement or even knowledge.

The PEP is granted once per lifetime (or not granted) and has a three year lifespan. It is not renewable. Before the end of the three years you either must upgrade to Permanent Residency or downgrade to an Employment Pass (or other work permit) -- or leave Singapore. I'll have to do some more checking to see what happens to the LTVP holding parent in those cases, but my understanding is that the parent can stay assuming you stay and continue to meet the income requirements.

Re: PR Application - Chances/Odds

BBCWatcher:
Do they serve your prison time for you, too? If so, Wesley Snipes might be interested. ;)

Re: PR Application - Chances/Odds

Strong Eagle:


It pays me in one way... they assume the costs of penalties if they screw up.

Re: Expenses Breakdown and Salary Suggestion - Company transfer but no expat package

Strong Eagle: