Culture of Singapore: Let’s Eat, Pray and Shop in Harmony

The majority of the Singapore’s population is Chinese origin, followed by Malay or Indian. There are also considerable number of temporary immigrants i.e. expats like us coming from other parts of the world, particularly from US, European or Australasian countries.

In the past I had an experience to share a house with Indians while in Manchester. I had some Chinese and Malay friends. However, I have not experienced such an intense Asian (Chinese, Indian and Malay) culture before I came to Singapore. Therefore, it is inevitable to get to know about their sacred/traditional days/objects, cuisines and traditions. You experience the different traditions of their weddings, dances, births and funerals. You even get used to do live in the local ways. You can start to say “et’s eat Malay, Japanese or Indian food today”, “Let’s go shopping in Little India” or “Let’s capture some nice photos in Chinatown”. Here, you are very likely to see mosques, Buddhist or Hindu temples, churches built even in the same street.

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Not surprisingly, there are many special and holy days for people from each major culture and religion. So we have one day holiday for each of these special days: Christmas, Chinese New Year, Vesak (Buddha’s birthday), Deepavali (Festival of Lights), Ramadan and Kurban. You can see many different culture altogether in Singapore. Here, there is no standardization in culture and social life. Everyone lives as he or she wishes. They can pray, wear their traditional cloths even in office, find many restaurants to dine on their own cuisine or taste many others. You can easily see businessmen who wear a turban in the office; covered Malay ladies serving coffee at Starbucks or Chinese adults with their shorts and sandals. Nobody look in an annoying way or say something wrong to others. On this point, I think the government did a lot to achieve cultural harmony. Currently, there are many punishments, with a variety of ranges from fines to whipping or even death, that force people to be gentle and respectful to the others. When I first read about this “fine” city, I did not understand the importance of these punishments/rules/fines. Now I get it and I think it is normal to have such rules considering that the people come from various backgrounds.

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There are four different national languages (English, Chinese-Mandarin, Malay and Indian -Tamil). In all the institutions, buses and subway, the instructions written in these four different languages! The announcements are in four languages.

It is a little bit difficult to understand the English spoken in Singapore, particularly the version which is spoken by some Chinese origin residents. Many unique “Singlish” words are used in this country. We have never heard these words before we came to Singapore. For example, at the end of many sentences they put a “lah” sound, which is kind of exclamation probably coming from Chinese language. No, lah! Yes, lah! ☺

In my opinion, there are some communication issues. When you are in a conversation, it is not easy to understand if the other person understands you properly or not. As many of the Asian people are shy or proud, they would be hesitant to say “I do not understand” or not ask a question when they need clarification. So, you can come across with totally different outcome. Therefore, using extreme caution in communication is an important matter, especially in business situations.

In Singapore, men, women, young, old everyone (excluding the wives of the high level managers or expats) is working hard, even at the degree of devoting themselves to their companies. There are many people staying in the office until midnight. However, it doesn’t mean that the output is always great. Besides this, what caught my attention is that very old people who continue to work hard in very difficult jobs. As almost everyone are busy with their own responsibilities and goals, there are no visible boredom, depression and psychological problems. Or maybe they do not surface in this busy schedule.

Even 1/6 of the population is considered millionaire in this world’s most expensive country, it is not possible to survive without working. The negligible unemployment rate (2%) explains the situation. The government does not withhold taxes from your salary throughout the year, ie you get your gross salary. Then, you pay your tax in proportion to your income at the end of the year. This is great, isn’t it?

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Here, shopping is very big. There are many huge shopping malls all over the city, and you can see many outlets of expensive brands, built side by side. As you expect, shopping districts are among the biggest attractions in the country. Some of the shopping centers are open for 7/24. The thing that I like the most about shopping in Singapore is that nobody cares about your make-up and clothing, even when you enter to an outlet like Gucci, Prada etc. You can shop in your most shabby way with your comfy shorts and slippers. A customer is always a customer for the salesmen. In short, if you want to spend money, there are many options here. A common Singaporean saying goes like “Singapore’s national sport is shopping”, that we strongly agree. Although I used to love shopping, here it totally turned into a torture for me as every single region of this small island is very crowded during the weekends. Now, I only go for shopping if I really need something. Hence, I use my time for more valuable activities, such as blogging ☺

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