It is not by chance that you are coming to this tiny dot on the world map. Be it for business or leisure, come and be mesmerized by the sights and sounds the diverse cultures offer, be tantalized by enticing indulgences of the widest spread, and be refreshed by the squeaky clean and safe environment that is so uniquely Singaporean. Come and be impressed by the professionalism of this country – its superb services, state-of-the-art facilities, hassle-free infrastructure, efficient and fair governance.
Singapore is an island of 655 sq. km. Singapore's strategic position has helped it grow into a major center for trade, communications, and tourism. Its geographical location is 137km north of the equator, between longitude 103 degrees 36' East and 104 degrees 25' East. Singapore is eight hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
Population & People
Singapore’s total population was 5 million in 2010. It is a cosmopolitan society comprises 74.2% Chinese, 13.4% Malays, 9.2% Indians, and 3.2% people of other descent.
Singapore’s tropical climate is characterized by uniform temperature and pressure, high humidity and abundant rainfall. It can be divided into two main seasons, the Northeast Monsoon and the Southwest Monsoon season with the December to early March North-East Monsoon Season being typically more windy and cloudy with frequent afternoon showers. Spells of widespread moderate to heavy rain can last from 1 to 3 days at a stretch. The island is warm and humid all year round, with slight variations on te mperatures ranging from minimum 23 to 26 deg C and maximum 30 to 33 deg C.
Loose and light summer clothing is recommended, especially for outdoor activities like sightseeing. "Smart casual" is usually acceptable everywhere except for formal business dining or when specified in an invitation. Smart casual usually means shirts (long or short-sleeves but not T-shirts) or blouses, and trousers or skirts.
The National Flag consists of two equal horizontal sections, red above white. In the upper left canton is a white crescent moon beside five white stars within a circle. The features of the flag were not arbitrarily chosen - each feature has its own distinctive meaning and significance: red symbolizes universal brotherhood and equality of man, white signifies pervading and everlasting purity and virtue, the crescent moon represents a young nation on the ascendant, and the five stars stand for the nation's ideals of democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality.
National Flower The Vanda Miss Joaquim, an orchid variety, is a hybrid between the Vanda teres and the Vanda hookerana. It was chosen as Singapore's national flower from among 40 other contenders, including some 30 orchids. It was selected particularly because of its hardy and resilient qualities and its ability to bloom throughout the year. These characteristics reflect Singapore's quest for progress and excellence in all aspects of life.
The earliest known mention of Singapore was a 3rd century Chinese account which described Singapore as "Pu-luo-chung" ("island at the end of a peninsula"). Legend has it that in the 14th century, a visiting Sumatran prince saw a fearsome creature that looked like a lion. Thus the name “ Singa Pura" or "Lion City" was born. Today, the symbol of the merlion - a mythical creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish - is a reminder of Singapore's early connections to this legend and the seas.
Founding of the modern Singapore
The British paved the way for the building of the modern Singapore, and Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles is often called the founder of modern Singapore . During the 18th century, the British saw the need for a strategic "halfway house" to refit, feed and protect the fleet of their growing empire, as well as to forestall any advances by the Dutch in the region. In 1819, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles founded a British port on the island. Under British colonial rule, it grew in importance as a center for both the India- China trade and the entrpot trade of the Southeast Asian region, eventually becoming one of the most important port cities in the world.
As a multi-religion society with Islam, Buddhism and Taoism, Hinduism, Christianity and Sikhism as the main religions here, religious tolerance is practiced and encouraged in Singapore.
Language and Literacy
The official languages are Malay, Chinese, Tamil and English. Malay is the national language and English is the language of administration. Mandarin is being increasingly used among the Chinese in place of the main Chinese dialects Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Hakka, Hainanese and Foochow. Besides Tamil, some of the other languages spoken by the Indians are Malayalam, Punjabi, Telegu, Hindi and Bengali.
The general literacy rate of residents aged 15 years and over is well over 90%. More residents were also multi-lingual. Among the literate population, more than half was literate in two or more languages.
Singapore is the premier education hub in Asia, offering a diverse and distinctive mix of educational services in a safe, cosmopolitan and comfortable environment. In Singapore, English is not only the first language, but also the language of instruction. Driven by excellence, Singapore Education offers a broad-based curriculum and global perspective to equip students with the relevant qualifications and training that serve as a Springboard to a Brighter Future. Find out more.
Culture & Festivals
Singapore – the city of celebrations! As a multi-cultural, multi-racial society, Singapore celebrates the richness of its heritage through the diverse festivals. The major festivals are:
is the Day of Atonement when Hindu devotees offer thanks or fulfill vows to the deity. It is about faith, endurance and penance. It is celebrated in the month of October according to the Hindu calendar, which fall either in the month of January or February.
In a gesture of penance and seeking forgiveness from the gods, male Hindu devotees have to carry enormous kavadi, or portable shines and walk the ceremonial journey. The kavadi is pierced to the devotees' body by spikes and skewers; it is normally borne on the body, and sometimes dragged by the devotee like a chariot. Supporters of the kavadi-bearer gather around him, chanting prayers, clapping and shouting their encouragement along the way.
Also known as the Lunar New Year, the Chinese New Year this is the most important festival in the Chinese lunar calendar. Chinese New Year usually falls during the months of January and February and lasts for 15 days. The Chinese calls it 'Xin Nian' where 'Xin' means 'New' and 'Nian' means 'Year'.
Chinatown remains a firm favourite amongst visitors and locals during this festive period which starts weeks before the New Year. With colourful street lighting and decorations, visitors can simply immerse in a unique cultural experience and soak in the festive hustle and bustle simply by walking through the streets of Chinatown. Close to 500 stalls selling New Year delicacies ranging from Mandarin oranges, cookies, waxed duck and meats, to brightly coloured flowers and shiny Chinese New Year ornaments. The fun peaks at the various public countdown parties on Chinese New Year's Eve. Merrymakers can dance the night away or be entertained by stage performances.
Two other major events are held in Singapore in connection to Chinese New Year - the River Hong Bao Festival and the Chingay Parade.
The River Hong Bao carnival is a lively extravaganza that displays a wide variety of shows featuring top regional and local artists and performances. It includes a mind-boggling variety of food, traditional arts and folklore from ancient China, complete with fireworks, merchant kiosks and hawker stalls. The entire fairground will be decorated with floats of mythical creatures, legendary heroes, Chinese gods, pagodas and cherry blossoms. The highlight is when the God of Fortune makes his annual stop at the Singapore River. Standing at a towering 20 metres tall, he will sprinkle “blessings” of gold dust at passers-by wishing for rising fortunes in the New Year.
Chingay Parade is the grandest parade held in Singapore. Besides featuring traditional Chinese dragon and lion dances, spectacular floats, stilt-walkers and acrobatics, Chingay has become a showcase of Singapore's multiracial and international character. It has evolved into an international event featuring renowned performing troupes hailed from Australia, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia and Korea.
The words Hari Raya mean 'day of celebration'. Thus Hari Raya Puasa is a very important occasion that is celebrated by Muslims all over the world. It marks the end of Ramadan, the one-month fasting period when Muslims fast for a period of almost 12 hours. It is a joyous occasion for Muslims as it signifies a personal triumph, a victory of self-restraint and abstinence, symbolising purification and renewal.
Hari Raya festivities can be experienced at least one month before the festival. Shops and stalls selling numerous festive items, complete with a wide variety of Malay traditional foods like kuehs, otah-otah, curry puffs, noodles, ketupat, lontong, nasi padang and beef rendang.
On Vesak day, Buddhists all over the world celebrate the birthday of the Lord Gautama Buddha. Celebrations are carried out at all Buddhist temples where monks commemorate their Lord Buddha's entry into Nirvana by chanting holy sutras and releasing caged birds to symbolize the liberation of captive souls.
Held in May or June, the Dragon Boat Race or Rice Dumpling Festival commemorates the death of a famous poet, Qu Yuan, who drowned himself to protest political corruption. The story goes that when the fishermen heard of his attempt, they immediately set forth in their boats to look for him. Thus began the tradition of dragon boat races. Desperate to prevent fishes from devouring his body, the fishermen threw rice into the river. Thus began the tradition of dumpling eating. Singapore World Invitational Dragon Boat Races will see teams from around the world competing for this event.
The Hungry Ghosts Festival or the 7th Lunar Month the Ghosts usually falls in August or September. It is the most inauspicious time of the year as Taoists believe the gates of Hell are opened at this time, and the spirits of the dead roam the earth. It demonstrates the concern in Chinese religious belief for the pitiable existence of souls not cared for by the living. To appease the ghosts, believers would burn huge joss-sticks and candles, offer cakes, fruits and sometimes an entire banquet to the spirits. Street shows or Ge Tai are also held to entertain the spirits in the hope that when distracted or happy, they will not look for or disturb living.
The Mooncake Festival is also known as the Lantern Festival or the Mid-Autumn Festival. It is celebrated on the 8th lunar month when the moon is the fullest and brightest; in September or October. Around this time, shops and stalls will offer an amazing variety of mooncakes and other products such as ornamental lanterns, fruits, pastries and souvenirs. It is one of the favourites among children as they can parade down the streets with their colourful lanterns.
Deepavali is the festival of lights and colors celebrated in the month of October or November. All round the world, Hindus celebrate this day as the triumph of light over darkness, and of good over evil. It marks the New Year for Hindu devotees, and is a great time of rejoicing and renewal.
During this time, streets and stalls are adorned with music and strings of colourful lights. Shoppers throng the streets in search of the perfect sari to wear, or to fill their baskets with Indian foods and spices. Hindu homes are lighted with oil lamps, and offerings of sweetmeats and garlands of jasmine are placed at the family altar.
Singapore celebrates its biggest and grandest festival on Christmas. Scores of fun-filled activities and exciting entertainment including caroling, countdown parties, mega concerts, internationally acclaimed performances, art exhibitions, special programs at Singapore’s attractions, attractive shopping promotions and tantalising culinary treats, all lined up weeks before and leading up to the grand finale on Christmas Day. Street after street of bright, colourful and coordinated Christmas lights coupled with themed-decorated shopping malls beckoning everyone to soak in the magical moments of Christmas.
Unique Stuff – Uniquely Singapore
Singlish - identity of Singaporeans
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 or Singapore Colloquial English. Check out here for some of the favourites. Interestingly, Singlish has two entries - lah and sinseh - in the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary.
Kiasu (kee-ah-soo) is a dialect adjective literally means "afraid of losing". It basically points to anyone who wants to get the most for whatever they work for or pay for; preferably, free. This wanting the best and wanting to be the best in everything inevitably calls for creative and innovative ways to always be a step ahead; though at times through unethical ways.
Interestingly, this kiasu syndrome is so pervasive here that one must watch Mr Kiasu, a character created by the movie industry here, to fully appreciate this uniquely Singaporean culture. Rate yourself here.
As an extension of the "no littering" crusade, the import and sale of chewing gum was banned since 1992. However, following the United States-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (USS-FTA) in 2004, chewing gum of therapeutic value has been allowed into Singapore.
Although the ban of gums may seem harsh and hard-to-believe for some, it is one of the few things that has made Singapore so sparklingly clean and safe. Problem started when chewing gum was found to be disposed everywhere and anywhere, causing serious and costly maintenance problems in residential and public areas, on top of being such a nuisance on public transport seats, cinemas, etc. Gums stuck on the door sensors of MRT trains have prevented the door from
functioning properly and have caused disruption of train services.