Singapore culture has a strong influence of Chinese, Malay and Indian cultures. The diversity of Singapore culture is due to her history. Singapore was once a popular free trading port in the 18th century which attracted many Chinese immigrant from China, Indian from India sub-continent, Malay from the Malay peninsular and Eurasian from the various part of Europe who came to trade in Singapore or work in Singapore and later settle down at this cosmopolitan island. These ethnic races still evident in modern Singapore today, though most of the Singaporeans do think of themselves as Singaporeans, regardless of race or culture, each still bears its own unique character and this mixture of cultures formed the Singapore culture.
English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil are the four official languages spoken in Singapore and the national language is Malay. The national anthem is written in Malay language, however not many of the young generation know how to speak Malay. The young generation used English to communicate with different races. Singapore children learn English as their first language and their mother tongue as their second language in school, thus most of the Singaporeans are bilingual. Singapore Chinese beside speaking Mandarin, they have their own dialect group such as Hokkien,Teochew, Cantonese etc.. the most common dialect is Hokkien, even other races also understand some Hokkien. Due to the exposure of different languages in Singapore most of the Singaporean spoke more than one language. Singaporeans always like to combine a few languages in one sentence when they speak. These mixtures of languages also caused to the born of a unique language known as Singlish which is an identity of Singaporean and is spoken among Singaporean. Singlish is a mixture of Malay, English and Chinese language and it always end with a ‘lah’, ‘lao’ or ‘ma’. Is an improper speaking of English and is very popular in Singapore thus if you are a visitor, initially you will have difficulty to understand. If you are interested you can referred to Singlish guide for reference.
With such a cultural diversity, Singapore is also a multi-religious country.Religions tolerance, understanding and respect are also in build into Singapore culture. The main religious are Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity and Hinduism. Majority of the Chinese population in Singapore are Buddhism or Taoism but there are also a good number of them are Christians. Most of the Singapore Malay is Muslim while for Indian most of them are Hindus. There are also a group of people who don’t believe in any religious and they call themselves as free thinker. It is also a very common sight to see Church, Taoism temple, Hindu temple and Muslim mosque located side by side. This is a unique scene in Singapore showing the level of racial and religious harmony and mutual respect for others believe in Singapore.
Singapore celebrates the festivals of every ethnic group with gusto throughout the year. Proud of Singapore multicultural and multiracial society, Singaporeans join in the festivities of one another with respect and enjoyment. The list below are the festivals that belong to the different ethnic group celebrate in Singapore. It is also part of Singapore culture to join in the celebration of each other festivals
Around January or February is depend on the Chinese lunar calendar and is the most important festival for Chinese. It marked the beginning of each year where Chinese celebrate by having reunion dinner on the eve of the New Year. For the next 15th days, friends and relatives visit one another, bearing gifts of mandarin oranges and “Hong Baos” (red packets filled with money) for the children. This exchange of items symbolizes good luck and prosperity. more...
It is celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th month of the Chinese lunar calendar which falls in May or June. This festival is also known as Duan Wu Jie to commemorate a great Chinese poet and statesman, Qu Yuan, who lived in the reign of the kingdom of Chu of the Warring States period in China who was frustrated by the injustice and corrupted government body and committed suicide by drowning himself in the Mei Lo River.
The Hungry Ghost Festival is celebrated in the 7th month of the lunar calendar, usually in August or September. The Chinese belief the gates of hell are opened during this month and the spirits of the dead are released on ‘parole’ to roam the earth. Food, prayers, incense and ‘hell money’ are offered to appease the spirits. more...
It falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month of the lunar calendar and it fall around month of Aug. It was related that the tyrannical Yuan Dynasty was overthrown in the 14th century through the aid of secret messages placed in mooncakes. It also associated with the story of the Moon Goddess Chang Er (??), the wife of an ancient ruler who consumed the elixir of immortality and drifted to the moon. During this festival, adult will buy lantern for children and exchange mooncake as a gift to each others. more...
Is a day to commemorate the religious occasion and to celebrate the return of the pilgrims. Muslim will start the day by having Morning Prayer at mosque and after the prayer, sheep and goats are ritually slaughtered as sacrifices. The meat is then distributed among the worshippers and the poor.
Is the celebration to mark the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. Hari Raya is also a time to reconcile and renew relationships with others to seek forgiveness physically and spiritually. On the actual day of the celebration, male members of households rise early to attend special prayers at the mosques. Past wrongs are forgiven and family visit the graves of those who departed as a mark of remembrance. Friends and relatives will visit each other to celebrate this special day and lot of traditional delicacies are prepared at each household for visitors.
Is also known as the festival of light and it fall around late October and November. Is to celebrate Lord Krishna’s victory over the evil Narakasura and signifies a time of renewal. This is also a day for Hindus to thank God for happiness, wealth and peace that they have received from God. more...
The festival commemorates both the birthday of Murugan (also Subramaniam), the youngest son of god Shiva and his wife Parvati, and the occasion when Parvati gave Murugan a vel (spear) so he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman. On this day, Hindu devotees walk 3 kilometre route carry kavadis (semi-circular metal structures) on the shoulders, milk pots and most even have the kavadis pierced to their bodies with spikes, hooks and skewers as a mark of thanksgiving and penance.
This annual fire-walking ceremony honours the Goddess Draupadi, a heroine of epic poem Mahabharta. Hindu devotees cross a red-hot coal pit barefoot at the temple as part of a religious vow in exchange for a wish or blessing.
Vesak is an important festival of Buddhism to commemorate the birth and enlightenment of Buddha and his entry into Nirvana. During Vesak day, monk will chant holy sutras and devotees release captive birds as a mark of respect to all living creatures and to gain merit
Christian and Catholics commemorate the day where Jesus was crucified on the cross to exonerate the sins of all mankind. Christians and Catholics will attend special prayer services and demonstrate their gratification to the Lord.
Christians and Catholics celebrate the birth of Jesus Chris on Christmas Day. There are lot of Christmas carols reverberate on the malls, lighting and decoration on the streets of Orchard. There are special services held in all churches on the Christmas Eve and Christmas morning to mark this special day. more...
Though Singapore culture is greatly influence or a mixture of Chinese, Indian, Malay and Western cultures, through out the years, there are also some common characteristics in build in Singaporean. Singaporean is well known for Kiasu. kiasu in Hokkien langauge means “afraid to lose” (afraid to lose to others and everything must be number one). Singaporean is famous for Kiasu, they can queue overnight to buy condominium, to buy collective Macdonald toys and always want to be the number one in the queue. Most of the Singapore parents will send their children to enrichment classes just to make sure that their children will not let behind others in school.
Singaporean also like to complaint, they complaint lot of things including government policies but they still vote for the current government because most of the Singaporean trust and acknowledge that the government is doing a good jobs. Singaporean is also known for it efficiency, everything must be fast and can’t really tolerate slowness. Singaporean don’t really know how to tips because it is not Singapore culture to tip .Bribery is also not a common practiced in Singapore and is an offend to bride especially to government officer so don’t try to bride government office in Singapore, it is a very serious offend. Singaporean is also a food lover, who can travel miles to eat a bowl of famous laksa and queue for hours to taste good food. Singaporean do practice some unique Singapore culture at hawker center ,thing like putting tissue paper on table to “Chop”(reserve seat) for seat at hawker center or food court before they buy their food at the stall and people respect this culture and well not take the place. These are some of the unique Singapore culture, find out yourself when you come to visit Singapore maybe you might be able to spot more.