The culture of Singapore is one of the most interesting in Southeast Asia. The varied cocktail of cultures is deeply embedded in the history of Singapore culture. Visitors will find strong influences on culture, food, and basic day to day life from countries including India, China, and many Arab and Muslim countries.
People of Singapore
Almost five million people comprise Singapore’s secular, immigrant population. Within the five million, most are Chinese, Malays, Eurasians, Caucasians, and Indians. Almost half of the population is foreign; the country hits third in the world for highest population density after Macau and Monaco. To best describe Singapore culture would be to say that it directly reflects its history as an immigrant community. Most Singaporeans are bilingual, speaking their mother tongue and English which is the city’s official language. With such great diversity in background, the government greatly emphasizes respect among the people for religious and personal beliefs. Different quarters have been settled by similar ethnic people including the Malay-Muslim district of Kampong Glam, Chinatown, and Little India.
The three main religions woven into the culture of Singapore include Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity. It has always been a multi-religious country. This is largely due to its location as a strategic point and port which attracted an variety of ethnicities and nationalities from countries as far away as Arabia. A third of the country’s population adheres to Buddhist beliefs – mainly the Chinese who also comprise the largest part of the population. They also follow Confucianism and Taoism. Roughly 20% are Christians and about 15% are Muslims. The Indian population lies at about 5%; they are mostly Hindus. With such a great diversity in religions, Singapore is very pleasing for its scope of temples, mosques, and churches, several which have deep, rich history. There are also a few Jewish synagogues and Sikh temples.
The cuisine found around the country is as varied as the culture of Singapore is. Due to the mix of ethnic backgrounds, visitors will find an astonishing array of food to choose between. Typical to Asia, there are large food centers scattered about the country where one can enjoy a choice between many different types of food. In Singapore you can find yourself faced with the challenge of choosing between spicy Thai food, comforting Italian fare, aromatic Malay delicacies, Chinese delights, and many more. Most of the food varieties are traditional recipes that, over time, have been customized to Singaporean tastes and evolved into a type of fusion food from so many years of direct influence with other cultures and backgrounds.
Singapore laws are modeled after the English common law system yet is always evolving as it absorbs facets from other established legal systems and modifies its laws. Singapore’s legal system has received accolades from around the world for integrity and efficiency. Singapore has also become famous for some laws that those from the western world regard as quite different: it is against the law not to flush a toilet in a public restroom (and yes, this is monitored frequently by police officers); it is against the law to sell gum; a “hacking” charge is administered to those who connect to an unsecured wireless internet network. Another law that may seem bizarre is that permission is required to hug someone in a public location. This is based on the country’s outlook on modesty. This unique legal system, and adhering to it, is now ingrained into the culture of Singapore.