A Portrait of Singapore

The country and its people(s)

A Portrait of Singapore


There are four main ethnic groups in Singapore; Chinese, Malay, Indian, and European. Although there are distinct areas some of these ethnic groups are known to live, the divide isn’t as apparent.

There are four official languages of Singapore: English, Malay, Chinese (Mandarin), and Tamil. English is used the most both in businesses and in the government. Mandarin is spoken with the next most frequency, partly due to government policies in the 1980s.

Singapore is quite an authoritarian state, with many strict rules and regulations. For example, people found to be trafficking drugs are subject to the death penalty. In general, the punishments for offenses are stricter than in most other places. The legal system more summary in the judgment of people and the setting of punishment and penalties.

Some unusual laws visitors should be aware of are:

  • It is illegal to not flush the toilet after using it
  • Large fines are issued for both littering and spitting in public
  • Pocket knifes in public are banned
  • Both guns and gum are prohibited. Although chewing and selling gum is generally not punished these days.

All art and cultural performances must be approved by the government before their release. Guidelines for approval are not publicly known but the government generally restricts offensive topics like race, religion, and nudity. This sometimes frustrates artists, but the policy is said to be in place to maintain peace in the country.

The food in Singapore is known to be very delicious, as it is a combination from the different ethnic groups in the country. Seafood is most popular, with dishes like crab, stingray, clam, squid, and oysters. Different ethnic and religious people also form groups with more specific dietary preferences in Singapore. As there are many vegetarians finding dishes without meat is not difficult.

Singapore recognized ten public holidays in 2008. Due to the various cultures and religions there are holidays for different religious groups. New Years, Chinese New Year, Good Friday, Labor Day, Vesak Day, National Day, Hari Raya Puasa, Deepavali, Hari Raya Haji, and Christmas Day are all the public holidays. Besides these, there are several festivals that take place throughout the year in Singapore. One particularly interesting festival called Thaipusam, takes place later in the year and is based on the lunar calendar. Here participants indulge in various forms of body piercing, some of which can be quite shocking.

Further reading

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