The dazzling, pristine city-state of Singapore perches at the southern tip of the Malay peninsula. Its strategic location has made it a pivotal trading post since the 1800s, attracting immigrants from far-flung corners of the earth.
Today the city is an ethnic tapestry woven from the customs of its predominantly Chinese, Malay, Indian, Peranakan and Eurasian population. The Malays are Singapore’s indigenous people and, accordingly, the national language is Bahasa Malayu.
However, in recognition of its cultural diversity, the four official languages of Singapore are English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil. Consequently, most people here are multilingual, often speaking as many as four languages.
Singapore packs a big punch for a small country. Despite being one of the smallest countries in the world and by far the smallest in the region, it commands an enormous global presence. This is due to its free trade economy, highly productive workforce and strategic location along major shipping routes.
Singapore’s year-round sunshine, excellent health care and education facilities, its cultural facets, numerous shopping centres, museums, fantastic dining and vibrant nightlife combine to make this city an incredibly easy city to call home.
What is special or unique about your city?
Called "The Garden City" and "The Lion City", Singapore is a multi-racial, multi-religious and multicultural city-state where over five million people live in perfect harmony.
One thing that often strikes visitors is the cleanliness and abundance of wonderfully landscaped gardens and rows of trees and flowering plants, even along motorways.
What are a newcomer's first impressions of your city?
Most newcomers will note right away that Singapore is safe, clean, modern, efficient, well-organised and hot. Another important aspect is the vast variety of cuisine available, catering to every palette.
They will also notice that eating out can be done inexpensively, especially at food courts and hawker centres. Singlish, the mixing of English with words from other local languages, can initially be quite puzzling. However, long-term visitors learn to appreciate and understand this unique dialect.
Are these impressions likely to change?
Most expats love the city, its diverse mix of people and the comforts that you can afford and get used to here, especially after living here a while. However, due to the size of the place, as time goes by some feel it gets a little congested or claustrophobic and they start to make more frequent trips to neighbouring countries.
What is the local language?
Singapore has four official languages: English, Mandarin Chinese, Bahasa Melayu and Tamil.
How easily could I live in this city without knowing this language?
English is widely spoken and communication is generally not a problem. The older generation Singaporeans may, however, only speak Chinese, Bahasa or Tamil.
What are good things to remember in order to avoid offending the other residents of this city?
Singapore is represented by all main religions; it is wise to read up and be culturally sensitive, as cultural customs may be different among Singaporeans. A Muslim woman/man may, for instance, be reluctant to shake hands with a man/woman, while a Hindu could take offense if you suggest a non-vegetarian meal. Certain customs need to be adhered to while attending a local religious ceremony or family function.
When paying anyone, it is customary to offer cash or cards with the right hand or both hands.
It is customary to show respect for elders. Overall, the people are generally polite.
Singaporeans also take pride in keeping their city clean, so be careful not to litter.
How might the local weather affect my daily life?
A first-time visitor who is used to having four seasons might have difficulty in adapting to the humid weather initially. There is essentially only one season in Singapore: warm tropical weather throughout the year. The average daily temperature is about 27 degrees Celsius. Relative humidity often exceeds 90% at night and in the early hours of the morning, dropping to 60 or 70% on dry afternoons.
Most residential properties, offices and shopping centres are equipped with air conditioners. This brings the temperature down, but also makes the air very dry. To prevent dehydration, be sure to drink a lot of water.
Is there anything else I should know about the overall character of your city or its people?
Singapore has a multicultural society. People are generally friendly and accommodating of other cultures and races.