Singapore’s colonial heritage


You might be thinking, like many, that Singapore destroyed most of its old buildings to make way for skyscrapers and office towers… and that Singapore is something like this:

But can you spot the low old-looking building right in front of the towers? That’s the Fullerton Hotel. One of Singapore’s many colonial buildings that still exist today… Did you know that the Fullerton Hotel walls were built in 1928? That’s how old some pieces of history are in Singapore. It was once the Singapore Chamber of Commerce, before it opened as a hotel in 2001.

Another masterpiece of Singapore’s colonial heritage is the Raffles Hotel. It was in 1887 that it first opened its doors… and at that time it had only 10 rooms! And did you know that people say this is where the last tiger of Singapore was shot dead? In 1902 in the Bar & Billiard room…

Still today, the Raffles Hotel remains an iconic landmark of Singapore. You can go have a walk inside the hotel and have a look at the luxury shopping boutiques. The inside courtyard is also splendidly taken care of, and you can really feel the luxury and long history of the site when you wander around for a while. Of course, you shouldn’t miss out on the Long Bar, THE most famous place to have a Singapore Sling in Singapore… And you shouldn’t miss out on the Raffles Museum either !!

Last but not least, I would like to share with you one of my favourite things about Singapore… shophouses. They are a heritage of Singapore’s colonial era. Their structure is very simple : a shop or restaurant on the ground floor and a comfortable living space above. To give you a better idea of what they look like, here are some pictures:

Aren’t they beautiful? My favourite shophouses are located on East Coast Road. Their colours and detailed sculpted facades are simply gorgeous. You can find them basically anywhere in Singapore, like in Chinatown, Little India, or downtown around the Raffles Hotel, like on Purvis Street for instance.

Needless to say, Singapore has many hidden treasures. And unlike what people may think, she is still taking care of leftover pieces of her very valuable history!! The URA (Urban Redevelopment Authority) is the organisation in charge of preserving this beautiful heritage.

Acronyms in Singapore


Singaporeans simply LOVE acronyms!! If you live and/or work in Singapore, not a day goes by without hearing things like HDB, ECP, ERP, PAP, CTE, SBS… Get acquainted with the Singaporean lingo if you want to be part of it!

Most of the acronyms used in Singapore are abbreviations for expressways, but some of them refer to uniquely Singaporean systems (like ERP) or types of buildings (HDB)…. Also, organisations and companies in Singapore are very often referred to by their initials. They definitely are a must-know if you plan to work in Singapore. Here are the most commonly heard acronyms:

CTE : Central Expressway

ERP : Electronic Road Pricing. Refers to the fee that people must pay when they drive into the central area of Singapore during peak hours.

HDB : Housing Development Board. Refers to the Singapore Housing Authority, in charge of building public housing that are affordable and of good quality. Also refers to the flats or the buildings themselves.

MRT : Mass Rapid Transit. Refers to the train system in Singapore.

NTU : Nanyang Technology University. See other article on Singapore universities.

PAP : People’s Action Party. This is the political party which has been ruling in Singapore since 1963.

SIA : Singapore Airlines. What else? 🙂

But most of all, Singaporeans love to joke about acronyms… And I think some of them are really funny 🙂

ERP – Everyday Rob People? Everytime Raise Price?
PAP – Pay and Pay?
MRT – Mad Rush to Trains?
And my personal favourite : SENTOSA – So Expensive Nothing To See Already !!

Trust the Singaporeans to be creative with acronyms!! More jokes over here.

Singapore’s history


Singapore is an intriguing island… If you stop and think about it, it truly is one of a kind!

Of British colonial descent, it is now mainly populated by Chinese people living together with Malay and Indian people. From a simple fishermen’s port, Singapore has become a key financial hub and the world’s busiest harbour in terms of total shipping tonnage. And did you know that Singapore’s gain of independence from Malaysia was felt by all as a failure rather than a victory?

Here are a few key dates to help you better understand Singapore’s history:

13th century: A prince of the Malay empire founds the port of Temasek where Singapore now stands.

29th January 1819: Sir Stamford Raffles arrives in Temasek and establishes a trading post for the British East India Company. Raffles separates the city in different areas for each population and Singapore gradually becomes the centre of government of the Straits Settlements, a division of the British Empire. Singapore is a prosperous colony.

1939: World War II breaks out. On 15th February 1942, Britain’s “Jewel of the East” falls into the hands of Japanese invaders. Singapore is renamed “Syonan-to” (“light of the South”) and thus begins the Japanese occupation of Singapore.

1945: At the end of the war, the British return to Singapore but change the island’s status to a separate crown colony, allowing Singapore to hold its first elections.

1962-1965: In a referendum, Singaporeans vote for a merger with Malaysia. However, racial riots in Singapore makes the Malaysian Government very angry and on 7th August 1965, Singapore is declared independent. Lee Kwan Yew, Singapore’s Prime Minister, cries on television and seems to think Singapore’s fate is doomed… Racial and political tensions are very strong.

1980s: The PAP (People’s Action Party) wins all 75 seats in the 1980 General Election. Lee Kwan Yew’s role as the “nation’s architect” begins…

I really find Singapore’s history exciting and fascinating. If you have time to deepen your knowledge of Singapore’s origins, I would recommend you to visit the National Singapore Museum, or watch this Discovery Channel DVD recommended by a friend. Absolutely worth your time!!

Universities in Singapore


Singapore is the ideal city if you wish to study abroad and experience living in Asia!

Its strong economy and links with neighbouring countries creates many opportunities for young people to study or start working there. Its universities are well-known abroad and benefit from a great location for students to travel around and discover Southeast Asia.

Singapore’s best universities include :
NUS : National University of Singapore. With over 36,000 students, it is Singapore’s largest and most renowned university. It offers no less than 16 different faculties and schools covering different topics from Business to Arts, including Music, Dentistry, Engineering or Science…
NTU : Nanyang Technological University. This university is usually very well ranked in worldwide rankings. At NTU you can study Engineering, Business, Science, Humanities… and benefit from many exchange programs and double-degrees with foreign universities.
– SMU : Singapore Management University, one of the best universities in Singapore to study Business and Management. They have more than 7,000 students each year and offer undergraduate and graduate programs in subjects like Accountancy, Management, Law, Social Sciences etc.
– and many others like Singapore Institute of Management, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Singapore University of Technology and Design, Lasalle College of the Arts … !!

More importantly, Singapore now attracts schools and universities from around the world (like INSEAD or ESSEC for instance) and is becoming a preferred destination for foreign students as well as a strong hub in terms of universities.

Should you consider studying in Singapore for a while, do not forget to contact MOE (Minister Of Education) and take care of your student pass formalities, it is absolutely mandatory! For more information on universities in Singapore, click here.

Can you speak Singlish meh?


If you have been to Singapore, you have definitely heard about “Singlish“. Actually, you might even have heard people “speak” Singlish in hawker centers.

What is Singlish? A Singaporean version of English. It’s not a proper language, but rather a slang used by very local people. Okay time to have a good laugh!! A few examples… just out of my head 🙂

walau! so stupid one i tell you! : I cannot believe he is so stupid…

oi ! wake up lah! : hey, please wake up!

alamak, so much work today, cannot tahan one loh! : I have too much work today, I really don’t know how to go about it

ayah! i told you already what! : can’t you remember what I tell you?

fly ly also can lor! : fried rice is also fine by me

Get the idea? Feel free to contribute with the funniest Singlish phrases you’ve heard so far 🙂 And if you have trouble imagining the Singaporean accent, take a look at this video… Get it now? It’s quite something isn’t it!!

Of course, it goes without saying that I am not encouraging you to speak Singlish, just knowing what it is is enough 🙂

Also, did you know that Singtel has developed an application so that the Siri system on iPhone 4S can recognise the Singapore accent? More information here.

And for those of you who are very familiar with Singlish, try out these Siri jokes, some of them are really funny!!

Singapore for Dummies


You wouldn’t believe the type of questions I sometimes get… so it’s time to set the answers straight !!

1. Is Singapore in China ?

No !! Although you might have seen the word « Singapore » often associated to the Chinese community, Singapore is definitely NOT in China. It is an island city-state at the Southern End of the Malaysian Peninsula.

2. What language do people speak in Singapore ? Singaporean ?

People who live in Singapore predominantly speak English. However, there are 4 official languages : English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil. Also, according to their origins, people usually speak a few different dialects (Hokkien, Teo Chew, Hainanese…). Oh, and people “speak” Singlish too ! But more on that later.

3. What is Singapore’s population ?

According to the 2010 census, there are around 5 million people in Singapore, including approximately 3,2 million Singaporean citizens, 500 000 Permanent Residents (PR), and 1,3 million non-residents (ie people who live, work and/or study in Singapore without being granted a permanent residency).

4. Are there buses and trains in Singapore ?

Of course !! Do you think Singapore is still a fishermen’s village? Taking the bus remains the most convenient way of moving around Singapore, and the train (MRT – Mass Rapid Transit) is developing fast, with new lines opening (the last part of the Circle Line opened on Oct 8th 2011).

5. Is it true that you are not allowed to chew gum in Singapore ?

Not really, you are allowed to chew gum on the streets. However, it is forbidden to sell chewing gum in Singapore (unless it is used for medical reasons). Try not to think of it as an unfair rule to prevent you from being free, but rather as any other rule created to keep the streets clean (like forbidding dog poo or spitting…!).

An Asian melting pot?


I have often been asked whether Singapore is only inhabited by Chinese people… which shows how unfortunately little is known about the origins of Singaporeans.

There are three major communities living together on the island : Chinese (approximately 75%), Malays (14%) and Indians (9%). As you know, each community more or less has its own district, as a legacy from the British colonial governement in the 1820s – Chinatown, Arab Street and Little India. And added to these 3 major races, Singapore is also home to Eurasians (people of both European and Asian descent), as well as other mixed-cultured individuals (like Peranakans for instance, descendants of both Chinese and Malay cultures).

Peranakan Kebayas. They best represent the blending of Chinese and Malay cultures

To me, the cohabitation of different races is one of the key assets that Singapore has, both politically and culturally speaking. As you might have seen, it is a key theme adressed in political messages from the government (to strengthen the feeling of unity in one nation) and which allows Singapore to stand strongly as one. As for culture, what better proof of a sucessful melting pot than Singapore’s culinary delicacies ?

If you are interested in this subject, I would recommend to visit the Peranakan Museum as well as the National Museum of Singapore to get a better insight in Singapore’s multiculturalism.