Dialects and Teo Chew food


Singapore is a real melting pot… And there are four official languages : English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil. So most important signs are translated in all 4 languages!! Don’t you just love it when announcements in the MRT are translated into all 4 languages? I know I do 🙂

To these four, you might want to add Singlish, even though it’s not a real language…

However, if you do go to a local food court or hawker center, you might be surprised to hear languages which are none of the 5 above… They are dialects!! In the streets of Singapore you might hear people talking Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Hakka, Hainanese…

Most dialects would be Chinese dialects, as most of Singapore’s population is of Chinese origins. Here is a video to give you a glimpse of what the Hainanese dialect sounds like for example …

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But in Singapore dialects are more than just languages. They are a culture of their own. Which explains why some restaurants specialise in Teo Chew cuisine for instance.

In Teo Chew restaurants in Singapore, you will find very “simple” food, in the sense that ingredients are usually served without too much sauce covering it so you can really enjoy all the flavours. Teo Chew food also includes a lot of seafood (steamed fish, oyster omelet, cold crab…) and their Yam dessert is super good too !!

One of the Teo Chew restaurants I would recommend in Singapore is SWA Garden Restaurant on MacPherson Road. It’s small, local and cosy, and not too expensive either 🙂

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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.

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…!).