"A melting pot of different ethnicities and cultures..."
The Singaporean identity
Being a melting pot of different ethnicities and cultures, Singapore enjoys great cultural diversity that features the distinctive traditions of the city's various groups.
The city's various ethnic groups continue to celebrate their own cultures while intermingling with one another. For example, one can find a Malay wedding taking place beside a Chinese funeral at a void deck, on the ground floor of an HDB apartment block.
Nonetheless, a uniquely Singaporean identity, or character, has been developing in the last generations... One of its expressions can be found in the interesting Singaporean cuisine that is popular among locals and tourists alike...
Another important expression of the Singaporean identity is the wide use of Singlish, Singapore's own English-based Creole language. It is the first language of many younger Singaporeans, especially those whose parents do not share a native language or dialect, and is the second language of nearly all the rest of the country's residents.
What does "Singlish" sounds like ?
Singlish stands for "Singaporean English" and is Singapore's own English-based Creole language. It is the first language of many young Singaporeans, especially those who were born to mixed couples.
English (British English, to be more precise) tends to be the language spoken widely in the business, education and government sector of Singapore. Moreover, most of the country's literature (newspapers, magazines, books and forms) is printed in that language.
Singapore has several distinct ethnic neighborhoods, including Little India, Chinatown and Kampong Glam, formed by the 'Raffles Plan of Singapore' in the early 19th century to segregate the new immigrants into specific areas.
Although the population is no longer segregated in distribution, these ethnic neighborhoods retain unique elements of their specific culture and stand like isolated islands of tradition, surrounded by modern skyscrapers and glitzy shopping malls...
Nowadays, however, the average ethnic district is mostly used for small commercial activities and cottage industries that are related to the ethnic group which once lived here... A plethora of traditional eateries, souvenir shops, authentic markets, and many 19th century shrines, temples and mosques can be found in the small old streets of these neighborhoods.
Contrary to Raffles Plan of Singapore, the policies of both the HDB and the government of Singapore ensure that all public housing have a diverse mix of races and ethnicities.
From segragation to integration:
Contrary to Raffles' philosophy of ethnic segregation, independent Singapore realized the only way to create a solid nation is to promote unity and togetherness. Nevertheless, the ethnic quarters still retain their unique cultural identities, and although they no longer house the city's different groups, they contribute a lot to Singapore's cosmopolitan atmosphere.
Art and Culture
Since the 1990s, the government has played a more active role in promoting Singapore as a centre for arts and culture and in transforming the country into a cosmopolitan "Gateway between East and West".
Quite a few modern theatres and cultural centers were built during this period, the most significant of which is, by all means, the massive performing arts centre called Esplanade - Theatres on the bay. Occupying six hectares alongside Marina Bay, near the mouth of the Singapore River, this humongous, ultra-modern complex opened on October 12th 2002. It contains a 1600 seat concerts hall and a 2000 seat theatre hall, and it hosts famous artists from around the globe.
Singapore Arts Festival is the country's largest annual cultural event. It takes place around midyear, lasts about a month and incorporates theatre arts, dance, music and visual arts, among other possibilities. Hundreds of artists from Singapore and the world are taking part in the festival.
Although the government contributes significantly to the development of arts and culture in Singapore, censorship still plays an important role and local artists are not entirely free to express themselves in whichever way they want... They are particularly discouraged from touching "sensitive" issues, such as politics and religious.
Singapore's most popular sports are Football (Soccer), Table tennis (ping-pong), Basketball, Badminton and Swimming.
HDB's modern public residential estates do normally provide a variety of recreational facilities, such as a swimming pool, as well as an indoors sport center where different sports can be practiced and a green park, with walking and jogging tracks.
Living on an island in the tropics, Singaporeans also enjoy a wide range of water activities, such as Swimming, Sailing, Kayaking, Water skiing and Scuba diving (there are some excellent diving sites, not far from Singapore's main island).
In the realm of spectator sports, soccer is the king. Singapore has its own professional football league, consisting of 10 teams that compete with each other in stadiums around the country. The national football team is also doing quite well and managed to win the Tiger cup, South-East Asia's premier football competition, in 1998, 2004 and 2007
Singapore's athletes have performed quite well in regional, as well as international competitions, especially Table tennis (ping-pong), Bowling, Water polo, Sailing and Silat (type of martial art that originates from southeast Asia).
Thanks to its colonial past, many of the city's residents enjoy traditional British sports, like Tennis, Bowling and Golf.
Shopping and entertainment
It is almost needless to say that as citizens of a modern and "hightechish" country, young Singaporeans are hooked onto the internet, as well as video games and multi-function electronic gadgets...
The elderly, on the other hand, seem to prefer traditional Chinese games and social gatherings at the local teashop.
Shopping is a national sport and a way of life in Singapore and the city's residents flock in droves into the fancy shopping malls and the exotic markets.
Going out to a restaurant or a pub with family and friends is a very popular pastime (not to mention Karaoke). That is because most residents live in relatively small apartments, so hosting many guests for dinner can be quite difficult for the average Singaporean.
The City, known as Asia's gourmet paradise, has thousands of restaurants and eating-houses, representing an array of cuisines from all over the world.
Very popular are the Food centers (also known as Hawker centers) - Those are large, open-air complexes, housing dozens of different food stalls with one common dinning area (patrons can fetch food from different stalls and seat together with their friends).