December 18, 2016
If you get to travel the world or even between cities often, you would often notice characteristic traits of the locals in the places you visit. From the drawl of a Texan accent to the peculiar Indian head shake, every trait has been passed down through generations. When you are in Singapore, see if you can spot these three traits!
When Singapore gained independence from the British in 1963, the young nation tried to be a part of Malaysia. Though the experiment failed, it led to the Malay culture becoming an integral part of the island-city state. As you walk down the streets of Singapore you will inevitably hear Chinese, English and Malay words spoken all in one sentence! This is our colloquial hybrid language – Singlish.
Singlish is an expressive yet informal language that was born from a blend of words largely borrowed from the Malay language and various Chinese dialects like Hokkien. With its own unique syntax and colourful vocabulary, Singlish makes communication enjoyable and more efficient for the locals. For example, when tucking into a plate of delicious chicken rice or having a relaxing massage we say “shiok!” as an emphatic expression of enjoyment and when we are ordering coffee with evaporated milk and no sugar we simply say “kopi c kosong”.
P.S. It will take some “studying” to learn Singlish from scratch so we have compiled a list of 10 common Singlish phrases to help you during your visit.
The diverse cultures that led to the birth of Singlish has also influenced the local food scene. With a wide range of delights ranging from hawker fare (e.g. satay & carrot cake) to restaurant fare (e.g. chilli crab & cereal prawns), no foodie on a visit to Singapore will ever leave disappointed.
However, be prepared to queue for good food because as the locals say, “if there is a queue, it must be good!”. We can queue hours for our Michelin-starred hawker stalls or just to satisfy our steamboat/hot pot craving at Hai Di Lao Hot Pot. When it comes to queueing for food at hawker centres or food courts, another Singaporean idiosyncrasy can be easily discovered – to “chope” or reserve tables with tissue packets or other inexpensive items while we queue for our food (P.S. this is not considered a rude act among the locals).
Besides loving to queue for good food, we also love to take photos of our food before we even begin to eat. Purpose? For Facebook shares, Instagram glory and perhaps as an attempt to justify the calorie intake.
When you arrive in Singapore’s Changi International Airport, you will experience one of the world’s most efficient Immigration and Customs clearance. This is a prelude to the society you will experience.
From checking into your hotels to eating at a restaurant and buying tickets for an attraction, you will notice the promptness in our service. On a daily basis, we talk and move so fast that we were even crowned the world’s fastest walkers in a 2007 study.
Efficiency has become an integral part of the meritocratic society that Singapore has built up over her independent years. This is perhaps why there is also an ingrained attitude of competitiveness that we term as “kiasu”, a Hokkien word that equates to the fear of losing out. The “kiasu” local likes to be first in line when freebies are being given out, makes advanced bookings and never misses out on bargains.