From Singapore’s delectable local cuisine to its award-winning airport, this little red dot has developed in a relatively short period of time into an attractive destination for tourists as well as foreigners who are considering living in Singapore. But, when most people think of Singapore, only the images of clean streets as well as greenery growing among concrete high-rise buildings probably fill their minds. Yes, Singapore is well-known internationally for being a clean and green city-state. However, these are not the only things this Lion City has to offer.
5 Unique Things that Sets Singapore Apart on the Global Stage
Keen to find out more about Singapore beyond its cleanliness and greenery? Here are some of the unique features of this tropical island:
Chatting in a Mixture of Languages
If you’re not familiar with Singlish, listening to conversations between the locals here will definitely leave you feeling confused and bewildered. Majority of Singaporeans are able to speak in at least two languages — English and their Mother Tongue (Mandarin, Malay or Tamil) — and this has resulted in a quirky language unique only to this little red dot. Known as Singlish (short for Singaporean English), this colloquial language has become a mainstay in the everyday conversations among Singaporeans. It can also include words from Chinese dialects such as Hokkien. Here are some examples of Singlish you’ll commonly hear on the streets of Singapore:
- Ending sentences with “lah”, “leh”, “lor” or “meh” (e.g. Don’t like that leh.)
- “Chope”, meaning to reserve (e.g. Let’s chope this table.)
- “Tabao”, meaning to take away food (e.g. Uncle, one mee goreng, tabao.)
- “Bo jio”, used when you’re not invited somewhere (e.g. You all went shopping? Bo jio.”)
Reserving Tables with Tissue Packets
Singaporeans have found an ingenious way to reserve their seats while eating out in hawker centres and coffee shops – by placing a packet of tissue on the table. This is definitely a bizarre cultural habit foreigners find hard to grasp, but it does the job. Other things that can be used to reserve seats are umbrellas, name cards, basically anything that can be placed on the table is fair game. So, if you see a packet of tissue or anything else on a table that is unoccupied, just assume that it has been taken.
Indulging in a Breakfast Feast of Kaya Toast
Singapore is well-known internationally for its mouthwatering local cuisine, and no food screams “Singapore” more than kaya toast. For the uninitiated, kaya is a spread mainly made up of coconut and eggs. It has a thick, creamy texture and is usually spread between two slices of toasted bread complete with a small square of butter. This traditional breakfast is a favourite among locals. For a complete Singaporean breakfast, the kaya toast is normally served with half-boiled eggs and a cup of coffee or tea. Personally, yours truly loves to dunk the toast in the half-boiled egg, just like how you might dunk a cookie in a cup of milk. The combination of kaya toast dipped in half-boiled egg might seem gross but the taste strangely works. Give it a go if you’re up for a food adventure!
Cooling Down with an Ice Cream Sandwich
Who says sandwiches are only reserved for sweet spreads and jams, or savoury ingredients like eggs and smoked salmon? If you’re looking for a dessert that is truly Singaporean (and cheap!), grab yourself an ice cream sandwich. And no, that’s not another name for some new, inventive way to serve ice cream. An ice cream sandwich literally refers to ice cream packed between two slices of bread — either white or rainbow-coloured ones. Sounds funny, we know, but don’t knock it until you try it. The ice cream sandwich is usually sold by elderly male vendors (lovingly known as “ice cream uncle” by locals) who can be found near popular shopping areas like Orchard Road or even at your neighbourhood void deck. The options of ice cream flavours are many, from chocolate to strawberry and even durian. If you don’t fancy eating ice cream with bread, you also have the option of having your ice cream sandwiched between two wafers instead.
Hanging Out at the Airport for Fun
Some airports in other countries are notorious for being extremely unpleasant places to be in, what with the throngs of people rushing for their flights, inefficient service as well as under-developed amenities. For foreigners who have had bad airport experiences while travelling, hearing that Singaporeans sometimes spend their free time at the airport might sound like the weirdest thing in the world. But, once you’ve had the chance to hang around Changi Airport, you’ll understand exactly why the locals here make a trip to the airport even though they’re not travelling overseas. Completed with various art exhibitions (including ones of interesting facts of the airport), eateries as well as viewing galleries that allows the public to feast their eyes on airplane takeoffs, Changi Airport has a lot to offer to both Singaporeans and tourists alike.