Don't be fooled by the map. It's all one big city.
"Clearly you've never been to Singapore..."
Clearly, the writers of Pirates of the Caribbean
hadn't either... the place is depicted as a large town at the close of the era of pirates, when it was in fact a swampy island (which had formerly
been a major trading hub until the Majapahit Empire had enough of that
and started massacring people on the island) until being bought up at the start of the era of empires by Sir Stamford Raffles, who was just about the opposite of Lord Cutler Beckett and quite a guy. To be fair, though, they got other things right: Chinese formed a big part of the population of Singapore when it did exist and the Straits of Malacca by which its sits are even today a (comparative) pirate hotspot. Also, prior to becoming a Crown Colony in the latter part of the 19th Century, it did
have a reputation of being a Wretched Hive
with rampant crime, corruption and opium; a derisive nickname given to it at the time was "Sin Galore."
A British colony for a while, it was captured by the Japanese in 1942 after they came in via the jungle on bicycles - the naval guns were pointed out to sea. Winston Churchill
called it the worst disaster in British history. This event, and the subsequent war atrocities, is generally acknowledged as the trigger of the local awakening
that the Western colonial powers weren't - and were never - invincible
, and when the British returned, the independence movement kicked into full gear with the Cold War
as a backdrop, with self-governance being granted in 1959.
In 1963, Singapore declared independence from the British Empire as part of Malaysia
, but this didn't stick due to the Malaysian-Indonesian Konfrontasi
(the only armed conflict where Singaporean soldiers died), where Indonesian leader Sukarno attempted to forcibly incorporate Malaysia into his "Greater Indonesia", leading to acts of state-sponsored terrorism and border clashes in Borneo and the very
violent racial riots between Chinese and Malays, exacerbated by the political squabbling between the central Malaysian government and Singapore. As such, on 9 August 1965, Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew tearfully announced Singapore's independence from Malaysia.
Similarly, Singapore is not made of iron ore
, as Tom Waits
would tell you, although it probably isn't a good idea to fall asleep while you're ashore.
Singapore, officially known as the Republic of Singapore (Malay: Republik Singapura
; Chinese: 新加坡共和国
; Tamil: சிங்கப்பூர் குடியரசு
), is an island city-state in South-East Asia, about 700 square kilometers in total land area, splitting from Malaysia in 1965, a state it still has some disputes with. Ties between the citizens of both countries remain extremely close, since almost everyone has friends, family, and/or business on the other side of the causeway.
It is notable that, of all the countries established in the 1960s, it went from a third-world-country to an incredibly prosperous and rich island nation. The typical Singaporean citizen is multilingual, highly-educated, and well-paid, with good exposure to several different cultures. The pollution is pretty much non-existent, the infrastructure is highly-developed and still being improved, and the overall cleanliness is stunning, seemingly impossible to attain considering its urban AND tropical nature. The homeless, poor, and the elderly are generally well-cared for, yet the economy takes the burden in its stride. It commands a respectable military, and there are enough policemen for each square kilometre, combined with government protocols, means that safety and law enforcement remain extremely high. All in all, it is an extremely successful and efficient First World Country, especially considering where it was fifty years ago, with a booming economy, great prosperity, and much general comfort despite the humidity.
Sounds amazing, right? Wouldn't mind going there to study or work, or for a holiday? Well, there are a couple of caveats. It IS a great place to live in, but there are some things you'll need to watch out for. Humidity, hot sun, and mosquitoes are only the tip of the iceberg.
It's a somewhat conservative democracy, with very frequent use of the death penalty (400 hangings between 1991 and 2004 - note that the place had a population of 4 million
at the time), including for drug trafficking. (This is usually Justified, though; the crime rate is so pathetically low that the government had to put up posters reminding the population that there still is criminal activity at all. While the justice system can be harsh, it is incredibly useful at keeping the city clean and safe, while giving great freedom as long as one doesn't break the laws). The use of caning
is also common as a punishment, as an American tourist by the name of Michael Fay
found out the hard way in 1994 after being arrested for theft and vandalism. It has several notably restrictive laws - it discourages homosexuality and bans same-sex marriages, intentional littering leads to fines, the possession of porn, and the sale of chewing gum
, amongst others. (Fortunately, the penalties for all but the first are simply fining and/or community service; the goal is to keep the city clean and safe, not to lock people up. And chewing gum itself is not banned; but bringing large amounts for the sake of capitalist sale is. Bringing in a few handfuls of gum to share with your friends or for yourself is perfectly fine, unless you stick the end result on public property.) William Gibson
once memorably described the place as "Disneyland with the death penalty
, and the locals make jokes about this - you can get T-shirts saying "Singapore is a fine city
", enumerating most of the fines one is likely to incur for various misdemeanours. The government finally passed laws allowing controlled gambling a couple of years back, and two large casino resorts have been completed (though the term "Integrated Resort" is preferred
). With the new tourism spike, the government is loosening some of their stricter laws.
The 15th wealthiest country per capita in the world (5th by purchasing power, 3rd if you go by IMF data), it is very densely populated, mostly of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian ethnicity. The general population is undergoing some interesting developments, with Singaporeans emigrating to other countries while foreigners
come to the country seeking high paying jobs. This has been of much talk among the local population, creating the saying "National Service for the locals, jobs for the foreigners", National Service referring to the mandatory 2 years of full-time military service for male Singapore citizens.
Due to the high population density, much of the population live in high-rise government developments. Some of the newer developments are nice enough to be mistaken for private condominiums, although some unsatisfied people have claimed that a few of the newer apartments are as small as the 'pigeonhole' apartments made back in the old days, only more modern.
Singapore is ostensibly a representative democracy, although some political science professors would disagree rather vehemently. The primary political party, the People's Action Party (PAP), has dominated elections since self-government in 1959 much like Malaysia, but their lead slipped in the 2006 election. However, since the 2008 Malaysian election where opposition parties achieve significant gains, the PAP has become wary of changing political tides. In the 2011 election, the PAP's lead slipped once more, with various important constituencies nearly taken by the opposition note
There is speculation that Singapore might end up as a two-party system with the Worker's Party (WP), especially with the first leader of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew and unofficial leader of PAP, finally retiring. Despite this, much of Singapore's influence and prosperity comes from initially unpopular policies started by the PAP. Politically, it is now one of the USA's best buds in the Pacific, especially in South-East Asia. In fact, it maintains good relationships with an abundance of other nations, generally ranging from 'friendly acquaintance' to BFF.
Some military analysts rank the Singapore Armed Forces as the best equipped and trained force in the region, since its highly-educated pool of conscripts allows it to invest in more advanced military technology. Recruitment is mostly on a conscription basis using a system similar to Israel's, with able-bodied male citizens above a certain age (sixteen and a half, almost always deferred until eighteen after schooling) serving one and a half to two years of National Service, followed by Reservist duty annually. Note that 16-year-olds would be considered child soldiers, according to an optional protocol to the Geneva Convention. However, the entrance standards tend to be much higher than the average 16-year-old could manage without rigorous training. In all, it is considered an extremely rare, surprising occurrence for someone younger than 18 to show up.
There is also the Singapore Civil Defense Force, which started as a normal fire brigade and was made what it has become when the government decided to upgrade the organisation following the infamous Hotel New World incident in the 1980s, coincidentally the time when the murderer Adrian Lim was at large (he has since been made to dance the hemp fandango). The SCDF is also manned by conscripted full-time NS men, and now encompasses the handling of biochemical and radioactive materials, as well as first aid.
Singapore is also a very secular society and have strong sense of religious tolerance, as there a wide variety of religions that Singaporeans practice. In fact, Singapore is one of the few states where their population does not
have a majority religion (Buddhism, the most practiced religion in Singapore, is followed by roughly 33% of their population). The only religions that Singapore bans is the Jehovah Witnesses note
and Unification Church note
. Singapore also doesn't tolerate any material that encourages racism or religious discrimination, and ban materials that does so (such as Chick Tracts
Special mention must be made of the local flavor of "English" - while engrish
is also commonplace due to lazy translators
is what gives the Singaporean experience its unique, 101% genuine feel (the extra 1% is because we're kiasu (scared to lose out)
). Singlish is a bizarre amalgamation of a language, made mostly of English with choicy bits of Malay, Mandarin, and various Chinese dialects like Hokkien mixed in. Don't mock the language by speaking it poorly, as it'll only make you sound even sillier than we do.
The cost of living is ridiculously high. Fortunately, the large amount of high-paying corporate jobs, as well as copious amounts of government welfare programs, means that the average Singaporean salary is more than capable of taking it. If you're a tourist looking for expensive meals and good living, though, set up a heavy budget and research ahead, or your wallet will bleed. In fact, if you don't plan your money carefully, any holiday-maker can expect their money to drain quickly.
Neil Humphreys, a thoroughly decent bloke from Dagenham
, has written a really good trilogy of books on his life in Singapore, starting with Notes from an Even Smaller Island
He has also gained a lot of weight from enjoying our fine international cuisine
- but beware of the peanut soup
In short, Singapore is an up-and-coming island nation, which is excellent to live and work in, or even just come for a holiday. While sometimes restrictive, it doesn't trespass on any great freedoms. It can handle itself in a war or in emergencies (though it's pathetic on the scale of the military superpowers), and possesses a remarkable combination of cleanliness, safety, and comfort. Just don't break the law, make sure to read all warning signs, and manage your budget well. And, if you intend to live there, be prepared to be diligent, working hard and doing your duty.
Singapore in fiction:
- Jenny Quantum, The Authority.
- Tyger Tiger a.k.a Jessan Hoan, Marvel Comics.
- The titular character of Mr Kiasu, as written by the Kuppies (their pen name).
- The food-themed Roti, Kaya, and Guyu, superheroes who run a kaya-sandwich shop, also written by the Kuppies.
- The Siak (pronounced Sok) Republic in Ghost in the Shell.
- Not only does Cowboy Bebop feature a Singaporean character, the Singapore Merlion statue actually features in key episodes involving her.
- Madripoor, a No Communities Were Harmed version in Marvel Comics, although there is a separate Singapore in this universe.
- The Blue Marvel once stopped what looked like Parliament House from crashing and falling.
- The Plutonian sinks the entire island, killing everyone on it, in Irredeemable.
- Singapore has been mentioned in at least one James Bond film. Seems like MI6 has a tiny branch here.
- I Not Stupid, an affectionate satire of Singapore's former education system.
- Singapore has gotten mentions in Batman Begins, as where parts of Batman's cowl are manufactured.
- Be With Me
- Parts of In the Mood for Love are set in Singapore.
- In The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Harry Osborn mentions to Peter Parker that he spent some time in Singapore.
- Film/Agent47 is the first major Hollywood production to be filmed in Singapore which, in addition to Berlin, is where the film is set.
- The Singapore Wink a novel by Ross Thomas.
- As per the Film example, Singapore has been mentioned a grand total of once in the James Bond novels, as where 0011 has been reported to have disappeared.
- James Clavell's novel King Rat (part of his Asian Saga series) is set in Singapore's notorious Changi prison during World War II.
- Serangoon Road, a 2013 co-production between the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and HBO Asia. It's set in 1960s Singapore and focuses on an Australian expat and the Chinese woman who runs a detective agency he does casual work for.
- House of Harmony depicts a romance between a Singaporean Chinese woman and an American expatriate in the 1920s.
- AH.com: The Series featured a futuristic cyberpunk version of Singapore that has been launched into space and now orbits the Earth; it is the original home of crew member Flocculencio.
- Freeware RPG game Everlong has a small fishing village named Singapore. Given that Singapore used to be a fishing village, it might not be entirely coincidental.
- Battlefield 4, a First-Person Shooter that features Singapore in one of its campaign missions.
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution: Part of it is set in a futuristic Singapore. Specifically, Omega Ranch, a biotech research facility that is where all the surviving scientists are being held. Now that the Singapore government is focusing on promoting its biotechnology industry, this may not be too far-fetched.
Notable shows in Singapore:
- Under One Roof - A longrunning sitcom that featured the Tan family, who live in a HDB flat in Bishan. Tan Ah Teck (played by Moses Lim) is the awesome, if overweight, father of the house, with many a humorous aesop, all of which taking place "Long, long ago, in the Southern province of China."
- Phua Chu Kang - A sitcom (starring Gurmit Singh) about an Ah Beng construction contractor, his inept employees, and his family. Season One features a lot of Singlish, which was later cut as part of the government's Speak Good English campaign. They handwave the dropping of Singlish by claiming that Chu Kang was sent for English lessons between seasons.
- Gotcha - a now-defunct show akin to Just for Laughs and Candid Camera.
- The Unbeatables - a Chinese-language drama with amazing gambling stunts, which starred two Great Old Names of Caldecott Hill, Zoe Tay and Li Nanxing.
- Triple Nine - An old crime drama starring the local Criminal Investigation Department, or CID.
- VR Man - A short, one-season wonder featuring a pager which the titular hero used as a transformation device. It was very heavy on the narm.
- The Golden Pillow - Another popular Chinese-language drama.
- The Little Nyonya - An extremely popular drama featuring the local culture of the Straits-born Chinese, or Peranakan folk. It's popularity has warranted a DVD release of the entire series.
- @ Moulmein High - A teen drama set in a Secondary school. In addition to featuring the students, the show also featured the teaching staff and the romances that budded between them.
- Growing Up - a long-running English-language drama chronicling the trials and tribulations of an everyday family, spanning the 60s to the 90s.
- Makan Sutra - A little show which highlighted quite a lot of good places to eat in Singapore, hosted by effervescent, Vespa-riding, self-proclaimed "makan guru" KF Seetoh.
- Crimewatch - A police-sponsored current affairs/pubic service program which occasionally highlights interesting case-files (by way of re-enactments) to show how good the boys in blue are at catching the crooks.
- The Noose - Something of a Follow the Leader to The Colbert Report and The Daily Show With John Stewart, this spoof news program goes with demographical rather than political stereotypes, and content-wise comes close enough to crossing the line to last seven seasons thus far. The disclaimer before the OP helps.
In a related vein, Singaporean adaptations of shows from overseas are equally popular, including local versions of American Idol
, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
, The Weakest Link
, Deal or No Deal
, Million Dollar Money Drop, Don't Forget The Lyrics, Just for Laughs: Gags
and Minute to Win It
The Singaporean flag
The flag's red and white stripes symbolize fraternity and virtue, respectively; at the canton is the crescent symbolizing Singapore as a youthful nation, and the five stars symbolize the city-state's ideals of democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality. The similarity to the Islamic Crescent and Stars is coincidental, but evocative.