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Useful Notes / Singapore

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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 invaded, with the fleeing rajah founding the Sultanate of Melaka, which itself fell to the Dutch, who finished the job the Majapahit started in about 1612, terminating any large-scale trade for two centuries) 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 guynote . 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." Its Wretched Hive reputation was revived for a short while after its full independence in 1965 (see below); the lawlessness was largely tamed by the 1980s.

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 NOT pointed out to sea, as widely believed. They did not, however, have a lot of HE (High-Explosive) rounds, and the guns had to resort to firing ineffective armor-piercing rounds after these ran out. Winston Churchill called it the worst disaster in British history, which is wholly accurate in pure numeric terms. 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 (the Malayan Emergency raged on as Communists attempted to overthrow the British-backed government), 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 younote , although it probably isn't a good idea to fall asleep while you're ashore.

The Republic of Singapore (Malay: Republik Singapura; Chinese: 新加坡共和国 Xīnjiāpō gònghéguó; Tamil: சிங்கப்பூர் குடியரசு Ciṅkappūr kuṭiyaracu), is an island city-state in Southeast 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, which 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 some things you'll need to watch out for. It can be a great place to live in, but it does have a dark side.

In addition to the humidity, hot sun, and mosquitoes, Singapore has garnered a fairly infamous reputation for being incredibly strict and conservative when it comes to its laws - 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. (The crime rate in Singapore is pathetically low though, so depending on your point of view the death penalty may or may not be a necessary evil or even a good thing to keep citizens in line. 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: discouraging homosexuality and banning same-sex marriagesnote , issuing fines for intentional littering, outlawing the possession of porn, and banning the sale of chewing gum,note  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. William Gibson once memorably described the place as "Disneyland with the death penalty"note , 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 Singaporean 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. 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 remaining the unofficial leader of the PAP), finally retiring and then proceeding to die in 2015 at the age of 91. note  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 Defence 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, and is known for infamous Toa Payoh ritual murders). 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 are 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). Religious tolerance, however, is seen as Serious Business, and any offensive remarks or discriminatory manner towards other religions will most likely lead into serious trouble with the authorities.

Special mention must be made of the local English dialect - while engrish is also commonplace due to lazy translators, Singlish is what gives the Singaporean experience its unique, 101% genuine feel (the extra 1% is because we're kiasu (scared to lose out)). Singlish, as already indicated by the name, as an English-based creole, formed from language contact between the many languages in Singapore when it was under British rule, including Mandarin Chinese, Malay, Cantonese, Hokkien, Teochew, and Tamil. Attitudes towards Singlish vary, but it is nevertheless spoken by the overwhelming majority of Singaporeans in informal situations. Officially speaking, Singlish is heavily frowned upon, and seen as nothing more than heavily modified English, and an indication of low education. A more-than-cursory look, however, reveals that although Singlish has a primarily-English lexicon, its grammar is much closer to that of Mandarin Chinese or Malay.

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. note  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 most 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.

Fictional Singaporeans:



  • 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.

Video Games

Web Original

  • SCP Foundation: "Mr. Ji Fan" a.k.a SCP-2857 appears to be a regular Chinese-looking local, who has a fondness for cooking Hainanese chicken rice... that happens to be anomalously addictive to anyone else who eats it. Amongst his claims to have been forcibly teleported from an alternate future timeline (somewhere past his supposed birth year: 2029), he also mentions having a doctorate in chicken rice preparation from a non-existent culinary school and somewhat involved in a future conflict involving a feud between "chicken ricers" and chili-crabbers".
  • Jennifer Chase from Shin Hyakuji High School.

Singapore in fiction:



  • Madripoor, a No Communities Were Harmed version in Marvel Comics, although there is a separate Singapore in this universe. In-Universe, Madripoor is essentially the opposite of modern-day Singapore, being a crime-filled Wretched Hive, and is often bought, taken over, our used as the home of various terrorist and criminal operations, from HYDRA to the Maggia to the Brotherhood of Mutants. Think Gotham City if it was located in the middle of Asia.
    • The Blue Marvel once stopped what looked like Parliament House from crashing and falling.
    • The X-Corps from are also said to have a branch here.
  • The Plutonian sinks the entire island, killing everyone on it, in Irredeemable.
  • The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew details the life and work of Singapore's greatest comics artist, and how his works are affected by the history of Singapore itself.


  • Ah Boys to Men, is a series of Singaporean-Malaysian films about National Service in Singapore.
  • In The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Harry Osborn mentions to Peter Parker that he spent some time in Singapore.
  • Around the World in 80 Days (2004): While on the run from colonial authorities in India, Phileas Fogg mentions, but quickly dismisses Singapore and Hong Kong as railroad destinations to avoid capture in British-occupied territories.
  • Singapore has gotten mentions in Batman Begins, as where parts of Batman's cowl are manufactured.
  • Be With Me
  • In Independence Day: Resurgence the (absurdly China-looking) island nation along the rest of Asia is obliterated by the arrival of alien mothership.
  • Parts of In the Mood for Love are set in Singapore.
  • I Not Stupid, an affectionate satire of Singapore's former education system.
  • The second act of Hitman: Agent 47 is set in Singapore, where the Syndicate International headquarters is located.
  • Singapore has been mentioned in at least one James Bond film. Seems like MI6 has a tiny branch here in Tomorrow Never Dies, where the jamming signal from the Carver Media satellite gets picked up on.
  • Ilo Ilo, a family drama implicitly set during the Asian Financial Crisis detailing the struggles of being a maid in Singapore, was the country's first entry to win an award at the Cannes film festival.
  • Crazy Rich Asians, as with the book it's adapted from (see below), takes place mostly in Singapore and concerns itself with the lives of its 1%.


  • Classic Singapore Horror Stories from Damien Sin, a Singaporean ex-poet and writer, one of the most influential example of local Singaporean literature.
  • Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians is about the lifestyle of the insanely rich in Singapore. It focuses on an Asian-American girl whose boyfriend takes her to his hometown in Singapore for his best friend's wedding where she discovers that he comes from an extremely wealthy and influential Singaporean Old Money family who lives in a palace. Much of the country's culture is introduced here.
  • 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.
  • The Singapore Wink a novel by Ross Thomas.
  • The Singapore Grip, a 1978 novel by Booker Prize winner J.G. Farrell focuses on the lives of white and Chinese residents of Singapore during World War II. It was adapted into a six-part ITV series in 2020.

Live-Action TV

  • The Criminal Minds spinoff series Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders Season 2 Episode 6 takes place in Singapore, where the International Response Team investigates the murders of two American air stewardesses. The episode drew plenty of flak from local online netizens for their stereotypical, orientalist depiction of Singapore's geography and culture; namely locales that look more in line with China or Hong Kong, the depiction of Geylang Serai as a red-light district (sort-of correct) that is an "overcrowded slum with a thriving underworld" (very wrong) and pushing a narrative about the 'draconian state' laws that contrast with what the American characters are used to back home.
  • House of Harmony depicts a romance between a Singaporean Chinese woman and an American expatriate in the 1920s.
  • 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.
  • Suburgatory: Dalia's father gets married and moves to Singapore, since it's where his new wife comes from and when Dalia finds out about it, she's upset because they don't bring her.
  • Most of the futuristic city scenes in Season 3 of Westworld were filmed in Singapore. However, episode 4 shows Serac bringing Maeve to the city because the Rehoboam system detected a divergence in Arnold's house where Dolores built five host bodies after leaving from Westworld. Maeve spends the rest of the episode looking for the identities of these hosts.

Web Original

  • Polandball has Singapore be uniquely triangular-shaped (besides Bermuda) instead of spherical, and jokes concerning Singlish, capital punishment, karoshi and its relative wealth are rife there, lah.
  • SCP Foundation has SCP-2965, which was found in [REDACTED] Station of the Circle Line MRT.

Video Games

  • Ace Combat: The world of Strangereal has a counterpart to Singapore in the form of the city-state of Selatapura. Fittingly, it is located in the southernmost tip of the Usea continent and plays a big part of the Lighthouse War conflict in Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown due to the Space Elevator built near the city.
  • Battlefield
    • Battlefield 4 features Chinese-occupied Singapore in one of its campaign missions.
    • Battlefield 2042: The multiplayer map "Manifest" is set at a port in Pulau Brani, Singapore. In the climate-change ravaged world of 2042, a sea wall that has successfully staved off the global rising sea levels was built around the island, making Singapore one of the last viable shipping ports in the entire world for maritime trade.
  • Call of Duty
    • Call of Duty: Black Ops II has a Strike Force Mission take place within a futuristic Keppel Harbour, with the Singapore skyline visible in the background. The multiplayer map "Cargo" takes place at the aforementioned Harbour.
    • In Call of Duty: Black Ops III, a futuristic Singapore is featured prominently in the single-player campaign. The advanced, wealthy city has since declined rapidly since 2060 after an industrial accident contaminates most of the Central Business District and is now under quarantine. The 54 Immortals, a local triad gang continues to perform nefarious criminal operations within the containment walls after the government abandons reclamation efforts due to frequent typhoons hitting the regionnote .
  • D4DJ Groovy Mix: The first event story, "NonS.T.O.P. the Best!!", features the four women of the DJ unit Merm4id going on a vacation to Singapore and explore popular local landmarks. Notably, the Visual Novel-style interface uses actual photos of Singapore rather than the usual generic background illustrations.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Mario Kart: Befitting its World Tour theme, Mario Kart Tour has a course based off of Singapore, the aptly-named Singapore Speedway. It was later added as a DLC course in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
  • Mass Effect mentions in the Codex that Singapore is the site of a Space Elevator, and considering that Singapore is the only prosperous and highly developed industrialized nation along the equator, it makes a lot of sense for one to be there. In the backstory, Singapore was the site of a transport accident that caused a major Element Zero contamination incident, exposing a lot of children in-utero and causing the development of biotics: party member Kaidan Alenko was one of these babies.
  • Medal of Honor: Rising Sun has a level set in Singapore during the Japanese Occupation, where OSS agents Joe and Tanaka attempts to infiltrate a secret Axis meeting held at Raffles Hotel while passing by old monumental landmarks such as Chinatown, Jamae Mosque and Sri Mariamman Temple.
  • Need for Speed: Nitro features Singapore as one of the five global cities for a place for street racing.
  • In the WWII RTS game Men of War: Assault Squad and it's sequel, a 1940s Singapore is one of the scenarios, featuring the playable attacking Imperial Japanese Army against the defending Commonwealth forces. It is depicted as a generic lush jungle terrain map and the British forces in possession of far too many tanks stationed there at the time in real life (read: zero).

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: Gags 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/public 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 Jon 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.
  • OK Chope! - Another Follow the Leader, this time to panel shows like Mock the Week (which has been obliquely acknowledged in the show). Several major changes to the formula include handing buzzers to all the players (referencing how the name "chope" is Singlish for claiming seats in an eatery or something similar), and pre-filmed segments like interviews to keep the show that much more current and relevant.
  • Tanglin - Named for one of the more upmarket residential areas in Singapore, this is Mediacorp's first English-language long-form drama, screening 5 nights a week in order to churn out over 400 episodes to date.

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.

The Singaporean national anthem

Mari kita rakyat Singapura
Sama-sama menuju bahagia
Cita-cita kita yang mulia
Berjaya Singapura

Marilah kita bersatu
Dengan semangat yang baru
Semua kita berseru
Majulah Singapura
Majulah Singapura

Marilah kita bersatu
Dengan semangat yang baru
Semua kita berseru
Majulah Singapura
Majulah Singapura




சிங்கப்பூர் மக்கள் நாம்
செல்வோம் மகிழ்வை நோக்கியே
சிங்கப்பூரின் வெற்றிதான்
சிறந்த நம் நாட்டமே

ஒன்றிணைவோம் அனைவரும்
ஓங்கிடும் புத்துணர்வுடன்
முழங்குவோம் ஒன்றித்தே
முன்னேறட்டும் சிங்கப்பூர்
முன்னேறட்டும் சிங்கப்பூர்

ஒன்றிணைவோம் அனைவரும்
ஓங்கிடும் புத்துணர்வுடன்
முழங்குவோம் ஒன்றித்தே
முன்னேறட்டும் சிங்கப்பூர்
முன்னேறட்டும் சிங்கப்பூர்

Come, we fellow Singaporeans
Let us progress towards happiness together
May our noble aspiration make
Singapore successful

Come, let us unite
With a new spirit
Together we all proclaim
Onward Singapore
Onward Singapore

Come, let us unite
With a new spirit
Together we all proclaim
Onward Singapore
Onward Singapore

  • Unitary dominant-party parliamentary constitutional republic
    • President: Halimah Yacob
    • Prime Minister: Lee Hsien Loong
    • Chief Justice: Sundaresh Menon
    • Parliament Speaker: Tan Chuan-Jin

  • Capital: Singapore
  • Largest region by population: Central Region
  • Population: 5,703,600
  • Area: 728.3 km² (281.2 sq mi) (176th)
  • Currency: Singapore dollar (S$) (SGD)
  • ISO-3166-1 Code: SG
  • Country calling code: 65
  • Highest point: Bukit Timah Hill (164 m/537 ft) (191st)
  • Lowest point: Singapore Strait (22 m/72 ft) (-)