That Well Examined Species

Singapore child

Singaporeans - you live among them, you work with them and you play with them every day.

But who are they? What drives them and why? What are the things that make a Singaporean a Singaporean?

Here are some of my impressions from the last three years - certainly not objective by any means...:)

100 Singaporeans at the Food Court

Let's start with some basics:

  • If you live in Singapore, you will be surrounded by 5.2 million people,of which 3.25 million will be actual Singaporean citizens.
  • In the square kilometer around you, you will have 7,021 neighbors.
  • Not really, though, because at any given time, about 30,000 visitors will be on the island, amounting to another 11 million visitors per year.

Let's deep dive a bit:

If you meet 100 Singaporeans at a local hawker food court,

  • 75 will be ethnic Chinese,
  • 13 will be ethnic Malay,
  • 9 will be ethnic Indian and
  • 3 will come from everywhere else in the world.

Of those 100 Singaporeans:

  • 96 will be literate,
  • 91 will have at least a secondary education with at least 10 years of schooling behind them and
  • 66 will be in the workforce.

These people will use

  • English as their language of administration, business and schooling,
  • Mandarin, Malay and Tamil as national languages and various other dialects or languages such as Hokkien, Cantonese or Teochew.
  • Singlish - which is like a mishmash of all of the above and quite the learning experience for some of us foreigners here.

They will

  • be about 37 years old, and expect to live to 79 and 84 years respectively (men vs. women)
  • live in a subsidized flat with 2.5 other people (hmm)
  • own 140 cell phones and
  • 11 of them will have a car - the rest rides a bus, train or cab
  • The guys will have done or be doing 2 years of national service and another 40 days of yearly service until they are 40 or 50
  • The gals will be having 1.1 babies (hmm - a tenth of a baby?) during their lifetime - not enough to replenish the population - and face the usual paradoxes of working vs. childcare and coping with male dominance in the business world.

And finally, of the 100 people at our statistical hawker food court,

  • 33 will say they are Bhuddist
  • 18 will say they are Christian
  • 15 will say they are Muslims
  • 11 will say they are Taoists
  • 9 will say they are Hindus
  • 17 will say the are not adherents of any religion.

Facts Are One Thing - What Are Singaporeans Really Like, Though?

In no particular order:

  • they love to eat, especially laksa, chicken rice, soups, carrot cake (stir-fried radish with egg), kaya toast, curry puffs and nasi biryani
  • drink tons of ultra-strong coffee with sweetened condensed milk PLUS sugar (Kopi, Kopi C, Kop O, etc. etc.)
  • they love to shop, queue for bargains, make small talk and travel
  • they are very tolerant of other religions and lifestyles
  • they like to jaywalk, cut queues, sometimes smoke in non-smoking areas and get medical certificates to cut a day from work - (says a survey done by 'Taboo" toymaker Hasbro in Nov 2011)
  • they worry about house prices, car prices, food prices and all the other prices of everything else on the island and abroad
  • they like to complain about government policies and call on the government regularly to regulate and fix problems with drains, roads, housing, malls, cleanliness, foreign talent, salt in hawker food, litter, taxis in bus bays or traffic light intervals
  • watch movies in really cold theaters on the weekend
  • are driven by kiasu, a 'me first, can't lose face, must succeed before others' attitude
  • have turn signals on cars but seldom use them
  • tend to see the markings on roads as general lines of orientation
  • work alot and work hard to get ahead

So, as you can see - Singaporeans are just like anybody else on the planet.

Have a look at what the CIA has to say about Singapore:

CIA Fact Book Singapore.

And here are are the numbers behind it all:

Singaporeans according to SingStat

City Hall Singapore
Parachute, Singapore
Frangipani, Singapore
Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Chinatown, Singapore
HDB, Singapore
Mosque, Singapore