(TL;DR: Singapore is really weird, and we love it.)
If you’re a true-blue Singaporean, then you may not realise how unusual Singapore is. From our unique culture, our quirky habits, and unique government, this little red dot is truly a country that can’t be replicated.
Here are 9 ways Singapore is one of the most unusual countries around.
1. We have a love-hate relationship with our unofficial national language
Singlish may have seemed crude to many early on, but it’s now been our main identifier of local culture. The English-based language mixed with English, Malay, Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Tamil not only gives us a glimpse into our past, it is our secret weapon to gather Singaporeans from wherever you are in the world.
It even survived the “Speak Good English Movement” to make it to the SG50 celebrations!
2. We have tons of nostalgia for a 50-year-old country
Singapore just celebrated its 50th birthday as an independent state, and will be celebrating their 51st this year, making it much younger than even some of our parents! It’s hard to believe that the country is so young, especially when you think about how established of a city it is. And so very famous, with many important BFFs!
Nonetheless, Singaporeans are still so nostalgic it hurts! Whether its 80s, 70s, or 60s, we love thinking back to our simple kampung roots. We’re like a proud parent gushing over our child all grown up.
3. Our unions believe in working in harmony instead of fighting
Huh? Say that again? Yes, really very very few places in the whole wide world can lay claim to what we can. That we actually have a harmonious tripatite relationship amongst the G, the employers and the workers! The only other place we’ve heard such social partnership exists is Barbardos!
As shared by Chan Chun Sing, Secretary-General of NTUC, cooperation and collective bargaining are the heart of Singapore’s unions. The unique way that the unions work are due to our model of tripartism, which pulls unions, companies, and the government to the same (level!) table, where they can negotiate peacefully for changes and improvements for the workers’ lives.
How strange vis-a-vis the often loud and rowdy union strikes and protests overseas!
4. We have the weirdest laws
We all know about the chewing gum ban, but Singapore is full of strange laws that keep our country the clean, structured, well-oiled machine that it is. Want to walk around your home naked? Please make sure nobody, like absolutely nobody can see you. Want to own a sex toy? Probably punishable by 3 months’ jail and/or fine according to Section 292(a). Drop an empty coke can on the floor, and it will cost you a whopping $500 (fine).
5. Tissue paper is power
Want to get a table at a hawker centre during lunch time? Make sure you have a pack of tissue paper handy. Once you’ve placed that little packet of white paper down, it’s yours for the taking.
6. The government gives us money to help us get jobs
A new initiative, SkillsFuture, was set up to encourage Singaporeans to pick up new skills. With a database of classes, e-courses, and training opportunities, Singaporeans from 25 years and up will be able to improve their own skillset and become more employable. On top of that, Singaporeans get $500 worth of SkillsFuture Credit each, which is essentially the government giving us money so that we can in turn earn more money.
Talk about a good deal!
7. We have a theme park straight from hell
Ask Singaporeans for the weirdest place to go to in Singapore, and they’ll likely tell you about Haw Par Villa, the strangest theme park in the country. Created by the developers of Tiger Balm, the theme park isn’t filled with rides and artery-clogging food, but statues depicting Chinese folklore and Confucianism beliefs.
weird strange mysterious place with a contorted history, changing owners and management through the many many years. It’s like everyone knows we’ve got something really special in our hands, but no one really knows what to do with it. The tourists on Tripadvisor seem to love it though, check out their reviews here.
While they have more ‘pleasant and normal’ themes, like Journey to the West and Romance of the Three Kingdoms, there is also an area depicting the “Ten Courts of Hell”, filled with statues of people being tortured in various ways. Not exactly the stuff you’d want your kids to see.
Anyway, it seems that we’re not done with revamping Haw Par Villa. Latest news in December 2015 said that yet another overhaul will happen over this year.
8. We have a government-sponsored dating agency
Afraid of the prospect that young successful Singaporeans will lose interest in dating and thus not get married and have children, the Social Development Unit (SDU) was set up to help them meet potential lifetime partners through various activities like singles cruises, personal-effectiveness workshops, computer courses, barbecues, and dancing lessons.
These days, it’s been renamed the Social Development Network (SDN), where singles aged 20 and above can join the network’s database to receive information on dating (aka how to), and make use of their online chat, forum discussion, and personal ads.
9. Singapore is a city, a state, and a country. And a garden too!
Singaporeans may not even notice that this is weird, but step out of our little island for a minute and you’d realise that many people from other countries may find it hard to understand. Larger countries are divided into states, which are further divided into towns, cities, or counties, depending on who you’re asking.
Here? We think its far to even go to a different heartland (not to mention that we came up with the term heartland ourselves).
If you do enough online shopping, you would have noticed how we fill in Singapore into the fields of City, State and Country.
And yes, there are so many trees and so much greens in Singapore that we’re literally a homongous garden, thank you very much.