Ready for INTA 2023 in Singapore?
by Stephanie Chan
We are excited that the INTA Annual Meeting is coming to Singapore next May and getting to know the city where INTA will be held is one of the keys to a successful conference. Members from our office in Singapore have provided recommendations that may go some way to make your conference successful, fun, and yummy. For this week’s post, we would like to share our member of the firm, Stephanie Chan’s five nuances about Singaporean society, well-preparing you for your visit:
1. Singapore is a very multicultural country
For centuries, Singapore’s busy port has welcomed people from all around the world, making Singapore a very diverse country up till today. Singapore is home to three major ethnic groups, each with its own unique history and culture: Chinese, Malay, Indian. While many people in Singapore fall into one of these three ethnic groups, beyond this Singapore is also home to people of many other different ethnicities and cultures.
2. Singapore has 4 official languages
Singapore’s four official languages are Malay, English, Mandarin and Tamil. Government announcements and signs written in each of these languages. You can also hear announcement in these four languages at MRT stations. Singapore’s national language is Malay, and our national anthem is written in Malay. However, these four languages do not encompass all the possible languages you might hear in Singapore! Many Chinese Singaporeans also speak Chinese dialects like Hokkien and Cantonese, and languages like Hindi, Gujarati, Tagalog and Kristang (and endangered language spoken by the Eurasian community) are also spoken here, among many others.
3. Many Singaporeans you will encounter will speak English, but not everyone!
Many Singaporeans (especially those born after the 1950s) are bilingual and speak English as their first language. As a former British colony and a country which aims to prepare its students to be a part of the global economy, our medium of instruction in schools is English. Students also study their mother tongue, or the language of their ethnicity—Mandarin, Malay, or Tamil. Don’t tell Singaporeans they speak good English, they know! However, there are still many Singaporeans of older generations who do not speak English.
You will notice that the English you hear people speaking in Singapore has its own local flavour—that’s Singlish! It’s a local creole language that borrows words and grammar from other languages and dialects like Malay, Tamil and Hokkien. It reflects the multi-cultural nature of Singapore. Although there have been attempts to eradicate it in the past through campaigns like the Speak Good English movement, it’s very much here to stay and a part of everyday life in Singapore.
As a fast-paced, competitive and crowded city, being ‘kiasu’ (Hokkien for ‘scared to lose’ or ‘fear of losing out’) is a prominent Singaporean cultural trait. Part survival instinct, part ambitious drive, it’s a societal mindset that drives many Singaporeans. It can be argued that it’s a reflection of the country’s ongoing push and rush to be the best in everything, in spite of being a tiny island with no natural resources that experienced great poverty not too many decades ago. You may see it in people rushing for a train or lift, the massive crowds at sales in shopping malls, or in the aggressive nature of some Singapore drivers. But don’t let that scare you: Singaporeans do know how to stop and take a break and, being proud of their country, many Singaporeans are very friendly and helpful to visitors.
Have your own insights about Singaporean society too? Share with us!
For more information about INTA, check out https://www.inta.org/
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