Posted by: David Stewart | January 25, 2009

Singapore Quick Hits

A few days in Singapore last week on a business trip. Some impressions:

  • This is a very colorful city. The weather didn’t go below 75 degrees F, and the highs were around 85, so there are tropical flowers everywhere. Flower shop, SingaporeCanonball Tree, SIngapore
  • The people are colorful too. It’s like the British set up a little museum of all the cultures they had touched in their empire, each with its own section. So there is Little India, Chinatown and Arab Street.  These sections all have their own very distinctive character.
  • The population itself is just as diverse. You might see a woman in a sari, and then a pair of men in Muslim headgear, followed by a couple of Buddhist monks, all within a few steps of each other. In fact I did, many times. Muslim guys, Sim Lim shopping center, SingaporeMonks, Sim Lim shopping center, Singapore
  • The food is as diverse as the cultures represented.
  • Multiculturalism is not only tolerated – it is mandated! For the 70% of housing that is government subsidized, there are fixed quotas for each ethnic group. That means that an apartment building can never be all Chinese or all Muslim. They have to be mixed Chinese, Indian, Muslim, etc.  The year’s holidays are also distributed equally to each ethnic group.
  • This multi-culti feeling extends to the spiritual side as well – there is the most diverse mixture of houses of worship I have ever seen, and often there is a mosque a block away from a Hindu shrine around the corner from a Presbyterian church or a Buddhist shrine. Little India, SIngaporeSultan Mosque, Singapore
  • English is the predominant language. When I travel, it’s very common for the local person I am dining with to turn to a waitress and say something I can’t understand. In Singapore, instead of being excluded from the conversation, I could understand them! One guy felt that Singapore is probably the best place in Asia for a Westerner to live, because there is basically no language barrier.

More to say in future posts.  Stay tuned.

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