The small island state of Singapore is unique in the region. Not only is it a very young country—independence came in 1965—but it is a land of immigrants, in which people from three distinct backgrounds, Chinese, Malay, and Indian, live side by side in harmony.
Singapore’s multicultural harmony is no accident. From the beginning, realising that its people were its most precious asset, the government made free education for all a national priority, with schools teaching positive attitudes as well as essential knowledge and skills. This is an energetic, “can do” society.
Despite Singapore's Western veneer the “Lion City” is most definitely an Asian city. While many of the traditional cultural values have been challenged by the demands of the modern Singaporean state, their underlying philosophies remain intact. And, while each ethnic group will have its own particularities, it is also fair to say that the three ethnic groups share certain values—belief in ordered relationships, obligation, respect for traditions, polite behaviour, and the protection of face, both for oneself and for other. By and large though, this is a very goal-oriented, meritocratic society.
Culture Smart! Singapore introduces the Western visitor to the rich and varied cultures and customs of Singapore’s communities. It shows what motivates people, how they interact with each other and with outsiders, and tells you what to expect and how to behave in unfamiliar situations. In doing so, it offers you a fuller, more rounded experience of this fascinating society.
In contrast to its neighbours, burping after a meal, spitting and nose-blowing are all considered equally inappropriate, by all groups. If you have a cold and need to blow your nose, you should excuse yourself from the present company and go to the bathroom to do so.