We all know that Singapore is one of the rising tigers of Asia and the world. It is one of the economic hubs in the region – catering to financial institutions, internet companies and a host of other vital economic installations. We also know that it is one of the most authoritarian societies around. The compliance and implementation of the rules is very strict and surveillance is quite rampant.
While some may say it is repressive, others say it is progressive since it leads to productivity. No matter what you believe, here are some things that you would best remember when you set foot in Singapore.
How to Behave in Singapore: Land of Fine People and a Fine Society
Singapore DOs. Remember these things when you are in Singapore and you will not be in trouble with the law.
- Do remember that Singapore is strict in its cleanliness policies and campaigns. Let us start with the most basic of tenets. Singaporean authorities are very, very, very strict when it comes to cleanliness whether at home or in public. Chewing gum is not allowed unless you can produce a medical doctor’s prescription. Spitting in public is also prohibited and it carries an accompanying fine. Smoking is banned in all public places so don’t you even dare think of lighting up else it is an automatic fine and possible jail time. Don’t eat in public conveyance no matter how hungry you are – there’s a stiff fine for violators.
- Do use your right hands, always. It’s a cultural thing. The right hand is used to do all things in this society. The left hand is exclusively for personal hygiene use.
- Do be graciously humble before accepting gifts. It is customary to reject the offered gift not once, not twice but three times, before accepting it with grace and gratitude. And do not think of insulting your gift-giver by immediately opening it – do so in private. And don’t forget to say thanks!
- Do be organized in the workplace. We get that messy tables are trademarks of men and women are more meticulous in arranging desks. But in Singapore, the state of your desk is a reflection of your habits. Keep your desks neat and well-organized and you would not have any problem at all.
- Do keep some change handy. Never leave the house without any change in your pocket should the call of nature prove to be to irresistible. Public lavatories are spanking clean and some change is required for its use.
- Do use the public conveyance. Aside from the public conveyance being one of the best around, it’s a pretty safe place to be in. Security is tight and stragglers are handled accordingly. Taxis are to be used only when absolutely necessary.
- Do mind your manners in the dining table. Again, it is a different culture, so do remember to leave some on your plate. If you finish off everything, your host would be insulted and bring over more food. Finishing food means there’s still some room and you are still hungry.
- Do remember to remove your footwear. As a sign of respect for their religion and culture, make sure to remove your footwear before entering any house, mosque or temple.
Singapore Don’ts. As we have said before, Singapore is a very strict society and the implementation of laws is severely monitored. Avoid doing these things in Singapore if you value your personal freedom.
- Do not bring drugs or be caught with them. Otherwise you will be publicly executed. There is no middle ground here. It doesn’t really matter if you’re a courier, a mule or a dealer, even a small amount will carry sever penalties. Government intervention will not work most times so do not even get involved with shady characters peddling drugs.
- Do not disobey the laws. There are stiff penalties that are being meted out, no matter the nationality, no matter who the person is. There are no do-overs and even government authorities are slapped fines if found guilty of any offence.
- Do not think you can get away with it. Cameras are everywhere in Singapore. Spit and you’ll be identified in no time. Drop a wrapper accidentally and you’ll find someone tailing you to give you a reprimand. Citizens are also ingrained to report things to the police authorities so don’t think you can get away with anything illegal.
- Do not leave tips in Singaporean restaurants and food centers. This is considered insulting and besides, the waiters will not even touch it.
- Don’t touch the upper part of the head. It is considered sacred and touching it is insulting to the person. You will be looked upon in a bad light.
- Do not be part of the gossip bandwagon at work. Singaporeans value effectivity and efficiency. Don’t be part of the negative clique who spread rumors or stay too long at the water coolers exchanging stories during your break time. When it’s time to work, it’s time to work.
- Don’t carry too much cash in your wallet. Use your credit or debit cards when dining out or shopping. Even in the event that the establishment does not accept your Visa or MasterCard backed card, there’s always an ATM conveniently around.
- Don’t throw away your receipts. Not only does it prove your ownership or your transaction, receipts may be a way to save some money. A Goods and Services Tax is in place in the territory and at 7% your savings can be huge!
These are some of the things that you must remember when you are in Singapore. There are more things that you will uncover especially when you become part of the fabric that is uniquely Singapore. You will be assimilated into the culture and the diverse community for sure, so be ready to adapt and flourish in the Land of the Merlion.