Your Guide to Travel Etiquette in Singapore
Singapore is home to a very diverse society comprising of three major ethnic groups: Chinese, Indian, and Malay – with the Chinese population being the major force among these. Due to the diversity of its population, there are rich customs and traditions which you can term it as Etiquette that are pertaining to both culture and religion. The State Department does not permit exemption from foreign law to citizens of other countries. Being aware of the local laws is always an advantage as they are strictly enforced and if you are found running across the horizon, then you could land in serious trouble. We have handpicked some of the travel etiquette which you can keep in mind to enjoy a hassle-free holiday in Singapore.
Introduction and Greetings
There is special emphasis on the hierarchy with respect to age and community status. Elders and people in power are to be treated with uttermost respect. When in a group, acknowledging the eldest and senior most statesman while addressing would be considered as a good etiquette. Handshaking is a common greeting used in Singapore, but many people follow the traditional greeting of Salaam, where they place the right hand over their respective hearts. The Chinese population shakes hands only with the opposite sex whereas ethnic Indians do not. A good idea would be to wait for the female to offer her hand first before greeting them if you are really unsure of what to do. A simple bow will also do the trick.
While you are in a crowd, we would recommend you to wait for your counterpart to introduce themselves before you use the correct titles and names to address them. If you are still unsure of how to address them, you can ask them politely how they like to be addressed.
Respect and Harmony
Singaporeans maintain a peaceful and respectable relationship with their family, peers, and the community. You would probably be looked down if you try to raise your voice and talk rudely to people. It is considered inappropriate here in Singapore as they are peace-loving and harmonious people. You can lose your dignity and honor even if you are trying to demean someone else. Maintain a calm vocal expression and sound while dealing with people. Respecting the other party is important no matter what position or age they are.
Body Language and Communication
Gestures, verbal communication, and your body language play a significant role here in Singapore. Touching your head and resting hands on your hips fall under the category of bad etiquettes. Silence in Singapore is not a cardinal sin here unlike in some Western countries, silence is often considered to allow the other party to contemplate the proceedings and developments. So do make sure that your communication is delicate, considered, and subtle. While communicating, be calm and not make direct or hasty statements. The soles of your feet should always be facing downwards and not point towards any person. People feel offended as feet is considered dirty here in Singapore.
Food and Dining
Your food and dining etiquettes would depend on the cultural heritage of the host or hostess. It is recommended that you are well aware of the proper dining etiquette of the host or hostess well in advance be to be comfortable with their local customs.
Muslims use only halal meat in their dishes. Pork and alcohol are strictly prohibited. They eat their food with utensils or with the right hard. Ethnic Indians most follow Hinduism or Sikhism. Beef is not served here and vegetarianism is extensively used in their menu. Food is eaten only with the right hand and can be eaten with fingers.
The Chinese and Singaporeans prefer eating with chopsticks. Alcohol is not prohibited in their menu but wait for the host or other guests to start their drink before you start. If you are in their company, it would be advisable to start practicing to eat using chopsticks. Also, never leave your chopsticks upside down in your food, it is considered very rude.
Law and regulations
Being a very organized and controlled country, Singapore has strict laws against the law breakers. Spitting, littering, not flushing the toilet, smoking in public, and jaywalking can cost you a fine up to SG$ 1000 as a first offense. Chewing gum is banned in Singapore and not even allowed while boarding a flight to Singapore.
Additional points to note:
- Residents of Singapore are very formal and love their own private space
- Avoid eating while traveling in public transport. It could cost you as much as SG$500
- Avoid going topless on view even in your hotel room
- Do not forget to flush the toilet after using the washroom even on public lavatories. You could be fined up to SG$ 150
- Do not carry pornographic content. There are heavy fines or even imprisonment in some cases
- Using or connecting to an unauthorized Wi-Fi network is considered a crime in Singapore
- Avoid discussing topics on religion or politics. Keep your vocal ability at a calm and composed level.
- Tipping is not a cultural practice in Singapore even though many restaurants do not include a service charge.
- You should have only prescribed drugs in your control. Carrying drugs without prescription could lead you to a considerable time in jail
Considering the small population, lack of natural resources, and limited land space, Singapore has risen from a developing country in last two decades to the most high-tech nations in Asia. Following and obeying the local laws, customs, and regulations is the key if you want to witness a wonderful time in this beautiful country.