What Makes a Singaporean, a Singaporean?

Our culture might be strange to foreigners but that is what makes us unique – it is easy for a Singaporean to spot a fellow Singaporean overseas when they display some of following traits.

It might seem odd that whenever a young person calls anyone older than them either an “aunty” or “uncle”.  This does not mean that everyone is related to each other. Referring to someone you do not know as “aunty” or “uncle” is merely a simple way to address them without knowing their name.

It also eliminates any awkwardness as one would not have to worry what to call the elders.  In some ways, this displays courtesy and respect.

Unlike in the United States or any other countries that are used to tipping, it is not required here. Bills already include the Service Charge and Goods and Services Tax. Moreover, waiters and waitresses are paid by the hour hence there is no need to tip them.

Certain places do accept tips by having small tipping jars by the cash register. Apart from that, tipping is just not a customary standard in Singapore.

It is a well-known fact that Singaporeans are one of the fastest walkers in the world.  The experiment was conducted by British Council analysts who covertly timed thousands of pedestrians’ walking speedily in city centres globally.

Personally, I would tend to speed walk whenever I’m heading to a specific place, irrespective of whether I’m rushing or not.  And from what I have seen, Singaporeans also rush for seats in the MRT as soon as the door opens.

Last but not least, what better way to spot a Singaporean; if not for the use of “Singlish”. Along with a “rojak” sentence which is a sentence that consists of three or four or even five languages.

“Singlish” or the Singaporean-English slang include words such as “lor”, “leh”, “lah”, “eh”, “ah”, “hor”, “one”, “can” and “meh” to emphasise emotions or to simply complete a sentence.

For example; when someone says “Why you liddat one?” which translates to “Why are you like that?” or “Walao eh”. “Go makan never invite one. Bo jio!” which just shows the annoyance of someone of not being invited to a meal.

These are just a few examples that describe a true blue Singaporean.  There are so much more to add to the list which shows the significant evolution our country has attained in terms of its uniqueness and that it will continue to evolve over time.

This article is contributed by Namirah Sumardi from the School of Media & Communications


Founded in 1956, the Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS) is Singapore’s oldest not-for-profit professional institute for lifelong learning. MDIS has two main subsidiaries: Management Development Institute of Singapore Pte Ltd which oversees its Singapore academic operations, and MDIS International Pte Ltd which focuses on MDIS’ globalisation strategy. MDIS offers internationally-accredited courses in Business and Management, Engineering, Fashion, Health and Nursing, Information Technology, Languages and Education, Life Sciences, Media and Communications, Psychology, Tourism and Hospitality Management, and Safety and Environmental Management. These programmes are offered in collaboration with renowned universities in the United Kingdom.

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