Traditions and customs of Singapore

What traditions and customs are there in Singapore?

We dissect the customs and traditions of Singapore.


Food in daily life

Rice, fish, chicken and vegetables are the staple foods. When these ingredients are mixed with a rich variety of spices, chili peppers, coconuts, lemon and tamarind, the variations are endless.

The food is often eaten away from home at feeding centers where the food is cheap, tasty and freshly made. There are many cafes, coffee shops and tea houses, and formal restaurants. Forks and spoons are used, but Chinese food is eaten with chopsticks, and Indian and Malay food can be eaten by hand.

The three main meals are breakfast, lunch and dinner. Most meals are eaten hot. Malays don’t eat pork, Indians don’t eat beef, and many Chinese Buddhists are part-time vegetarians. Many people do not drink alcohol.

Food customs on ceremonial occasions

The special dishes are consumed during the main ceremonies of the three ethnic groups, but none of them are related to the national celebrations.


Polygamy is permitted among Malay Muslims, but otherwise monogamy is the rule. Interethnic marriages are not common. Divorce is becoming more common. The average age at first marriage has risen, and it is customary for young people to live with their parents until they marry.


Ideally, older people should be treated with respect, but wealth and status can supersede age distinctions. A social superior or an authority is treated very formally. There are big differences between formal and informal events, situations and places.

In social interaction, a certain physical distance is maintained, especially between men and women. Food standards of ethnic groups are always respected.


Religious beliefs

There is freedom of religion with some exceptions. Singapore has been described as one of the most religious countries in the world. The main religions are Islam (Malay), Hinduism (Indians), Buddhism, Taoism, and folk religion (Chinese), along with a sizeable number of Christians of various faiths.

Religious professionals

Religious experts range from formally installed priests and teachers representing institutionalized religions to self-ordained shamans, healers, and sorcerers.

Rituals and sacred places

The many Chinese and Indian temples, Malay mosques and Christian churches are the main public settings for religious activities. Much religious activity also takes place in the home. There are different “street festivals” according to the ritual calendars of the different ethnic groups.

Death and the afterlife

A funeral is an important ritual for all ethnic groups. The idea of ​​a life after death is generally shared.

Secular celebrations

The national holiday is August 31 and is celebrated with military parades and cultural performances at the national stadium. Ethnic holidays are almost equally divided between Chinese, Malay, Indian and Christian holidays.

The major ethnic holidays are the Chinese New Year and the Malay Muslim Rahmadan, both celebrated in January-February, and the Indian Deepavali or Festival of Light, celebrated around September-October.

The arts and humanities

A common complaint is that Singapore has no culture and fine art has a limited audience. The government subsidizes some artistic institutions and events, but in general there is little public funding. Different ethnic groups have their own artistic traditions and focus on the arts. The contemporary generation is more focused on contemporary art forms.

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