Culture Smart! Singapore will introduce you to the rich and varied customs of this densely populated island-state. It describes its private, social, and business life, 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, conservative, “can-do” society.
Singapore is a land of immigrants. Although the Chinese are by far the largest ethnic group, it is more of a salad bowl than a melting pot, and has never had a dominant culture or a single language. It is, however, possible to recognize a common identity that has emerged since independence in 1965.
With no natural resources, the newly independent state invested in education and trade, and today this clean, sleek, air-conditioned nation is a global financial centre that makes much of the West seem third-rate. Singaporeans are hardworking, goal-focused individuals who are both enterprising and modern. They love noise, colour, and shopping, and are proud of being high-maintenance and competitive. Yet behind this consumerist façade is a deep respect for family and hierarchy, political passivity, and a fear of losing face. They often use two Hokkien words to describe themselves: kiasu and kiasi, that is, a fear of missing out and a tendency to be risk-averse.
Culture Smart! Singapore describes how locals interact with each other and with outsiders, and tells you what to expect and how to behave in unfamiliar situations. For foreigners the culture shock can be subtle. Despite its Western veneer this is definitely an Asian city, and it is easy to make mistakes. Any open expression of anger is frowned upon, and while questions about politics will be met with silence, expect to be asked everything, including your salary
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.