Overview

Singapore, city of the lion, is plebiscited by expatriates who feel easily at home while living in the heart of Asia. Living conditions are very comfortable, with a mix of western influences and of vivid traditions (Singapore ranks 1rst amongst Asian cities for its quality of life- ECA 2008). The City-State is a mosaic of cultures with Malay, Chinese, Indian and Western festivals all the year round, with a Formula 1 Grand Prix since 2008, and enjoying an increasingly bustling cultural life. Life is peaceful and secure. The frameworks are excellent, and professional opportunities attractive. Singapore moreover is a fabulous platform wherefrom multiplying travels across the region.

Geographical situation:

  • Area: 693 km2

Government

  • Republic of Singapore
  • President: Dr Tony Tan
  • Prime Minister: Lee Hsien Loong - People's Action Party (PAP)
  • Capital: Singapore
  • National day: August 9th
  • Symbol: the Lion (force, courage and excellence)

Economy

  • Currency: Singapore dollar (S$ ou SGD)
  • PIB: 161.347 Millions $
  • PIB/hab: 48.900 $
  • Growth rate: 1,2% (2008); 7,7% (2007); 8,2% (2008)
  • Growth estimates 2009: -2 à -5%
  • Unemployment rate (2008):2,3%

Population

  • Population (2009):4.657.542 inhabitants
  • Foreigners represent 30,9% of the active population.

Languages

  • 4 official languages in Singapore: English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamoul. Malay is the national language. English is the business language. Mandarin is the mother tongue for a large proportion of Singaporeans with a chinese origine (3/4 of the population).

Religions

  • Buddhism, christianism, Hinduism, Islam, Taoism

More information on the country:

History

The name of Singapore (litterally the city of the Lion) appears for the first time in the malayan annals, written in the XVIIth century, to relate the story of the Malayan Monarchy.

According to this document, Singapore would have been so called by Parameswara, Governor of Sumatra in the early XVth century, because he thought to have seen a 3 colors lion, a legendary animal in the Hindu mythology.
Parameswara became King in the northern province of the peninsula and created the Malayan empire of Malacca.The empire, at this stage, encompasses Malaysia, Singapore and a large part of Sumatra. When portugues inaded Malacca in 1511, the sultan fled to the south of Johor, where he reinstated a new empire. 
The sultanate of Johor was weakened by numerous conflicts with Portuguese, Dutch and Bugis from Sulawesi. At the end of the XVIIIth century, Johor and Singapore were under the Dutch ruling, although the Malayan Royal family was still governing the country. Dutch established ports in the Riau Islands and the Malayan empire fall into abeyance.

An english port

In 1819, when Sir Stamford Raffles arrived in the strait of Singapore, the isalnd was covered with wild vegetation and accounted for 1000 inhabitants sharing the space with tigers and wild boars.
Sir Stamford Raffles (A Governor for the British East India Company) was rapidly convinced that Singapore was the ideal location to establish a British settlement and challenge the Dutch domination.
In March 1819, he signed a treaty with the Sultan of Johor which gave the British East India Company, the right to establish a commercial settlement in Singapore. A free port, Singapore grew rapidly and attracted merchants from everywhere: Europe, Middle East, India, China and Malaysia.
In 1826, Singapore, Malacca and Penang were organized in the Straits community. In 1860, Singapore's population had considerably increased and accounted for 80 000 inhabitants (of which 2/3 of Chinese origin). In 1867, the strait became a British colony. With the opening of the Suez canal, the importance of the port of Singapore increased: the strait of Malacca became the easiest way for the rubber trade in extreme east.
Singapore didn't take part to the first World War and the island was a refuge for many new immigrants. the latest, coming from Europe, brought along new habits and customs that participated to the local melting pot. The largest community immigrants was chinese. In 1930, China tried to limitate the number of men who could emigrate. As a result numerous unmarried women arrived. They settled and married local Chines inhabitants.
During the Japanese expansion in Asia, the British transformed Singapore in a military bastion. But the fortifications were not successful in retaining the japanese invasion in February 1942. At the end of the war, Singapore came back to being a British Colony. 

March to independence

In 1946, Great Britain ended the Straits Community to create a unified Malaysia. The English had rapidly to deal with singaporeans demands for independence.
In 1948, Singaporeans obtained the implementation of a legislative council and the election of a Prime Minister. In 1957,Singaporeans sent a delegation, including a young sollicitor, Lee Kuan Yew, which successfully demanded new concessions on the way to indépendence. In 1959, Lee Kuan Yew, leader of the PAP (People's Action Party)became the first Prime Minister of the Singaporean history.

Independence

In 1963, Singapore became independent within a community created with Malaysia (independent since 1957). The union between the 2 countries didn't last and Singapore regained its sovereignty on August, 9 1965.
Lee Kuan Yew remained prime minister until December 1990, when Goh Chok Tong succeeded to him. Since 2004, it is Lee Hsien Loong, the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, who leads the country.

Books on Singapore's history

  • Singapore Struggle for success- John Drysdale

Culture

Singapore's cultural wealth is due to its diversity, with its very important population of chinese origin and large malayan and indian communities.

For the expatriate, Singapore is also remarkable for the its large western expatriates communities: more than 20000 British, 14000 Americans and 10000 Australians. The French community includes 5000 people, tantamount to the german one. Italians, Swedish, Russians and new Zealanders represent each a community with more than a thousand members. Belgians are 700 and Spanish 500.

Main communitiess

  • Chinese (76,8%)
  • Malays (13,9%)
  • Indians (7,9%)
  • Others (1,4%)

Festivals

  • Chinese: Chinese New Year, Spring Festival (Where ancestors are honored), Vesak day, dragon boats festival, ghosts festival, Moon festival.
  • Hindus: Thaipusam, Navarathri, Deepavali (light festival), Thimithi (stepping on embers)
  • Muslims: Hari Raya Pusa (end of Ramadan), Hari Raya Haji (pilgrimage to Mecqua)
  • Christians: Easter, Christmas
  • National day: 9th of August, indépendance day celebration

Ceremonies

Weddings, births and burials are celebrated according to each community's traditions.

Cooking

Peranakan food (nonya), brought by first chinese immigrants in the straits of Penang, Malacca and Singapore: a mix of chinese and Malayan culture.

Hawkers, are open food courts with lots of little shops where one can choose between chinese, indian and malayan food specialties. A way of having lunch outdoor much appreciated by singaporeans.

Singapoureans love to eat outdoor: many have breakfast on their way to the office, have lunch with colleagues and dine, along with their extended family, in hawkers or with take away food. Singaporeans appreciate these lunch places as opportunities to eat well and exchange with each others

Singapore's great men

  • Sir Stamford Raffles, who, in 1819, established the first settlement on behalf of the East India British Company.
  • Lee Kwan Yew, the founding father. He created the PAP, People's Action Party,drove his country to independence and became the first Singapore Prime Minister. He remained in this function until 1990, when he passed on the reins to Goh Chok Tong, while remaining very influent in his quality of Minister Mentor. Since 2004, it is Lee Hsien Loong, Lee Kwan Yew's eldest son, who has been Singapore's Prime Minister.

Values

  • The nation, a cement for the singaporean society: tolerance, integration policy.
  • Strong family and cross generational cohesion
  • Respect for authority
  • Superstition

Communication

Non verbal communication

Social rules: give and receive with both hands, especially when exchanging business cards. Business cards (mingpian) are a must in Singapore. Il is essential to pay them careful attention. Take off your shoes when entering in private homes.

Gestures to avoid: finger pointing, showing the back of one's shoes, touching chidren's head.

Loosing face

An essential concept in Asia. Avoid to provoke somme one loose face by openly over-challenging him or putting him in a humiliating position. You would be cause of his losing face and would lose your own credibility and consideration.

Icons and tabous

Sensitive subjects: political system and death penalty.

The flag: composed of 2 horizontal sections. red is a symbol for universal fraternity ; white stands for purity and virtue. the moon and the stars represent the emrgence of a young nation.

The Merlion: associating a lion head and a mermaid body. the Merlion statue, overseeing the bay, is a symbol of the City State.

More information on etiquette and business culture:

the HSBC guide Country files- Singapore offers very interesting snapshots:

  • etiquette: meeting people, gift giving, entertaining & dining, tipping, faux pas
  • Doing business: hours of business, business cards & attires, entertaining, business gifts, business meetings, negotiating, employment law.

 

Reading

  • Tanamera- Noel Barber
  • Singapore swing- John Malathronas

Economy

 

From the moment it became independent onward, Singapore has experienced a sustained growth which made the City-State one of the 4 Asian dragons, together with Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea.

Quality of the economic environment

Singapore could not count on its scarce natural resources to pave the foundation of its economy. It inherited of a privileged geographic location for trade and marine activities. The Country's governement managed to provide foreign investors and entrepreneurs with an exceptionnally faborable environment: political stability, social peace, reliable regulations, good financial and banking system, skilled workforce and excellent technological framework. Singapore thus attracted numerous multinational companies which set up their regional headquarters and plants locally.

High value added specialties

Taking its large neighbour's (China, India) economic growth into account, Singapore rapidly disengaged from standard manufacturing, requiring abundant manpower sources, and invested massively in highly capitalistic sectors: Health and life sciences, biotechnology, Information technology ...
Singapore's economy is currently founded on 3 pilars: Manufacturing, financial activities & BtoB services, transport & communication.

A rapid and steady growth

From 1965 until 1997,Singapore enjoyed a yearly growth rate exceeding 8%.
In 1997, the country had to deal with the Asia crisis, to which it rather better resisted than its neighbours. In 2001, Singapore was impacted by the burst of the technological bubble, followed, in 2003, by the avian flu epidemy. The growth rate dwindled and even turned red (in 1998 and 2001) but also incorporating fastuous period : +9,6% in 2000, +8,9% in 2004, +7,7% in 2007, +8,2% in 2008.
Due to its being highly dependent on foreign exchanges, Singapore's economy was dramatically impacted par the recent crisis, but steady growth was renengaged as early as Q4 2009. Investments in new ecomic sectors and infrastructures are continuously being made, the financial sector indirectly have taken advantage of the situation in the US and in Europe, and the Government voted important budgets to enhance singaporean workers' level of qualification and facilitate their adaptation to the evolving needs of the economy.

An attractive business climate

Singapore is implementing an extremely attractive economic policy with a global strategic vision on the mid and long term.
Individuals and companies take adavntage of low taxes: the income tax rate is capped at 22% for individuals, company profit tax rate is capped at 20% and GST is at 5,5%)
Singapore is seeking to drive foreign investments towards new strategic sectors organized in clusters.

Economic sectors:

  • Information Technology. At the heart of the Singapore Government's industrial strategy. The market for equipments is dominating, followed by telecommunications, telecommunication services, softwares, computer services and content management. Singapore's advantages:  a highly qualified manpower, its harbour installations. Singapore is positionning itself as regional hub providing electronic components that are assembled in Malaysia, The Philippines and Thailand, prior to being shipped to western countries.
  • Equipment: petrochemicals, aeronautic, shipyards, environment, biotechnology
  • Consumer goods: food, pharmaceutical products, cosmetic, Textile, housing and decoration
  • Services: banking and financial services, insurance, tourism

More information on Singapore's economy and its buoying segments:

3 days in Singapore

Places to visit:

  • Chinatown: Sri Mariamman temple,...

  • Little India: Mustapha center

  • Arab street: textile shops, Sultan Mosque ...

  • Botanic garden

  • Holland village

  • Orchard road, Malls, hotel Raffles...

Orchard road

  • Financial district

  • Chinese and Japanese garden

  • Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

 

What to see:

  • Black&white: traditional houses of Singapore

  • MICA Building (Ministry of Culture and Information)

  • Clark quay

  • Marina bay

  • The esplanade: opera and theatre nested in a durian shaped building, a icon of the City State.

 

Museum:

  • Asian civilisation Museum (1 empress pl)
  • Singapore Art Museum (71 Bras Basah Road)
  • Chinatown heritage center (48 Pagoda St)

Activities:

  • Sentosa island

  • Battle box, in Fort Canning park
  • Zoo and it's night safari (80 Mandai Lake Rd)
  • Jurong bird park