Singaporean Culture

Communication

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Verbal

  • Indirect Communication: As an extension of the need to maintain harmonious relations, the Singaporean people rely heavily on indirect communication. They rely less on words and are more attentive to posture, expression and tone of voice to draw meaning. Speech is ambiguous as they may often understate their point. The purpose of this is to maintain harmony throughout the conversation and prevent a loss of face on either end of the exchange. The best way of navigating this rhetoric to find the underlying meaning is to check for clarification several times.
  • Refusals: A Singaporean person’s preoccupation with saving face and politeness means they will seldom give a direct ‘no’ or negative response, even when they do not agree with you. Therefore, focus on hints of hesitation. Listen closely to what they say and double check your understanding by asking for their opinion. Though they may not willingly speak up to contest an idea, they generally give their honest opinion when invited to do so.
  • Voice: Speaking loudly can be seen as rude and overbearing in Singapore.


Non-Verbal

  • Pointing: Pointing with the index finger is considered to be rude. Rather, people point by using their whole hand or nod their head in the intended direction.
  • Body Language: It is common for Singaporeans to nod a lot during interactions, however their body language is generally quite modest with gestures being infrequent and restrained.
  • Physical Contact: Singaporeans are generally less tactile and reserve touching (such as back-slapping, hugging and holding hands) for close friends. That being said, Singaporeans are accustomed to coming into close contact with strangers due to how crowded the country is. Public displays of affection are not always appreciated.
  • Eye Contact: Eye contact shows confidence and attentiveness in most scenarios. However certain Singaporeans (e.g. particularly Muslim Malays, some Hindus) may avert their eyes more often, particularly when interacting with those superior to them. Holding eye contact for too long can be interpreted as impolite or challenging.
  • Silence: Silence is an important and purposeful tool used in Asian communication. Pausing before giving a response indicates that someone has applied appropriate thought and consideration to the question. It reflects politeness and respect.
  • Head: It is considered disrespectful and offensive to touch someone’s head.
Singapore
  • Population
    5,781,728
    [July 2016 est.]
  • Languages
    Mandarin (36.3%)
    English (29.8%) (second language to most)
    Malay (11.9%)
    Hokkien (8.1%)
    Tamil (4.4%)
    Cantonese (4.1%)
    Teochew (3.2%)
    Other (3.4%)
    [2010 est.]
  • Religions
    Buddhism (33.9%)
    No Religion (16.4%)
    Islam (14.3%)
    Taoism (11.3%)
    Catholic Christianity (7.1%)
    Hinduism (5.2%)
    Christianity [ndf] (11%)
    Other (0.7%)
    [2010 est.]
  • Ethnicities
    Chinese (74.2%)
    Malay (13.3%)
    Indian (9.2%)
    Other (3.3%)
    [2016 est.]
  • Cultural Dimensions
    Power Distance 74
    Individualism 20
    Masculinity 48
    Uncertainty Avoidance 8
    Long Term Orientation 72
    Indulgence 46
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  • Australians with Singaporean Ancestry
    8,389 [2016 census]
Singaporeans in Australia
  • Population
    54,939
    [2016 census]
    This figure refers to the number of Australian residents that were born in Singapore.
  • Average Age
    36
  • Gender
    Female (54.6%)
    Male (45.4%)
  • Religion
    Catholic Christianity (20.3%)
    No Religion (20.1%)
    Buddhism (10.8%)
    Anglican Christianity (7.5%)
    Other (41.3%)
  • Ancestry
    Chinese (49.2%)
    Indian (8.4%)
    English (8.4%)
    Singaporean (6.3%)
    Other (27.7%)
  • Language Spoken at Home
    English (48.3%)
    Mandarin (27.7%)
    Cantonese (7.7%)
    Malay (5.8%)
    Other (10.5%)
    Of those who speak a language other than English at home, 95.8% speak English fluently.
  • Diaspora
    Western Australia (28.7%)
    Victoria (28.2%)
    New South Wales (23.1%)
    Queensland (12.3%)
  • Arrival to Australia
    Prior to 2001 (49.2%)
    2001-2006 (21.9%)
    2007-2011 (25.3%)
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