Singapore Culture Smart! – Book Review
Singapore Culture Smart! – Book Review
Singapore Culture Smart!
The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture
Author – Angela Milligan & Patricia Voute
Publisher – Kuperard
Pages – 168
Released – 1st May 2019
ISBN-13 – 978-1857338874
Format – ebook, paperback
Reviewer – Stacey
Rating – 5 Stars
I received a free copy of this book.
This post contains affiliate links.
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.
I’ve never been to Singapore and for the purpose of this review, I haven’t checked on the internet or with anyone that lives in Singapore as to whether the information is correct as I think this would hinder my review. I am solely basing my review on Singapore on the information inside this Culture Smart! book.
I read the Culture Smart! Singapore book in one sitting as I found it exceptionally interesting learning what the authors Angela Milligan and Patricia Voute thought about the country’s traditions, cultures, and working life, among many more subjects.
The book is split into nine chapters covering different areas, including:-
– Land and People
– Values and Attitudes
– Customs and Traditions
– The Singaporeans at Home
– Food and Drink
– Time Out
– Travel, Health, and Safety
– Business Briefing
At the start of the book we are introduced to this small island country which is just 279 sq miles and who gained independence from Malaysia in 1965, thus having a diverse population made up of immigrants from three main countries – China, Malaysia and India living harmoniously together.
When the country first gained independence it was feared that it would never thrive. However, just 15 years after gaining its independence it had put peoples worries to bed and is now a country that has one of the highest home-ownership in the world, alongside one of the lowest crime rates. Even the airport – Changi Airport – has been voted the best in the world for six years running.
From what the authors observe the people in the country are very much people pleasers. They don’t like to cause offense, they don’t get into debates about government, politics, race, religion or tickle-tackle gossip. They are friendly people that like to be helpful and kind. They work hard and have a deep respect for their families, friends and the country.
Education is very important to them and they also still have National Service which means all males at 16 1/2 years old must attend for two years (deferment for studies is allowed). There are strict rules and lots of traditions to adhere to, including:-
– Chewing gum without a doctors prescription
– Spitting in public
– Jaywalking within 50 metres of a crossing
– Dropping litter
– Feeding the pigeons
– Not flushing a public toilet
– Walking naked around your house with the curtains open
– Smoking in any public space.
Traditions depend on whether you are with a Malay, Chinese or Indian Singaporean. So if you are planning to travel to Singapore make sure you read this section carefully, especially the section about being invited to someone’s home as there are lots of traditions that us Brits wouldn’t think would offend someone, such as crossing your legs or using your left hand to eat, shake or pass a gift. Also never refuse a drink!
Throughout this 168-page travel book, you will find lots of information for whether you are travelling as a tourist, moving to Singapore or doing business in the country. I found some of the information quite alarming, such as canning was still a given punishment, not just to male criminals under the age of 50, but to students at school too. I also found some things remarkable such as there are no surcharges allowed on credit card transactions, the speed limit on the island is 30 miles per hour, unless on an expressway where it is 50 miles per hour and you don’t need an appointment to see a GP – I wish that was the case in the UK!
Overall this is a fascinating country that I would love to visit one day and I will be making sure that I take this book with me as it is filled to the brim with useful information that was easy to understand and broken down into manageable sections.
Book Reviewer – Stacey
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Culture Smart! guides are written for people who want more than just the nuts and bolts of where to stay, what to see, and how to travel. Short, sharp and humorous, they deal with the richly rewarding human dimension of foreign travel by telling you about the beliefs and attitudes of the people you will meet and about situations you may encounter. They help you to understand what makes people tick, the values they live by, and the kind of behavior that will be reciprocated with goodwill and hospitality.
Each guide includes concise chapters on the local customs, traditions and values of the country’s inhabitants, and crucially, the key historical and cultural events that have shaped them. There are sections on social and business etiquette, tips on communication, both verbal and non-verbal, and advice on how to be a good guest.
Our aim is to arm readers with a level of cultural fluency, so that whatever your reason for travelling, each situation may be approached with both confidence and sensitivity.
Brief and thorough, our guides are designed so that they can be dipped into for quick reference as and when needed, or comfortably completed in a few sittings, affording you a comprehensive overview of what you’re getting yourself into before you have even taken off!
Written by long-term expats, journalists, professors and diplomats, Culture Smart! guides have been helping travelers be more than just tourists for over 20 years. With over 100 country guides to date, there are new titles and editions published every year.
Marcel Proust once said, The true voyage of discovery lies not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. We hope that Culture Smart! will help you arrive at your destination with your eyes open.