Singapore lies just 1.37° (152 km) north of the equator. As
such the weather is tropical - uniformly hot and sunny with intermittent
showers year round. Days (daylight) are about 12 hours long with
sunrise is around 6.45 am; sunset at 6.30-6.45 pm The daytime temperature
averages between 24° C to 32° C (74° F to 90° F)
however humidity is quite high - a sticky 75% so often times it
feels much hotter.
Singapore doesn't seem to have the more extreme tropical monsoons
of its neighbors but you can expect more rain in November, December
and January. (Monsoon refers to the wind, not the rain). However
even during the wettest December theres a better than even
chance that it will be sunny for part of the day. Weather wise May,
June and July are generally considered the best. As such loose and
light summer clothing (preferably natural fabrics) is recommended
for outdoor activities like bazaar shopping and sightseeing.
History of Singapore
Tourists today may find it hard to believe but as recently as 1965,
when Singapore became independent of Malaysia it was a backwater
stopover with a few colonial trappings and not much else. That colonial
period began in 1819 when Sir Stamford Raffles, a British civil
servant, "founded" Singapore. As an official of the British
East India Company, Raffles was charged with combing the Straits
of Malacca to find a suitable trading station to counter the Dutch
influence in the area. Raffles thought the tiny fishing village
of Singapore perfect because it was at the crossroads of East and
West. (BTW, Singapore first received its moniker when a Sumatran
prince, mistaking a tiger for a lion, called the city Singapura
- a Sanskrit term meaning Lion City.)
However Sir Stamford was no ordinary government functionary. A man
with vision he recognised the island's potential with a deep water
harbour and started from early on planning the city - a trait that
continues to this day. Needless to say the Dutch were not happy
to see the British in "their" territory and Raffles still
needed to work with the local Sultan to get the trading post set
up. With a treaty in hand, a strategic location and no customs duties
on imports or exports Singapore flourished as a trade post.
By 1822 Raffles drew up the arbitrary lines that separate Singapore's
neighborhoods until today. South of the Singapore River was set
aside for the Chinese while Malays and Muslims were settled in and
around the Sultan's Palace. Then in 1824 Raffles bought out the
Malaysian Sultan and Singapore was British. The first census that
year reports that Singapore had as many as 10,000 residents. In
1867 Singapore become a crown colony of England and 20 years later,
in 1867, the Grand Dame of Asian hotels, Raffles, opened.
During W.W.II and after Pearl Harbor, the Japanese invaded the Malay
Peninsula and attacked Singapore from the north and in February
1942 took control of the island. The Japanese occupation was ruthless
with thousands executed or forced into slave labour. After the war
Singapore became part of the Federation of Malaya hoping to gain
Independence from Britain together with Malaysia (which it did in
1957). However the union with Malaysia was fraught with problems
from the get-go and after many difficult years Singapore finally
announced it would go its own way on 9 August 1965.
The man in charge on that fateful day was Mr. Lee Kuan Yew - no
less a visionary than Sir Stamford Raffles and one of Asia's leading
lights in the second half of the 20th century. Under his guidance
Singapore, with virtually no natural resources save its people,
has become one world's great economic success stories and the gateway
to Southeast Asia. Included in its achievements are its world class
medical facilities, Asia's largest and the world's second largest
container port and an airport handling some 25 million passengers
Singapore is modern - no doubt about it - with the highest per capita
income in the region and with a plan to get everyone on the internet
in the next few years Singapore is in some ways ahead of the West.
But all the same it's still very traditional. A peek behind the
new skyscrapers reveals a citizenry proud of its heritage and customs
carrying out life as they have for generations.
A multicultural city, everyone has freedom of worship in Singapore.
For the most part the Chinese population are either Buddhists, Confucians,
Taoists or Christians. Most Indians are Hindu and Malays are Muslim.
For visitors looking to worship there are any number of convenient
temples, churches, mosques, shrines and synagogues (there are two
Jewish synagogues in Singapore). For more information visit our
page in Around Singapore: Temples
Cultural etiquette has been described as the unspoken but assumed
behavior that conveys politeness. Inasmuch as the vast majority
of Singaporeans are ethnic Chinese one still needs to consider the
customs of ethnic Malays and Indians when visiting. Thankfully there
are not many rules to follow.
If on business, do make sure you are on time. Wait to be introduced
to people before introducing yourself. Be well stocked with business
cards and importantly, make sure to receive and present business
cards with both hands (rather than one) and never write on it. Treat
it with respect and do not put cards immediately into your pocket
or wallet as this is viewed as a lack of interest or disrespect.
For men, long sleeve shirts and ties are considered appropriate
business attire during the day but do take a jacket - you can always
remove it. For women, going without hosiery is acceptable in all
but the most demanding offices. Sheer blouses and / or open plunging
necklines are not viewed in a positive manner. As well there is
an emphasis on equality of the sexes in Singapore and many women
hold positions of authority in business. Spouses of both sexes do
not attend business events or functions unless specially invited.
When dining with friends or business acquaintances, do leave some
food on your plate or bowl to indicates to your host that you recognise
their generosity but that you cannot possibly eat any more. Do wait
for a signal from the host before starting on your food, however
if you are invited as a guest you will be requested to be the first
to start. When eating with ethnic Chinese be aware not to place
your chopsticks vertically into the bowl (it is a bad omen because
it resembles the incense sticks in a bowl of ashes, a sign of praying
to the dead) instead place them horizontally across the bowl or
rest them on the table.
Follow the law. Singapore is notorious as being a 'fine' city. A
SGD100 fine for this, a SGD50 fine for that. But the pun stops there.
Sinaporeans are very disciplined and follow the rules and expect
everybody else to follow them as well.
Lastly, as mentioned elsewhere on this site, tipping is not practiced
and is banned at Changi Airport and in some restaurants (service
charges are usually included in the cost of a meal).