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Introduction to Singapore

Weather History Today Religion

Singapore Weather
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 there’s 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.

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Brief 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.

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Singapore Today
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 a year.

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.

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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 & Churches

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Simple Etiquette
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).

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Singapore Hotels - Singapore's Merlion
Singapore Overview

Although only 42 km wide and 23 km from north to south, Singapore is small by anyone's standard nonetheless it has become one of Asia's most popular cities and a gateway to many Asian countries.

Located at the tip of the Malaysian peninsula Singapore has multicultural population of some 4.25 million persons. There are 3 prominent ethnic groups living in multiracial harmony. The largest group is the Straits-born Chinese (or Peranakan-78%; followed by Malays-14%; Indians-7% and a small number of Arabs and Caucasians (among others) rounding out the mix.

Singapore does just about everything right to make it a one of the most tourist friendly places in the world and pure delight to visit. Renowned for being extremely clean, efficient and safe and the proof is in the pudding as the island plays host to some seven million tourists annually with nearly half or these returning for their second or third time and many major international conferences.

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