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The A to Z of Interesting Things about Singapore

Updated on June 13, 2013

Singapore is such a young country that people from the other side of the globe might only know about it from the movie Pirates of the Caribbean. Don't feel bad. Even when for people who think they know a lot about Singapore, this city-state never fails to surprise with its big personality.

Airports

There are only 2 commercial public airports in Singapore: Seletar and Changi. The latter has been named World’s Best Airport for 25 consecutive years by various sources.

British Colony

In 1819, Singapore becomes part of British Empire (British East India Compay) and started its history as modern Singapore. Singapore was the focus of the greatest defeat in British military history, when General Percival surrendered to the Japanese on 15th February 1942.

City State

Singapore consists of only one main island and 63 other tiny islands that are mostly uninhabited.

Singapore the 19th smallest country in the world with a total land area of 682.7 square kilometres (the USA is about 15,000 times bigger).

Durian

Singaporeans love Durian so much that the government enthroned the fruit as its national fruit and even build an art centre (the Esplanade) based on the shape.

The fruits are mainly imported, however, as durian trees are becoming a rare sight in Singapore.

For those who are not familiar, this is how a durian tree looks like.
For those who are not familiar, this is how a durian tree looks like.

Expensive Place to Live In

Singapore is the 6th and 8th expensive city according to CNN and Forbes respectively. At $3-5 a meal, living in Singapore doesn't sound so bad. However, paying for everything else is painful, especially alcohol, cigarettes, and education.

Fish and Lion

The national symbol of Singapore is Merlion, a mythical creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish. The name Singapore comes from Sanskrit Singa Pura that means the Lion City. Funny thing is, lions never lived in Singapore. Even the last tiger in the island died in 1930s.

GMT +8

Singapore time zone has been changed several times over the past decade.

Before May 1905, Singapore has the oddest time at 6 hours 55 minutes ahead of GMT. It was called Singapore Mean Time.

The skies were still dark at 7 am during the Japanese Occupation between 1942-1945, because the clocks were set to Japanese standard time which is GMT +9:00.

From Japanese Occupation to 1st of January 1982, Singapore Standard Time (SST) was 7 hours and 30 minutes (GMT +7:30) ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. It was only changed to the current GMT +8:00 to keep up with Peninsular Malaysia's move to match East Malaysia's time zone.

Click here for longer history on Singapore Time Zone.

HDB

Nearly 9 out of 10 Singaporeans live in public housing flats, which are mostly built by Housing and Development Board (HDB).

International port

Singapore is the world's fourth-leading financial centre, and its port is one of the five busiest ports in the world. Out of the 5 million population, almost 40 % is foreigners, one of the highest percentages in the world.

Japanese occupation

Singapore was taken over by Japan from England in 1942. After 3 years of occupation, the Japanese surrendered on 12th September 1945.

Kilometres

Singapore has more than 3,000 kilometres of roads. Stretched end to end, they can cover the distance from Singapore to Hong Kong.

At 10 km, the longest river in Singapore is Kallang River.

The highest natural point in Singapore is Bukit Timah Hill, which is only 164 metres high (Singapore has a very flat terrain).

There are ongoing land reclamation projects, which have increased Singapore's land area from 581.5 km2 in the 1960s to 704 km2 today; it may grow by another 100 km2 by 2030.

Largests

The National Orchid Garden houses the largest display of tropical orchids in the world, with over 1,000 species and 2,000 hybrids.

The world's largest aquarium, S.E.A. Aquarium, opened in Singapore Marine Life Park recently.More than 100,000 marine animals from over 800 species across 49 habitats can be viewed through the world’s largest acrylic viewing panel.

Majulah Singapura

"Majulah Singapura" is the national anthem that is written in Malay. It means "Onward Singapore".

Offences

Singapore is often referred to as a “fine city” because people can get fined for the smallest infractions. For example, you can be fined for littering and smoking in public places!

There are more than 40,000 illegal offences in Singapore that might get you jailed or fined. Some of the weirder offences include bringing in more than 2 packs of cigarettes into the country, selling chewing gum, walking naked in your own home, even showing the national flag at other times than the month of August.

The Singapore National Pledge

We, the citizens of Singapore,
pledge ourselves as one united people,
regardless of race, language or religion,
to build a democratic society
based on justice and equality
so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation.

Pledge it

At exactly 8:22 pm every year in their National Day that falls on 9th of August, Singaporeans will say the “Singapore National Pledge” out loud.

It is an oath of allegiance that Singaporeans take very seriously. So serious that it has its own Facebook page.

Queensland

There is a critically acclaimed restaurant in Coolangatta, Queensland, called Singapore Merlion (known colloquially by residents as "John's") that is named after Singapore's national symbol. The restaurant also features a statue of Merlion in front of its premise.

Raffles

Thomas Stamford Raffles played a big part in modern Singapore growth. If Raffles wouldn’t have been forced to return an island of Java back to the Dutch in 1815, he would not found this island and all of this wouldn't have happened. It is deserving then, that the name 'Raffles' can be found almost everywhere in Singapore today.

Singlish

Singapore has four official languages (English, Mandarin, Tamil and Malay) but the one used the most is Singlish, a language made up of all the four official languages.

Tan, Lim, Lee

The most common Chinese surnames in Singapore are Tan (陈), Lim (林), and Lee (李). The current President of Singapore is Mr. Tony Tan, while one of the founding fathers of modern Singapore is Mr. Lee Kwan Yew.

Universal Studios Singapore

Universal Studios Singapore (USS) in Resort World Sentosa is the first and only Universal Studios theme park in Southeast Asia.

Vanda Miss Joaquim

The national flower of Singapore is a purple hybrid orchid that is known as Vanda Miss Joaquim. It was discovered in 1893 by Agnes Joaquim, an Armenian. The orchid is a natural hybrid between V. teres andV. hookeriana.

(Weird) Weather

Weather in Singapore is always unpredictable. Even the official weather forecast doesn't always get the weather right. The general rule is, between September to February is rainy season and March to August is the hot season. However, rains and blazing sun can surprise you at any random times.

X-Gen gap

Singapore grows so fast that the 1980s generation is so different from the millennials. For example, most of the older generation still prefer to converse in their own dialect, while the young ones are more comfortable speaking English.

YMCA

YMCA has been established in Singapore since 1902. In November 2007, as an acknowledgement of YMCA’s 105 years of service to the community, National Parks Board named a new orchid hybrid, “Dendrobium YMCA”.

Today, YMCA offers courses, outdoor activities, non-profit helps, and affordable accommodation for tourists.

Zoo

The Singapore Zoo is famous for its open concept --that means no cage for the animals!

It is also the house of Night Safari, the first night zoo in the world.

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