5 Ways to Wow the Locals
Welcome! You’ve arrived in Singapore and now comes the challenging bit – navigating your new environment. Among other things, the streets are new, you haven’t yet built up a network, and figuring out where to eat can be confusing. To add to the stress, it can be hard to fit in with the local culture and with your new coworkers. The best way to win them over is to deftly handle the pastimes that they engage in like a seasoned professional. With this handy guide, you too can take to the local entertainment scene like a Duckboat to water.
#1 Find your key.
You may have heard that karaoke is a popular pastime in Singapore. But you may not realise that instead of karaoke bars where you have to sing to strangers, Singaporeans, like their East Asian neighbours, prefer private singing rooms called KTVs where it’s just you and a handful of your friends. So instead of a crowded bar where you wait for strangers to mewl through painful renditions of Bohemian Rhapsody, you and your new friends get to have a room to yourself, and all the tunes you can belt out in as many hours as you want. Not much for show business? No problem. KTVs are all about communal singing so you don’t have to worry about being saddled with a mic during a particularly stirring ballad. Unless you want to, of course.
#2 Sniff out the right durian.
You may have heard that the durian is the King of Fruits. You may also have heard about its pungent reputation. But Singaporeans are crazy about this perilous looking treat, and the way to a Singaporean’s heart is with a well-chosen offering of durian. You might be bedazzled by the flashy displays of durian along Geylang Avenue but sorting through that hoard is no mean feat for the uninitiated. To get eased into the durian scene, try Fruit Monkeys on Rangoon Road, where you can indulge in a wide range of quality durians in an air-conditioned store.
#3 Learn the art of the wheel and deal.
Singaporeans are a kiasu lot. It’s a word in Hokkien language that means ‘afraid to lose’. You might also know it as FOMO or ‘fear of missing out’. Whatever you call it, Singaporeans, by and large, want to stay on top of the latest happenings and that means they love a good bargain. Keep your eye open for sales and deals, while also acquainting yourself with the various malls like Ion Orchard to Mustafa Center in Little India for a variety of bargains.
#4 Forget Michelin. Hawker centres are the true stars.
Singapore is no stranger to fine dining. You can treat yourself to the most exquisite Provencal morsels or the most delectable Neapolitan offerings at the many establishments around the city. But that isn’t what makes the city’s food scene great.
The true charm of the Singaporean culinary experience are the humble hawker centres. These are open-air eating areas offering affordable and quick meals that range from traditional Malay dishes, classic Hainanese chicken rice, to everything the region has to offer. Almost every block and every neighbourhood has its own hawker centre. Be sure to take a culinary adventure and sample the many hawker centres that dot the heartland.
#5 Know the lingo lah.
You may have heard of Singlish and the quirks of Singapore’s linguistic landscape. But very few, including Singaporeans, know that Singlish is in fact classified as a language by linguists and language scholars. As with any language, there are rules you have to follow. Nothing will impress a Singaporean more than to use Singlish correctly. Conversely, nothing will paint you as an outsider more than to use it incorrectly.
For example, the legendary ‘lah’ is what’s known as a particle that is used to signal that you’re making a declaration, but another particle like ‘meh’ will be used to signal a question. Take some time to go through our very own lesson on Singlish! You won’t regret it lah!