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Last updated : Nov 2009
Singapore Social Profile
Singapore Culture and Social Profile -

Food & Drink

Singapore is a gourmet’s paradise that ranges from common street stalls to 5-star elegant restaurants. More than 30 different cooking styles are available as well as various regional styles of Chinese food, American, English, French, Indian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Russian and Swiss.

Malay food is a favourite, famed for its use of spices and coconut milk. Satay (skewers of marinated meat cooked over charcoal) served with peanut sauce, cucumber, onion and rice is popular. Hot, spicy or sweet Indonesian cuisine includes beef rendang (coconut milk beef curry), chicken sambal and gado gado (a fruit and vegetable salad in peanut sauce).

One of the ideal ways to eat in Singapore is in the open-air, at one of the street foodstalls that are available everywhere. Some are casual and in a peaceful atmosphere while others are in bustling areas with many activities. They all have a variety of cheap, mouthwatering food. La Pau Sat and Newton Circus are food centres where travellers can find all types of cheap Asian food. Though there are many self-service establishments, waiter service is more common in restaurants.

Bars/cocktail lounges often have table and counter service. There are no licensing hours. ‘Happy hours’ are usually from 5.00 pm to 7.00 pm.


There are a wide range of lively and thrilling nightlife activities to enjoy in Singapore. Entertainment places include bars, clubs, discos, karaoke pubs, street opera, night markets, river cruises and multiplex cinemas as well as theatre productions and international stage shows.

The favourite riverfront landmarks are Boat Quay and Clarke Quay where there are exclusive restaurants, alfresco dining and vibrant bars. Moored Chinese junks have been converted into floating bars and restaurants. Known as Holland V, Bugis Street, Changi Village and Holland Village are ideal for food, drinks and entertainment activities. One of the most current entertainment hubs in the city is Muhammad Sultan Road as well as Club Street where many pubs, nightclubs and wine bars are located.


The wide selection of available goods with their competitive prices have led to Singapore throughly being known as a shopper’s paradise.

Some special buys are Chinese, Indian, Malay, Balinese and Filipino antiques; batiks; cameras; Chinese, Persian and Indian carpets; imported or tailored clothing; jewellery and specialised items made of reptile and snake skins, as well as shoes, briefcases, handbags and wallets. Silks, perfumes, silverware and wigs are other favourite purchases.

The herding of shop owners from ‘Chinatown’ into multi-storey complexes lost some of the thrilling shopping atmosphere, even though these large centres do have an air-conditioned environment. Orchard Road is the major shopping area, though a variety of the principal hotels, for example Marina Square, have shopping centres attached.

Though most shops have Western-style fixed pricing, some places are generally open to negotiation but normally only after good research and shrewd bargaining. All kinds of electrical appliances are available at Sungei Road, but buyers shoud be cautious since many counterfeit goods are around.

For additional details about shopping in Singapore, the Singapore Tourism Board provides the Singapore Shopping brochure.

Shopping hours: Monday to Friday 10.00 am to 9.00 pm, Saturday 10.00 am to 10.00 pm.

Note: A 3% Goods and Services Tax (GST) is imposed on most goods and services bought from taxable dealers. Tourists whose buys total S$300 or more from a single trader participating in the Tourist Refund Scheme are qualified for a refund of the GST paid on products not consumed in Singapore. Tourists may receive refunds at the airport, prior to departure flights.

Special Events

The cosmopolitan character of Singapore means that a great number of festivals and special events are regularly celebrated; visitors staying for more than a few days would be unlucky not to catch at least one.

For more information and for exact dates, see the Singapore Calendar of Festivals leaflet published by the Singapore Tourism Board.

Jan Flower Garden Fair
Jan 22-23 Lunar New Year Light-Up
Jan 23-26 Caltex Masters (golf)
Jan 31 Chingay Parade

Feb 2
Hari Raya Haji
Feb 5 Thaipusam
Feb 9-10 Chinese New Year
Mar Heritage Festival
Mar-Apr Singapore Fashion Festival; Singapore Food
; World Gourmet Summit
Apr Singapore Sevens

Apr 8-12
ARTSingapore 2004
Apr 12-14 Chilli Festival
Apr-May Singapore International Film Festiva
May-Jun Singapore Dragon Boat Festival
May-Jul Great Singapore Sale
May 15 Singapore Airlines International Cup
May 30-Jun 22 Singapore Arts Festival
Jun Sentosa Sandsation
Jul 29-Aug 27 Festival of the Hungry Ghosts
Aug Live and Loud Dance Festival; Yonex-Sunrise
Singapore Open
Aug 29-Sep 1 WOMAD Singapore
Sep Mooncake Festival
Oct 3-29 Deepavali Light-Up
Oct 25-Nov 7 Hari Raya Light-Up
Nov Singapore River Buskers’ Festival
Nov 15-Jan 5 Christmas in the Tropics
Nov 16 The Singapore Million Dollar Duck Race
Dec Asia Cup; Singapore Marathon
Social Conventions

  Handshaking is the usual form of greeting, regardless of race.

  Social courtesies are often fairly formal.

  When invited to a private home or entering a temple or mosque, remove your shoes.

  For private visits, a gift is appreciated and, if on business, a company souvenir is appropriate.

  Dress is informal.

  Most first-class restaurants and some hotel dining rooms expect men to wear a jacket and tie in the evenings; a smart appearance is expected for business meetings.

  Evening dress for local men and women is unusual.

  Each of the diverse racial groups in Singapore has retained its own cultural and religious identity while developing as an integral part of the Singapore community.

  Over 50 per cent of the population is under 20 years of age. Laws relating to jaywalking, littering and chewing gum are strictly enforced in urban areas.

  Smoking is widely discouraged and illegal in enclosed public places (including restaurants). Dropping a cigarette end in the street or smoking illegally can lead to an immediate fine of up to S$500.


Officially discouraged in restaurants, hotels and the airport. A 10 per cent service charge is included in restaurant bills.
Useful travel links
Happy Cow Singapore guide to vegetarian restaurants in Singapore
Singapore Festivals festivals in Singapore
Singapore-Food Singapore food recipes