There are many cities and countries around the world that seem to increase in popularity every year. Singapore is most definitely one of those places, so it gives me great pleasure to be able to introduce this island nation to you through the eyes of a local. Ready, set, go…!
1. Could you tell us a little about yourself and where you come from?
I’m Michelle, a former teacher turned freelance writer and serial traveller! I blog at www.themunchingtraveller.com as I love going on food hunts whenever I’m overseas. I was born in Singapore and have been living here ever since (I’ve lived in Bern, Switzerland for roughly 6 months though)!
2. What do you love most about your hometown?
I love Singapore best because of the cosmopolitan culture and large variety of food. It is the city where you can find almost any type of food: from Japanese to Greek cuisine, Singapore has it all!
Living in a small country also means that I can get literally anywhere in under an hour by car, and about an hour and a half by public transportation. Public transportation in Singapore is also very convenient as it connects you to almost every part of Singapore.
There are also many amazing architectures that can be found in Singapore: The Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Convention Centre, the Art Science Museum, Gardens By the Bay, Esplanade, etc. These are but some of the amazing buildings that you will certainly be intrigued by.
3. Is there anything that frustrates or annoys you when tourists visit Singapore?
Being a very small city, there will be bound to be overcrowding. Orchard Road, especially, tends to be extremely crowded during the weekends and holidays. Other than that, I really love seeing new people and would love to welcome new visitors to Singapore!
4. In your opinion, which places should be at the top of any visitor’s wishlist in Singapore?
Definitely all the local tourist attractions (including those already mentioned previously): Chinatown, Little India, Fullerton Bay Area, Singapore River, Merlion Park, Victoria Concert Hall, and Clarke Quay for night life.
For a true authentic experience, travellers should also make a trip away from the tourist attractions into the Heartlands to enjoy food in our hawker centres. They are extremely reasonably priced and are very delicious. My favourite hawker centre has got to be Amoy Street Food Centre. Apart from being able to try authentic local dishes, there is an amazing Thai Food Stall on the first floor, and a Beef Donburi located on the second floor. Do make sure that you visit during weekdays as most of the stalls are closed during the weekends (this hawker centre mainly serves the working crowd in the business district).
5. What foods must visitors eat when in your hometown?
There are so many!:
- Chicken Rice
- Char Kway Teow (Fried Noodles in a Sweet Dark Sauce with cockles)
- Fried Carrot Cake (Try both the black and white!)
- Prawn Noodles
- Bak Kut Teh (Pork Bone Soup)
- Satay (Meat Skewers, best eaten with a thick creamy peanut sauce that comes along with it)
- Rojak (Fruits, Dough Fritters, and vegetables tossed in a prawn paste dark sauce)
- Prata (Indian Pancake)
- Murtabak (Similar to Prata but with meat fillings)
- Oyster Omelette
- Bak Chor Mee (Noodles tossed in a spicy sauce with minced meat)
Most can be found in hawker centres and I’m feeling really hungry typing this now! =/
6. What’s your favourite Singaporean word? Why? What does it mean?
-lah. It isn’t quite a word but it’s something that Singaporeans add to the end of their words and sentences. Better known as Singlish – a colloquial language that is a mix of the different languages we have in Singapore. Different use of these Singlish terms have certain nuances and slightly alters the meaning of phrases.
I don’t have lah = I really don’t have it
I don’t have lor = I wish I had it, but unfortunately I don’t have it.
I don’t have liao = I used to have it, but I no longer have it.
I don’t have leh = For some reason, I don’t have it.
Sometimes, because of these subtleties in the way Singaporeans speak, foreigners may have trouble trying to understand. However, most Singaporeans are able to code-switch, when they realise that they are talking to a foreigner, or someone who is unable to understand, they will revert to standard British English.
7. What advice would you give to somebody moving to Singapore from another country?
Be prepared for the extremely high standard of living! Although food is extremely affordable in hawker centres, everything else is expensive! Owning your own car is expensive. Renting a place to stay is expensive!
And do be prepared for LOTS of rules and regulations. No chewing gum, no eating on the trains, no littering, no smoking in undesignated areas, etc. So many prohibitions that many cities may not have and you may feel a little stifled.
8. If you could describe your hometown in just one sentence, what would you say?
Singapore = Food Haven!
9. If tourists were to know one thing about Singapore’s culture, what should that be?
Definitely knowing a thing or two about Singlish would definitely help you to blend into the city much faster! Do also note that Singapore is a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious society. One needs to make sure you don’t step on these boundaries and appreciate the diversity that we have!
10. Do you have any interesting traditions that you’d like to share with us?
The Lunar New Year is coming right up and Singaporean Chinese celebrate it by heading to their relatives’ houses to bai nian (pay a new year’s visit). The younger generation usually head to visit the older generation with two mandarin oranges, wishing the elder a prosperous new year, and for the elderly, a healthy new year! Married couples will then have to give out red packets containing some money (hong bao) to the young unmarried children as well as a wishing for the New Year. It is also the celebration where many families will get together for a feast!
Thanks Michelle – we’ve loved getting to know you and Singapore better!
If you want to hear more from Michelle, take a look at her travel blog, The Munching Traveller now!
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