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    Iran: Details on a Mosque. Go Now!

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    This archipelago nation is culturally diverse from big cities to isolated islands. Begin Your Journey!

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    This landlocked country mixes the cultures of the Indian sub-continent with the high Himalayas. Explore Nepal!

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    This vast country has a culture that spans past and present... a nomadic life shifting to a modern & sedentary society. Begin Your Journey!

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    The mountains, including the Tian Shan Mountains (pictured), give Kyrgyzstan a unique culture, partially formed from this isolation from the mountains. Go Now!

Social Life in Singapore

Behavior

The Singaporeans are somewhat conservative in most aspects of their lives partially due to their Buddhist, Islamic, and Christian faiths. However, they are well aware of the world around them as well as the differences in opinions and behaviors. Because of this they are quite understanding of various cultures and foreigners so odd behaviors are generally accepted, but the country has some of is own odd behaviors that also must be followed.

Among the odd laws in Singapore, most are actually enforced so be careful. The first and one of the oddest laws is that chewing gum is prohibited. This law and others like it were created to keep the city clean; among these cleanliness laws include: littering is forbidden, you must flush the toilet after using it, and you are not allowed to hug another person without their permission. There are other seemingly odd laws that make more sense once one understands the culture, such as: making derogatory comments about any religion is illegal, lying is illegal, and walking around your house naked is illegal. When in doubt keep quiet and follow the lead of a local.

Also remember that the people of Singapore are very proud people and insulting them or putting a person down in anyway can be very offensive as the person will feel "shamed." In much the same way, they will rarely give you critical advice or insult you in fear of "shaming" you. This is especially true in business. Turning down a business offer in the wrong way may, unknowingly, be an insult and could force your contact to feel so shamed that he will actually quit his job; if all hope is lost on a deal, allow your local counterpart to gracefully exit the situation so he can save "face." However, the opposite is also becoming more common and if you do (intentionally or unintentionally) insult another, that person may defend his honor by insulting you and will pursue a shouting match. Fortunately, this is more common among locals arguing over driving etiquette.

Dress

The traditional dress in Singapore is heavily reliant on an individual's ethnicity. The ethnic Chinese tended to wear the cheongsam for women and the changshan for men, the Malays tended to wear baju melayu for men and baju kurang for women, while the Indian men wore dhoti kurta and women wore the traditional sari.

The Chinese changshan and cheongsam are single-piece outfits that often fit well as they show off a person's figure; they can come in numerous styles, but are similar to dresses and often have short sleeves. The Malays' baju kurang is similar to a dress, while the baju melayu consists of a simple long-sleeved shirt and pants or pants that appear to be more of a kilt or skirt for men. The Indian sari is often times a single piece of cloth wrapped around a woman's body to completely cover herself or can be multiple pieces of cloth and is generally very colorful. The dhoti kurta is a simple shirt (kurta) with basic loose-fitting pants (dhoti).

Today, the people of Singapore dress almost exclusively in western clothing as modern fashion and customs rule in this business-oriented city-state. The main exception to this is the baju melayu and baju kurang, which are often worn to the Mosque. For the rest of the week, most clothing is western-styled and long-sleeved, both long sleeved pants as well as shirts and in business interactions full suits or dress suits for women are standard issue.

Despite the formality of the general populace in Singapore, there are few true dress restrictions in the country. It is expected that you dress modestly and don't show too much skin, but wearing shorts or short-sleeved shirts is common and accepted. If you are at a nice restaurant, a business meeting, at a religious building, or even just going to a high end shop, it is generally considered courteous to wear long pants and shirts.

This page was last updated: November, 2013