Singapore is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and is an island nation packed with expats. It’s a country that seems to have perfectly blended cosmopolitan living with rich cultural heritage.
But, as with anywhere in the world, there are local customs people must be aware of and rookie mistakes visitors can make. These mistakes can not only be highly embarrassing but also costly.
Singapore has strict fines that ensure society functions the way authorities want it to. For example, if you “illegally” cross the road — within 50 metres of a crossing zone — you will be fined up to S$1,000 (£472, $US744) or get 3 months in jail.
Here are some official and unofficial faux pas you don’t want to make when you go to Singapore.
9. Taking a picture on the Metro
Singapore’s Metro, which is the equivalent of Britain’s DLR service and an overground version of New York’s subway, bans pretty much everything other than entering and travelling.
Taking pictures and eating or drinking is banned and carries a S$500 (£267, $US372) fine.
8. Breaking the hawker stall seating code
If you get to a food court that has lots of hawker stalls, beware of breaking the unofficial seating rule of “vacant” seats.
If you see an empty seat with a pack of tissues next to it, do not pick it up and sit down — this is how people save their seats while they go and get food.
Think of it as the equivalent of putting your towel on a sun lounger.
7. Wearing very little
Singapore is very near the equator and temperatures can rise to as high as 36 degrees Celsius (96.8 Fahrenheit) but you’ll look utterly ridiculous walking around like you’re going to the beach.
Singapore is a cosmopolitan city/country and 90% of region is heavy on the air conditioning — so you’ll also be freezing if you’re not actually covered up.
6. Not flushing the toilet
Well, it goes without saying that you should flush the toilet after you use it.
But if you forget or can’t, for whatever reason, you could be seriously embarrassed when an official calls you out. And they will do that — not flushing the toilet in Singapore in a public place carries a S$150 (£71, $US112) fine.
5. Not carrying tissues and hand wipes
A lot of Asia now has western toilets but in some of the more “local” areas the “drop and squat” is still prevalent.
These toilets are effectively holes in the ground that you have to squat over and many have hoses instead of toilet paper. While Singapore has mostly moved to using Western toilets, there will be some times when you’re stuck using these “alternative” ones.
It’s always good to be prepared with tissues and anti-bacterial gel for these occasions.
4. Chewing gum
Singapore is incredibly sleek, clean, and cosmopolitan but this is mainly down to the strict rules it has governing its environment.
Chewing gum is banned in Singapore so being caught with it in your possession can lead to major embarrassment and possibly poverty — it carries a huge S$100,000 (£49,000, $US74,517) fine.
3. Playing with chopsticks
Ask any local what really irks them when it comes to dining etiquette and playing with chopsticks will come near the top.
It’s seen as disrespectful and embarrassing to fellow diners.
Spitting on the street may happen a lot in mainland China but don’t think you can do the same in Singapore.
Not only will you be openly berated by locals but you’ll be fined S$500 (£267, $US372).
1. Insulting or making fun of the food
One of the great things about travelling is tasting and experiencing new cuisines. But whether it’s trying chicken feet for the first time or the infamously pungent durian fruit, don’t outwardly complain if you encounter food in Singapore that you think is odd.
Insulting the food and making fun of local delicacies will just show you up as an embarrassing, disrespectful tourist.
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