Singapore


Singapore is a tiny country (224 square miles or about 1/5 the size of Rhode Island) located off the southern tip of Malaysia, with a population of over two million people.

The city of Singapore, with 90 percent of the country’s population, has one of the busiest seaports in the world, where large cargoes of lumber, copra, spices, coconuts, fruits, rubber products, and tin products are shipped daily. Unusual fruits of this tropical island are durians, rambutans, jackfruit, and mangosteens.

Three-fourths of the people in Singapore are Chinese, but the official language there is Malay. Television and radio programs are also broadcast in Mandarin, English, and Tamil (East Indian).

A mixture of several Far Eastern cultures accounts for the country’s varied and colorful dress and spicy foods. Native dress includes the baju kurong (worn by children, women, and men)—long tunic dress worn on top and over a long skirt; a sarong kebaya (worn by women)—fitted top with long sleeves worn over a long skirt; and a songkok (muslin cap worn only by men). Men also wear a sarong with a shirt.

Besides playing soccer, field hockey, softball, and tennis, children in Singapore play sepak raga (Malay), a net game played only with the feet in which a rattan and wicker ball is kicked over a five-foot net. Cha-teh (Chinese) is played with a small feathered rubber disc that is kept in the air by hitting it with the side of the foot.

Many Singaporeans still live in kampongs (villages) in homes made of bamboo set up on stilts. The city dwellers, who most often have lived in rooms over downtown shops, have moved into multistoried flats (apartment buildings) built by the government. It is customary for shoes to be taken off before going inside Singaporean homes.

Children in Singapore begin school in January at the age of six and must learn one other language besides Malay. After six or seven years in the primary grades, they go on to secondary school or into some specialized type of training. The country has quite a few private schools—Japanese, American, English, New Zealand, and German, to name just a few of them. All schoolchildren wear uniforms of a certain color to identify the school they attend.

In addition to the well-known Christian holidays of Christmas and Easter, some other holidays celebrated in Singapore are Hari Raya Pussa and Hari Raya Haji (Muslim); Dwali or Festival of Lights (East Indian); candle dance (Malay); Lantern or Moon Cake Festival (Chinese); and Chinese New Year, a time when each child receives a hung bow (small red envelope containing money).

[illustration] Illustrated by Dick Brown