My Comment On The Official Singapore Etiquette

I just stumbled over a useful webpage that offers help in preparing your trip to certain countries by providing a summarized etiquette about that places typical local behavior, eating habits etc. And Singapore is also on the list.

However, I had a good time reading the “Singapore Etiquette” because some things are just so out of place. I’m not blaming the author because he/she probably has never been here and looking at the worlds map, Singapore is clearly an Asian country (with supposedly Asian etiquette). However we all know that Singapore has its on laws and rules.

Sit With Your Feet Flat Against The Wall

  • “When sitting in the presence of Singaporeans, it is proper etiquette to make sure that the soles of your feet face down and do not point directly at any one person. It is best to sit with your feet flat against the floor to ensure that you don’t accidentally offend anyone.

    Similarly touching your head may cause offence”

On my way to last years CNY dinner (Read: 5 Very Important Things I Learned This CNY) with my local friends I asked them about the “bare feet issue” and got unbelievable stares back. They had never ever heard about such a thing before.

Wearing Flip Flops is the most common thing in Singapore (unfortunately) and there is simply no such thing as that people would feel offended by anyones bare sole. Is it? (The 5 Worst Fashion Failures In Singapore) I’m just trying to imagine all the people in the MRTs, Buses and offices sitting with their feet flat against the wall. Quite hilarious.

Furthermore I would imply that there is a general problem with “etiquette” in Singapore. And this is probably simply due to the wide variety of nationalities mixing up here, where all “bad habits” come together and show as much more obvious then the good ones.

Verbal Communication In Singapore Is Delicate

  • “Verbal communication in Singapore is delicate, subtle and considered. For this reason answers to questions should never be offered hastily or it is possible to cause offence.”

Hehe, I think you can already guess what I am thinking now. Do you?

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‘)); ?> I had to laugh so hard about this part. Have you been to Singapore? Verbal communication in Singapore is one of the loudest, quickest and most irritating I have come over so far. The lingua franca in fact is not English, as pointed out in the article, but our beloved “Singlish”. (The 6 Most Weird Campaigns In Singapore)

The spoken word is usually very hectically and loud and can be quite difficult for the “non trained ear” to understand. Tourists might feel they get sweared or shouted at when the cab driver is simply telling them of his last weekend trip.

And have you ever shared a morning elevator ride with 10 gossiping local business women?

So just to confirm, No, Verbal Communication Is Definitely Not Delicate Or Subtle In Singapore

Introduction – A Simple Bow Will Suffice

O_O That was my faces expression upon passing the above sentence. Excuse me what? I have two Japanese colleagues and non of them even bowed when they spilled their coffee over my desk.

I mean, you can give it a try and bow to your cabby uncle or the tissue selling auntie every time you see them. But I can promise you they will either feel offended or simply brabble about “The Weird Ang Mohs“.

Just replace your little bowing exercise with a simple Handshake and that should do it. Although it would be quite amusing to see tourists start bowing every now and then.

Whats Your Impression On The Singaporean Etiquette?

Am I wrong with what I write above? Please correct me if yes and I promise I wont show my bare soles ever again, not to speak of touching my head in the public.

Would be great to read some comments on this, just to be sure, you know :)




Ha ha! The author of that book must have been making very crude generalisations! Nice work to point out the real Singaporean “etiquette” or the lack of it!

genuine ang moh

I have been living here for over 4 months now; and have learn’t to do away with niceties and smalltalk…in particular if I am shopping locally/ or am at a local hawker centre ordering food. (i am talking about the Chinese communities here as this is where i live)
If I say “Hi how are you?” ; or “I think I might have…. today..”/ or add a “please” or any other seemingly “unnecessary” nicety …the seller will look at me like I spoke a strange language; or just brush me to the side/ call over a token “Ang Mo translater” co-worker to translate my odd form of communication.
I have since learnt to be very direct …decide exactly what i want before i ask for it; have my money ready to pay .. (using hand gestures also helps confirm numericies) It also helps to learn to say “Hello” – “Nee How” (loose phonetic translation) and “Thanks” – “Xie Xie” / She she) in Cantonese.
eg; to by a pork bun: (Pau)
Step 1. Smile politely say ” Ne how”
step 2. point (if poss.) to what you want : Say “two pork pau ” Note no “I think I’ll have” or “please” included in that..just WHAT YOU WANT AND HOW MANY.
step 3. Have your money ready ; take your Pau and say “Xie Xie”… move away from the vendor quickly so they can serve the next customer.
If you want to chat take a taxi… time is money la… : )


Absolutely agreed with the super duper gossiping locals!

I’d personally experienced several time … witnessed, these women formed a group by a coffee table for their afternoon tea session or after work to spread all the secrets of their daily works situation for hours! b.t.w, men are doing the exact same thing. What a turn off!

I seriously doubt they realized it’s a social problem.


In Malay culture, it’s considered a disrespect to point your feet at others (bare or otherwise), especially at ones’ elders. Maybe that’s how the writer came up with his point about the bare feet. Never heard that touching your head can cause offence though :D


Singapore Unofficial National Past time, Talking Cock! (Gossiping in Singlish)


I agree with that touching your head can cause offence, I know I am offended everytime I see someone with half their finger jammed up their nostril ( but I am ang moh, so that may count against me )


Enjoyed your blog post. Now, I have a lot to say about that website’s (lol) ‘accurate’ portrayals of Singapore.

The point about Singapore housing many different racial ethnicities is one problem that Singaporeans face as well. The mistake was to homogenize all of these ethnic customs that is unique to that particular culture and label them ‘Singaporean’. In fact, living in Singapore all my life, the only consistency I’ve seen is the ‘don’t care’ mentality. I’ve not seen anyone care that much to be behaving ‘correct’ in each other’s presence, and we don’t really get very upset if there are commited faux pas, since we ourselves do it all the time… Common courtesies are seldom seen, Singaporeans generally don’t like touching strangers and elderly people in transports are the angriest bunch of people I’ve encountered.

You know how Singapore is striving to be multicultural and importing other cultures to further confuse Singaporeans? With new shopping malls that feature Japanese, Korean, Thai, whatever eateries, we might walk into a sushi bar and spear it with our chopsticks, and eat things the ‘wrong way’.

Binge Drinker

I like [genuine ang moh]’s post about directness… I think it mostly confuses non-Asian anglophones (i.e., most anglophones including Indians). Germans or Icelanders might find it easier to adjust since they are so terribly frank and direct, almost robot-like.

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