Singapore is a bustling, cosmopolitan city state that is also an island nation. It is made up of one main island which measures 692.7 km², and 63 offshore islands, many of which are uninhabited. Singapore lies at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula , 137 kilometres North of the Equator (1 22 N 103 48 E). and as such has a tropical climate (the average daily minimum being 23.9°C, and the maximum 30.9°C, and the length of daylight remain nearly constant throughout the year.
The smallest country in Southeast Asia, Singapore is a multi-racial, multi-cultural society of just over 4,553,000 inhabitants made up of Chinese (75%), Malays (14%), Indians (9%), and people from other ethnic groups (such as Eurasions, Europeans etc 2%) . Although the national language of Singapore is Malay (a reflection of its past links with Malaysia ), its four official languages are English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil. The language of administration is English, which is taught as a first language in the education system, with many of the ethnic Chinese also replacing their dialects (Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Hakka, Hainanese and Foochow ) with Mandarin. Tamil is spoken by many Indians, but also spoken are Malayalam, Punjabi, Telegu, Hindi and Bengali. While kindergarten is non-compulsory (and widely available), children are expected to enter primary school being able to read and write in two languages, normally English and their mother tongue. The standard of education in Singapore is very high, and this is reflected in the literacy rate of 95.4% (2006). Although discouraged by the government (which favours Singapore Standard English), Singlish, a rather interesting combination of English, Malay, Hokkien and Tamil, is spoken by many in addition to English. Visitors may be rather confused by the instruction “gostan' (pronounced go stun) while reversing their cars unless they have been told that this is actually a Malay contraction of the English shipping term ‘go astern'. They may then ‘gostan' their cars into their parking spaces.
Everywhere you go in Singapore you can see evidence of its multiculturalism. It is a fascinating mix of East & West, and even of East & East. There are so many threads from so many countries in Asia and beyond woven together that it doesn't take long to realise that Singapore has a very unique identity of its own.
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