This is my first month in Singapore to start working here. I have heard that this country is very strict with their citizens and even tourists to keep the country clean and proud. Are there any behaviors which we need to avoid while staying in Singapore?
I lived in Singapore for ~7 years, so I suppose I'm pretty well placed to answer this question.
TL;DR, don't worry about it: if you behave respectfully/normally by Western standards in Singapore, you'll be totally fine. If anything, Singaporean culture tends towards the brusque, people tends to be pretty straightforward in their interactions compared to (say) Japan. You want beer or not? Cannot lah, drink three bottle already!
You should, however, be aware that law enforcement in Singapore operates on the Chinese principle of "Kill the chicken to scare the monkey" (杀鸡儆猴), meaning enforcement is loose (compared to most SE Asian countries, cops are a rare sight) but punishments are draconian. In particular:
- Drugs are treated extremely seriously, punishments even for simple possession range from years in jail to death.
- Vandalism, including graffiti, is punished with caning. Mostly famously, an American kid who keyed cars got a jail sentence and 4 strokes of the cane despite a plea of clemency from Bill Clinton.
- Offensive behavior while being drunk in public can lead to fines of up to $1000 or 6 months in jail, simply from somebody being annoyed with you. Public urination or getting into fights etc is even worse.
- Littering carries heavy fines; repeat offenders are sentenced to Corrective Work Orders, meaning sweeping the streets!
- Politics, religion and race relations are a complicated minefield that tourists are best off not entering. Of course, this is true anywhere in the world, but in Singapore there are potential legal consequences if somebody is offended by what you say or write.
As for the famous chewing gum ban, it's not absolute (medical/dental gums are permitted) and it's not the act of chewing that's banned, but littering with used gums.
This question is indeed very broad. But I can understand where it comes from. I have lived in Singapore for the last couple years and often do I get this kind of questions, given the reputation that the country has in the West. Just to get something out of the way: You won't get into any problems for eating chewing gum. It is not commonly sold in Singapore, but bringing it in in small quantities and eating it in public is not a problem.
You seem to be mostly concerned about things which are illegal and not things which are disrespectful. I would say, that as long as you act normally, without trying to do funny or obviously illegal acts, you will be fine most of the times. If there is something which you are not supposed to do, you'll very likely find a big sign indicating this. For a good overview, you might want to refer to this wikivoyage page. Some general (besides the very obvious) things which you should not do are:
- Drugs. This leads to very heavy prison terms and can lead to the death penalty. This also includes cannabis.
- Bribe. While this is very common in neighbouring countries, there is usually zero tolerance on this. Just trying to offer a bribe to any official will most likely get you arrested on the spot.
- Racial or religious remarks. There are quite strict laws against offending racial or religious feelings, so do be careful there. It is mostly not an issue when talking to friends or colleagues, but sometimes foreigners get called out for posting insensitive things on Facebook or blogs.
If you smoke, you might want to consult the very long list of places where you are not allowed to smoke. In general, you are not allowed to smoke indoors (including open-air corridors), at covered areas (including bus stops, walkways and overhead bridges) and within 5 metres of any entrance or exit.
This is mostly about laws. When it comes to etiquette and respect, there are of course a lot of other rules and conventions. Again, there's a summary of that on wikivoyage. In general, as a foreigner, you will get some leeway there though and it is okay if you don't know all of those at first.
protected by JonathanReez♦ Apr 29 '18 at 16:27
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