If You Were Overseas, How Would You Describe Singapore To Foreigners?

From recipes to poetry, Singapore public officers share their creativity in describing modern Singapore to visitors and foreigners. 

Your Say: Recipe for the little red dot, Singapore Rojak

Winning entry

Recipe for the Little Red Dot – Singapore Rojak

5.7 million hearts full of love
163km of expressways
119 MRT stations
4 cups of official languages
A large sprinkle of dialects, and
Many lifetimes of progress

Whisk daily with happiness, harmony and sunny weather;
Serve on an island with unity;
Garnish with technology and Singlish.

Cindy Wang, HDB

Congratulations, Cindy! For your creativity, you win shopping vouchers worth $100, which you can use to buy Singapore sauces and more. Enjoy!

salad bowl

In 2011, we asked Challenge readers to describe Singapore to foreigners. Eight years on, public officers are still describing Singapore with food. Here’s the winning entry from the previous round:

Winning entry

Singapore is like a garden salad, and its people like the different ingredients that retain distinctive flavours to make up the salad’s overall taste. We are made up of Chinese, Malays, Indians, Eurasians and increasingly, people of other nationalities with their own cultural distinctiveness and strengths, yet we maintain good relations with each other. The ingredients in a garden salad must be fresh, as depicted in our ‘new’ Cabinet formed after a watershed election and a ‘new’ Singapore for the future. It is apt to use a food item to describe Singapore as it is known as a ‘Food Paradise’!

Barkathnisha Begum Binte Abdul Razzak, MOE

Barkathnisha won a $100 voucher from Straits Kitchen at Grand Hyatt Singapore to treat her foreign friends to a meal when they visit.

Other notable entries from 2019:

Singapore is a unique dish that satisfies the most sophisticated gourmet’s palate. Michelin stars dot the landscape and families live a stone’s throw from otter playgrounds, cloud forests and ancient shipwrecks. All this and more are the result of two centuries of frenetic, directed energies of a multicultural society of people who set aside our differences and drew strength from our diversity to build a city, a garden and a home.

Kenneth Goh, AGO

A tiny red dot,
Yet stands out a lot.
A clean and green city they say,
Multilingual with all the Singlish
like huh, lor and leh.
A home to many races,
And all the lovely places,
Singapore is the place I’d truly call home.

Sheila Jayme Tan, MOE

Singapore is like a glass of fruit juice and its citizens are like the various fruits that have their own distinctive flavours. We are Chinese, Malay, Indians and Eurasians with our own cultural attractions and yet we blend in well together as one big family to bring out a refreshing taste to the global world.

Tai Boon Keat, PA

Singapore today appears to be a nation of contradiction. We work hard to deal with the challenges of an ageing population, whilst pursuing the dream of becoming a Smart Nation. We are a tropical country, yet an interested member of the Arctic Council. We are “frenemies” with our neighbours, and friends with superpowers who are competitors with each other. We have upgraded from the rustic kampong life of yore, but now seek to revive the kampong spirit we lost along the way. We appear contradictory, but we aren’t. We simply tread many tightropes. And our actions are supported by a desire to ensure that Singapore remains a good home for the generation of tomorrow.

Adeline Hong, MSF

Past published entries from 2011:

Singapore is like chilli padi, small and short, yet beautiful and attractive. When you first bite it, what hits you is its fragrance, later its ‘power’ surfaces behind your throat after you have swallowed it, forcing you to re-think about it. We are a small country, with a short history, but boy, do we have a surprise for you!

Yit Chin Chuan, NLB

Singapore is like yoghurt. It may appear plain and simple, but deep inside... it is full of live and active cultures. Just like yoghurt, once you’ve had a sampling of Singapore, you’ll feel good inside.

Sanjiv Vaswani, AGC

Singapore is like a doughnut – best defined by what’s not there. If you visit Singapore, you won’t have problems finding tasty food, potable water, convenient transport, memorable sights and plenty of shopping. If you work here, you won’t have problems finding world-class infrastructure, business opportunities, fair competition and a frustratingly fun time trying to understand Singlish. If you come here to set up a home, you won’t have problems finding religious freedom, racial harmony, decent healthcare, education opportunities, and understanding the joys and pains of home karaoke systems. If you are a Singaporean, you won’t have problems finding long queues, sales to take advantage of and, of course, something to complain about endlessly.

Kristy Lim, CNB

I would describe Singapore as the king of fruits, the durian, which is sharp, thorny and dangerous on the outside but juicy and delicious inside. Similarly, Singapore might look unattractive with its ‘harsh’ and ‘strict’ rules but once a foreigner gets to taste the real Singapore, he will love its delicious taste. To taste the durian, some effort is required. To see the beauty of Singapore, one needs to get to know its people, places and food. Good-grade durian is expensive and Singapore is expensive. Welcome to one of the most expensive places in ASEAN.

Zahri Kasir Mohamad, PUB

Singapore: Asia for beginners!

Goh Chee Hoh, PUB

Singapore is an island of a country and a babe of a nation.
It is miniscule in size but Herculean in aspiration.
Their natural resources are scarce and their babies even scarcer.
Singaporeans speak many languages but they converse in one tongue.
They are wonderfully heterogeneous but the climate is woefully same-same.
They’ll stand up for Singapore but they can’t stand standing in the train.
Singaporeans may dine at the Michelin-ed but they all swear by their Maxwell Road.
Singapore was once an Asian Tiger but it will ever be the Lion City.

Lim Suet Ching, CSC

I would say Singapore is like a Japanese Marimo – the rare green algae that are now protected under law after having been ravaged by tourists trying to bring them home. Likewise, Singapore is this cute little green dot, replete with flora, that ekes out a living in this harsh world. We are unique and we thrive in basic environmental conditions, without natural resources but bursting with energy. We are a microcosm of more complex societies but we still manage to present a homogeneous whole. We are so cuddly cute and successful till other countries trip over themselves to try to replicate our economic and social harmony success.

Joshua Lau, MICA

It’s always easy to judge a place when you’re on the outside, looking in.
Just a little quirk about Singapore – we love acronyms.

Safe. No qualms about roaming the streets at night!
Incorruptible people.
Nutrition. Food paradise.
Global. Think ‘HUB’, think Singapore. Medical, Transport, Economics, Sports.
Action. People walk fast, talk fast, even buildings change – there’s always something new to see, or do.
Protected. No natural disasters. Phew.
One People, One Nation. With four main races, and many religions.
Really small. We are a little red dot. But good things often come in small packages.
Entertainment. Watch a movie, watch a play, play a sport, go shopping, drinking, to the beach, zoo, bird park.

Beverly Snodgrass, MCYS

Singapore is a well-sheltered country. Rain or shine, there is no need to worry. There are covered walkways from MRT stations to HDB flats and shopping centres. Singapore is well-sheltered and safe. One can wander around any part of Singapore at any time of the day or night carrying valuable possessions. Singapore is well-sheltered naturally too: there are no fault-lines nearby, although Indonesia's earthquakes can sometimes be felt, and other landmasses shield it from typhoons, tornadoes and tsunamis. Yes, Singapore is well-sheltered!

Marfia Banu, PUB

    Apr 15, 2019
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