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Snapshot of Singapore – The island nation of Singapore has four official languages – Chinese, English, Malay, and Tamil. Chinese is the native language of almost 50% of the population, while another third of the population speak English as their native language. English is generally used in schools, business, and government. Singapore is a very religiously diverse nation – 33% of residents are Buddhist, 18% are Christian, 17% practice no religion, 15% are Muslim, 11% practice Taoism and about 5% are Hindu. Singapore has a large population of foreign-born citizens. Most people in Singapore live in high-rise apartments and have very small families, caused in part due to scarcity of land. Few people have their own vehicles, and most use public transportation. Singapore ranks among the world’s best education and healthcare systems. Singapore’s culture reflects a mix of Chinese, British, Malay, and Indian influences, with many public holidays celebrating the practices of different religious groups. Peranakan music is uniquely Singaporean, mixing English vocals with Malay-influenced folk music. Singapore has a strong theater community, and hosts the annual Singapore Arts Festival celebrating music, dance, art, and theater. However, the government does impose strict restrictions on arts and performances, often censoring different types of media. Soccer, basketball, rugby, and cricket are all popular sports in Singapore. Singaporean cuisine also reflects the country’s cultural diversity. A variety of Chinese, Malay, Indian, and western foods are available, and there are many dishes that mix these different types of foods. Tropical fruits such as durian, mangosteen, pineapple, and jackfruit are also popular.
Snapshot Malaysia (part of Singapore Mission)
Malaysian is the official language of Malaysia, however several indigenous languages are also present in the country and English is often used in business. About 60% of Malaysia’s population is Muslim; nearly 20% are Buddhist and not quite 10% are Christian. Despite Malaysia’s constitution guaranteeing freedom of religion, there are some religious restrictions in the country, especially restricting Muslims from converting to other religions. However, the main holiday of each of these religious groups are observed as national holidays in the country. Malaysian culture contains influences from indigenous cultures, Islam, China, and India. Traditional art includes basket weaving and fabrics such as batik and songket, and there are many drum-based folk music styles as well. Many of the folk music styles are used during celebrations or other important ceremonies. Soccer is Malaysia’s most popular sport, but badminton and field hockey are also popular. Rice, noodles, and Indian-style bread are all popular staples in Malaysia. Several types of meat are eaten in the country, but pork is avoided by Muslims and Hindus, and beef is not consumed by Hindus and some Buddhists. Sambal, a sauce made from shrimp paste, chili peppers, and other ingredients is commonly used in cooking Malay dishes. Variants of Chinese, Indian, and Nyonya cuisine are also regularly eaten among different ethnic groups within the country.
In Singapore there are currently 3,573 members with 11 congregations. The first missionaries entered the country in the late 1960’s and continue to preach and help with the progression of the Gospel.
Singapore is famous for their food. Both Singapore and Malaysia are hubs of diversity, so their foods highlight the origin of a specific with a Singaporean flavor.These dishes certainly are some of the most popular: Chili Crab, Dim Sum, and Char Kway Teow.
Other fun dishes are Laksa, Fish Head Curry, Kaya, and Satay. There are incredible fish and seafood options.
Singapore is known for its incredible public transit options. Their subway system (SMRT) is very efficient and clean. It has destinations all over the island. Bus lines will offer the specific neighborhoods that the SMRT doesn’t reach.
Singapore is a very safe country. There are extremely harsh punishments for crime. The death sentence is the penalty for drug possession and use, kidnapping, rape, murder, and other big crimes.
Singapore honored most every ethnic and religious holiday, which means they are constantly celebrating. Singapore differentiated itself from other countries through their country-wide decoration of the island for Christmas. They have a new theme every year.
In Malaysia, the Islamic traditions were the most obvious. The month of Ramadan is a big deal and the celebration after the fast, Hari Raya Aidilfitri, is huge. Chinese New Year is also huge in both Singapore and Malaysia.
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Straight from the Singapore Mission:
*What items were hard to get or not available?
“deodorant with the ph.”
*What did you eat the most of?
*What is the craziest thing you ate?
“I don’t remember. There is a Chinese saying that they will “eat anything under the sun except an old woman” because they spice it up. I have memories of eating food so hot that I could feel is burn through my digestive system. If you are not sweating, the food is not hot enough”
*What was most surprising about the culture?
“In Malaysia I have a very vivid memory of riding the bus with Indian music blaring from the speakers, and hearing the evening call to prayers from a nearby Mosque, and seeing red Chinese lanterns hanging from string lining the street. I loved being apart of such a combination of different cultures. I was fascinated because the cultures were so different from each other and different from anything I experienced growing up. I felt humbled that the Lord allowed me such a moment.”
*What advice would you give to someone going to the Singapore Mission?
“Follow the mission rules.”
*What do you wish you had known before you served?
“How to better communicate with the Lord through prayer and reading the Book of Mormon.”
**Did you serve in the Singapore Mission? If so we would love to hear your advice and your stories! Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org**