Home » Living in Singapore » Living here » Singapore in a nutshell: All you need to know about our country
Living here

Singapore in a nutshell: All you need to know about our country


Fast Facts

Singapore is made up of the island of Singapore itself and 60 smaller islands.

Singapore is in the northern hemisphere – but only just! It’s 137km north of the Equator.

Singapore is among the 20 smallest countries in the world, with a total land area of just 683 square kilometres. The main island is 42km long and 23km wide.

Singapore is linked to peninsular Malaysia by two causeways, one at Woodlands and one at Tuas.

Singapore’s average daily temperature is 26.7 degrees Celsius, with a mean minimum of 23.9 and a mean maximum of 30.8. December and January are the coolest months.

Singapore has over 300 bird species and 350 butterfly species.

Singapore has a population of 5 million people, 75 percent of whom are Chinese, 13.5 percent Malay and 9 percent Indian.
The most common surnames in Singapore are Tan, Lim and Lee.
The main languages spoken are English, Mandarin, Malay, Tamil and Cantonese.


What does “Singapore” actually mean?

While Singapore’s name derives from the Malay words for “lion” and “city”, studies suggest that lions have never lived here. The Malay prince Sang Nila Utama is said to have founded Singapore in the 13th century and given it the name Singapura after seeing an impressive wild animal on the island. In all likelihood, the animal was a Malayan Tiger.

Trivia Time

There are five “official” Merlion statues in Singapore. In 2009, the main Merlion near Marina Bay was struck by lightning and damaged.

The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is said to contain more species of trees than the entire North American continent.

Apart from Monaco, Singapore is the most densely populated country in the world.

The largest fountain in the world is at Suntec City.

Singapore’s oldest bridge that is still in use is Cavenagh Bridge (1869). An original sign next to the bridge warns that horses and cattle are not allowed to cross.

The record for the biggest line dance was set in Singapore with 11,967 dancers.

More Singaporeans are born in the month of October than any other month of the year.

The flying fox, the world’s largest bat with a whopping wingspan reaching up to 1.5 metres, can be found on Pulau Ubin, one of the islands off the mainland.


Raffles and Stamford

The name “Raffles” is ubiquitous in Singapore, giving the impression that its founders were fixated on charity bingos. In fact, all of those malls, hotels, streets, and MRT stations are named after Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles, who alternately went by Thomas and Stamford – fortunately never by his third name (thus, no Bingley hotel). His prominent career as a trader with the British East India Company brought Raffles to various ports around Southeast Asia, where he negotiated commerce and wrote history books along the way. Raffles affirmed the modern foundation of Singapore in 1819, ensuring the British control for the following 144 years. Raffles laid the groundwork for an independent Singapore by helping the local people establish schools, businesses, and churches.


Singaporean English (“Singlish”) might officially be discouraged, but there’s no escaping the fact that, as a newly arrived expat, you’ll immediately notice the unique version of English spoken by many of the island’s inhabitants. It might even cause some problems at first, especially in taxis. Singlish reflects the multicultural nature of Singapore society, and includes words from English, Malay, Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Tamil, Bengali, Punjabi and more. You might hear: “lah”, “lor”, “leh”, “meh”, “kena”, “kiasu”, “liao”, and “makan”. The Singlish expression that tends to make the most immediate impact on expats, though, is the persistent use of “can” and “cannot” instead of “yes” and “no”.

Editor’s Tip!

“Sure, Singapore is a small island, but a good way to visually orientate yourself is with a visit to the Singapore City Gallery at 45 Maxwell Road (www.ura.gov.sg/gallery). There you’ll find a few huge and fabulous models of the island showing the major buildings and attractions. It helps put the island into perspective, and the kids will love it, too. And the Maxwell Food Centre across the road is a local institution – try the fish porridge from stall 54!”