Are you planning to study in Singapore? The country is a highly attractive study abroad destination in Southeast Asia. It’s among the top financial centres of the world, top cities in Asia in terms of quality of living, and a major education player in the region.

For a small country, Singapore sure packs a punch.

It is also home to Asia’s top 10 universities – Nanyang Technological University and the National University of Singapore – according to the Times Higher Education 2020 Asia University Rankings.

The Little Red Dot attracts throngs of expats thanks to the career opportunities, excellent public transportation and quality lifestyle offered. Commuting is a pleasure — bask in the city’s greenery while marvelling at the fusion of old colonial buildings and new architecture for a unique backdrop.

If you’re planning to study in Singapore, there’s so much more to know about the country before embarking on your journey there. 

Here are some things to know that will help you fit in and transition smoothly while there:

Speak Singlish like a local

“Where to eat, ah?”

The sentence above is Singlish, or Singaporean English, which means “Where do you want to eat?”.

Singlish is a localised form of English, which blends various languages and reflects the country’s multicultural DNA, including Hokkien, Cantonese and Malay.

Don’t be surprised to hear words such as “ah”, “lah”, “leh”, “lor”, “meh” or even “makan” being peppered into everyday sentences in English!

Eat like a local

studying in Singapore

Hawker centres are a treat for your tastebuds. Source: ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP

Singapore is a food haven, and locals frequently throng hawker centres for something tasty without burning a hole in their wallet. 

Nothing reflects the country’s cultural diversity more than its food — you’ll find must-haves such as nasi lemak, chicken rice, roti prata and char kway teow, to name a few, which are truly a delight on the palate.

Durians, or the king of fruits, is also big here. It’s thorny on the outside — still, dig in for the creamy insides — it’s well worth the first intense impression on your nosebuds.

Reserving a spot at a hawker centre

Speaking of hawker centres, these go-to places get crowded quickly during peak hours.

Singaporeans have a quirky way of reserving — or “chop-ing” — a seat or table … by placing a packet of tissue paper on the table. 

Addressing someone older than you

studying in Singapore

You can address someone older as auntie or uncle. Source: ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP

How do you address an older stranger in Singapore? 

Out of respect, you may want to address older folk as “auntie” or “uncle,” even if you aren’t related by blood.

Stringent laws

Did you know that Singapore has laws against selling chewing gum, busking without a license, walking naked at home and not flushing a toilet? 

Now you know.

Cool places to hangout

studying in Singapore

Bubble tea mania has taken over Singapore. Source: SAM YEH/AFP

You can find plenty of eateries or affordable places to hangout at in Singapore.

For instance, you can swing by the Esplanade to shop, dine or catch some shows for free. If you’re hungry or just want a place to wind down with your friends, you can try an array of food selections, be it affordable Vietnamese food at NamNam to getting your bubble tea fix at one of the many boba outlets such as Tiger Sugar, Xing Fu Tang, Koi and Gong Cha, to name a few.

Alternatively, you can soak in some fresh air at Coney Island Park where you can go for nature walks, try your hand at bird watching or cycle while basking in some sunshine.

Go crazy with student discounts

The country is one of the world’s most expensive cities to live in, but if you want to study in Singapore, have comfort in knowing that there are plenty of student discounts, if you know where to look.

Some eateries may offer students 20% discounts while others may shave a few dollars off your bill. Some eateries also offer student meals, with the price capped to maximise your savings. Check out Seedly for discounts you may be eligible for.

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