As the saying goes, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Here are five ways to experience Singapore like a seasoned local.
1. Try Durian
When in season, the spiky shell, strong smelling “king of fruits” is sold in Chinatown and Geylang. The D24, Mao Shan Wang (Cat Mountain King) and XO varieties are the most expensive and popular. Prices can range from as low as $5 per fruit for the lowest grade to over $30 per kg for Mao Shan Wang, so confirm the price beforehand to avoid being overcharged.
2. Eat Ice Cream With Bread On Orchard Road
Get an ice cream sandwich from a mobile ice-cream vendor on Orchard Road (in front of Ngee Ann City) for $1.20. Try a local flavour like red bean, sweet corn, mango or durian which is not as pungent as the fruit itself, or the standard chocolate, vanilla, strawberry or mint flavours. The ice cream is served on a slice of soft, rainbow bread. Fold the bread and eat it like a hot dog!
3. Drink Coffee At Local Coffee Shop
Get your caffeine fix at a local coffee shop or kopitiam instead of a western coffee chain. Every neighbourhood has a kopitiam which serves kopi (coffee with condensed milk), kopi-si (coffee with evaporated milk and sugar), kopi-o (coffee with sugar but without milk), kopi-si-kosong (coffee with evaporated milk and no sugar) and kopi-siu dai (coffee with condensed milk and less sugar), priced from 90 cents per cup. Enjoy your kopi with kaya (coconut jam) toast and half-boiled eggs topped with dark soy sauce and white pepper for the quintessential Singapore breakfast or snack.
4. Speak Singlish
Impress the locals by speaking Singlish, Singapore’s non-standard variety of English mixed with various local languages and dialects. It has a unique grammatical structure and a single sentence can comprise English, Malay and Hokkien words. Here are a few popular Singlish phrases:
• Lah (lah) – Used at the end of sentences for emphasis
I don’t like chocolate lah!
• Paiseh (pie-say) – Hokkien term for embarrassing or shy
So paiseh, I forgot your name.
• Shiok (shee-oak) – Fantastic or awesome
That char kway teow was so shiok!
• Walau (wah-lau) – Hokkien term for annoyance, disbelief, exasperation, frustration or surprise
Walau, how can she just cut the queue?
5. Reserve A Seat With An Object
Reserve or chope a seat with a packet of tissue paper, umbrella, water bottle, book or bag at a hawker centre or food court. It is common practice to reserve a seat this way especially during peak hours so look out for these items and do the same to chope your place before buying your food. To see this Singaporean quirk in action, just visit a hawker centre like Maxwell Food Centre or Amoy Street Food Centre during lunch time!