Singapore skyline
Photo: @yongyichuaa

Questions tourists have about Singapore but are too afraid to ask

It's okay, you can ask. We're nice.


We've all seen it: phone in hand, emergent sweat patches threatening to engulf their entire body, that deer in the headlights look – being a tourist in our great city can be daunting for many. We see your trembling lips, dying to ask us for some help but the fear is too great. If you're reading this and nodding as you've been that person, we're here to help. Here are the questions you're too afraid to ask. Let fear rule you no longer, friend. 

Have we mentioned that we're great? In fact, here are seven things that Singaporeans do better than anyone else.

Questions tourists have about Singapore but are too afraid to ask

What's the deal with tipping?

It's not the done thing here and is even frowned upon in some places. Don't worry, our city's servers aren't getting a rough deal – most sit-down meals come with a 10 percent service charge so your waitstaff still get their dues. Gonna leave a tip anyway? Go for it. We're sure your hardworking server will be more than grateful.

What does chope mean and why am I getting so many dirty looks?

Unless you're mental, you've probably tried one of Singapore's amazing hawker centres where they serve up some of the best (and cheapest) food in the city. During lunch, they're all absolutely rammed with (genuinely) empty tables being the stuff of legend. If you do spy one that's free, with the only suspicious feature being a packet of tissues residing on the surface, and you go on to sit at said table – you've messed up. That's why people are looking at you like you've just punched their mum. Basically, chope is the act of reserving a table at a hawker centre by placing a pack of tissues or name card or water bottle or whatever else people have on hand on the surface. It's a hallowed practice.


Is everyone related?

Ah, you're talking about the auntie/uncle thing. This is more a term of endearment or mark of respect to your elders. Get involved with this charming practice and you'll find – instantly – that your interactions with anyone older will become 100 times more convivial. 

Why is it so hard to flag a cab?

During non-peak hours it is very possible to flag a cab but when people are milling about (which is alot), hailing cabs is out of the equation. Booking is way forward here and there are many ways to do it. Ideally, if you have a phone that was made in the last 10 years you'll be able to download either the Grab or Comfort app (RIP Uber) to get a ride and thank us later.


Ladies night isn't on a Thursday?

No, we Singaporeans see the wisdom in catalysing Wednesday as a mid-week night out. It is hump day after all so it makes perfect sense when you think about it. Want to know where to go? Head this way.

What's the deal with the road signs?

No, we don't have a weird obsession with making sure you're always directed to pie. Simply put, acronyms are king here. Here are some of the more prevalent ones, in case you're wondering. We're sure it's keeping you awake at night:

CTE – Central Expressway
ERP – Electronic Road Pricing
HDB – Housing Development Board
MRT – Mass Rapid Transit (the trains)

And of course, PIE – Pan Island Expressway. Though we argue that all roads lead to pie.

Looking for some cool stuff to do while you're in town?

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