Everyone that knows us probably knows by now that we are moving to Singapore just as soon as the thesis can be finished and defended and a Doctorate granted. Yay! The travel portion of the blog is about to begin!

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So hey, Singapore. Let's talk about that. You know the Who (that's us) and we'll tackle the Why later, but for now, the Where. First of all, it's not in China. I get that question a lot. So here's a quick fact sheet for you:

Population: Officially 4.8 million (the population of South Carolina in 2008), though it's rumored to be higher. I said Singapore isn't China, and that's true, but Chinese ethnic groups make up 75.2% of Singapore's residents. Other groups include: Malays at 13.6%, Indians at 8.8%, and Eurasians, Arabs and other groups at 2.4%.

English is the language of business and education in Singapore, but the official languages are English, Malay, Chinese (Mandarin) and Tamil. Singaporeans speak a localized hybrid form of English known as Singlish.

Geography: Singapore is located 1 degree above the equator, in Southeast Asia (SEA). That's south of China, Thailand, India, and the Philippines, and north of (most of) Indonesia and Australia. You can fly north to Hong Kong or south to Australia in less than 4 hours either way. It's a 20+ hour flight to Boston, and a 12 hour time difference (or 13, Singapore does not observe daylight savings time, since the day is always the same length when you live on the equator).

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Singapore is an island nation (63 islands in all) and is located off the eastern tip of the Malay peninsula. It currently covers 271 square miles, which is:

  • Just a tad smaller than the 5 boroughs of New York
  • About half the size of Haywood County, TN
  • About 200 square miles smaller than Oktibbeha County, MS
  • Just a tad smaller than Augusta, GA
Climate: Remember, 1 degree above the equator? Singapore is hot. It has a tropical rainforest climate with no distinctive seasons. The lowest and highest temperatures EVER recorded are 66.9 °F and 96.4 °F respectively. On average, the relative humidity is around 90% in the morning and 60% in the afternoon. June and July are the hottest; November and December are monsoon season. The highest point on the island is just 545 feet above sea level.

Orchard Road, Singapore's main shopping drag, in November

Government: The Republic of Singapore is a sovereign city-state (one of only 3 along with Vatican City & Monaco). It has a Parliamentary Republic government. Most of the power rests with the Cabinet headed by the Prime Minister, but there is a President as well. Singapore has had free elections since 1955, and every election has been won by the People's Action Party (PAP), although other parties exist.

History: Singapore was part of the Sultanate of Johor with Malay rulers and occasional Portuguese and Dutch occupation until Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles claimed the port as a trading post for the British East India Company on January 29, 1819. Five years later, the East India Company extended their control over the whole island. In 1867, Singapore became a British crown colony.

British Colonial architecture abounds in the city. The Fullerton Hotel was commissioned in 1919 as part of the British colony's centennial celebration. It first housed the General Post Office, and is now a five-star hotel.

During World War II, Britain lost the Battle of Singapore (badly, apparently) to Japan in February 1942, but Britain reclaimed the island in 1945 after the Japanese surrender.

Singapore held its first general election in 1955 and declared its independence from Britain in 1963. Singapore briefly joined Federation of Malaysia, but gained sovereignty in August 1965.

Singapore has longstanding disputes with Malaysia over a number of issues, mainly fresh water deliveries, maritime boundaries, and flight paths between Singapore Changi Airport and Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Politics, Freedoms, and Trade: Foreign political analysts and opposition parties to the PAP have argued that Singapore is essentially a one-party state. The Economist Intelligence Unit describes Singapore as a "hybrid regime" of democratic and authoritarian elements. Freedom House ranks the country as "partly free". Though general elections are free from irregularities and vote rigging, the PAP has been criticized for manipulating the political system through its use of censorship, gerrymandering, and civil libel suits against opposition politicians.

Reporters Without Borders ranked Singapore 141 out of 169 in its Annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index for 2007 (the U.S. ranks 48). Most of the local media are directly or indirectly controlled by the government through shareholdings of these media entities by the state's investment arm, and are often perceived as pro-government.

Singapore is a member of the United Nations and is on good terms with France, the U.K., Germany, and the U.S. In September 2005, the Republic of Singapore Air Force sent three CH-47 Chinook helicopters to Louisiana to assist in relief operations for Hurricane Katrina.

Singapore has 14 bilateral and multilateral trade agreements worldwide including with the U.S., Japan, Australia, and others.

Economy: Along with Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan, Singapore is one of the "Four Asian Tigers." The economy depends heavily on exports and manufacturing. Singapore has one of the busiest ports in the world, and is the world's fourth largest foreign exchange trading center after London, New York and Tokyo.

Religion: Reportedly, around 51% of resident Singaporeans practice Buddhism and Taoism. About 15% practice Christianity; Muslims constitute 14%; and smaller minorities practice Sikhism, Hinduism and others. About 15% of the population declared no religious affiliation.

Of the 10 public holidays in Singapore, 6 are religious holidays:
  • Good Friday and Christmas Day (Christian)
  • Vesak Day (Buddhist)
  • Hari Raya Puasa and Hari Raya Haji (Muslim)
  • Deepavali (Hindu)

    A+K at a Deepavali celebration in a Singapore bus terminal. We like to make friends.

Culture: Singapore's food culture is a point of pride, and features influences from Chinese, Indian, Malay and Tamil cuisine.

Chicken Rice is the national dish. We're in line at a hawker stall to check it out.

Natural Resources: Singapore has few natural resources. Most importantly, the island has no freshwater lakes or rivers. Traditionally, Singapore gets about half of its fresh water from collected rainfall and imports the other half from Malaysia. But the country is making progress with desalination and water recycling (yes, from waste water) to decrease its dependence on foreign water.

Whew. That's a primer anyway. Now class, what are your questions?