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National Day Special: 5 Things You Didn’t Know Are Singaporean

In about a week’s time, Singaporeans will be celebrating National Day! *cue hashtags #SG52 #NDP2017*

This is the one day when Singaporeans take a day off complaining about the MRT, the weather and everything else under the sun to become patriotic citizens whilst singing to Kit Chan’s Home.

Singapore is known for many things: our local food, the architecture, Singlish and the list goes on. But here are 5 lesser known Singaporean things that most Singaporeans don’t already know!

1. Thumb Drive

Believe it or not, this trusty gadget that wiped out the existence of floppy disks (90s kids can relate) was invented by a Singaporean! Trek 2000 International Limited is the Singaporean company and their Chief Executive Officer, Henn Tan, is the name to know.

When he took over Trek in 1995, the company explored ways to replace the floppy disk through R&D. And in 2000, the ThumbDrive had its debut appearance at an international trade fair held in Germany.

The overwhelming response of the ThumbDrive snowballed and today, it has become such an essential tool to many all around the world. Just ask any working adult or a student heading to the printer shop!


2. Drinks in plastic bags/tin cans

Back when I was in university, one of my lecturers from the UK said,

“Why doesn’t anyone in this class buys their drinks in plastic bags? Last year, I had many students coming into class carrying their drinks in plastic bags, it was really amusing.”

Before there is the debate of “who owns this culture”, many Asian countries apart from Singapore also have this practice of carrying their drinks in plastic bags with the recognisable green strings. While it seems like a norm around here, it is definitely amusing to others considering that there’s a Reddit thread on it.

However, in recent years, it seems like many coffee shops have been transitioning to the use of plastic cups. There are many articles out there that discuss this whole drink-in-plastic-bag culture but none with an explanation for it.

While drinking from plastic bags are more commonly known, there are also hawker stalls who sell hot drinks in condensed milk tin cans.

Image credit: Serious Eats

These drinks in condensed milk tin cans are LEGEN *wait for it* DARY. Once a can of condensed milk is used up, a red raffia string is strung through the hole and it becomes a drinking cup for hot drinks. Talk about reusing and recycling huh? These are usually bought by those of the older generation and sadly, drinking from tin cans have now become an uncommon sight in Singapore.


3. Buying 4D using a car plate’s number from an accident

After much digging on Google, it seems like Singapore is the only country that practises this! Have you ever wondered why people do this?

There isn’t a legitimate explanation for this phenomenon. Superstition aside, some believe that something good usually happens after a bad incident while some say that it is a way to ease the unhappiness resulted from an accident.

So has this superstition been proven true? Well, someone got the better luck out of it and struck 1st prize in 4D last year. Is this something you practise too? If you do, share with us why you do so, we’d love to know!


4. Singapore’s Kopi (Coffee) & Teh (Tea) Culture

If you think ordering in Starbucks is complicated, try ordering your customised drink at a local coffee shop. It should truly be considered a skill for being able to whip out all our kopi and teh terms just like that. My UK lecturer, who was so intrigued by the drinks-in-plastic-bag culture, asked us how to order his iced Americano equivalent at the school canteen. To which we taught him kopi o kosong peng but not without a few rounds of practice in getting the pronunciation right (re: his UK accent).

Singapore’s coffee culture has been a talking point for many foreigners and it is often followed with a “Guide to Ordering Coffee in Singapore” article and an infographics with the commonly used terms. With that said, this isn’t an issue that only happens to foreigners. Don’t we all have at least one friend who doesn’t even know what ga dai means (it means more sweet aka more condensed milk FYI)?

So here’s a typical “Guide to Ordering Coffee in Singapore” infographic for all you jiak gan tang Singaporeans:

how to order kopi

Image credit: SilverKris

To order the teh (tea) alternative, simply replace kopi with teh when ordering!


5. World Toilet Organisation

Image credit: WTO Facebook

Mr Jack Sim is the name to know. In 1998, he established the Restroom Association of Singapore (RAS) and went on to be the founder of the WTO in 2001 with a vision to have “a world with a clean, safe toilet for everyone, everywhere at all times”. However, it was only until 2013 where WTO gained its consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, which led to an official UN day called World Toilet Day on 19 November.

They are also the organisers of The Urgent Run Singapore that is in its 3rd year running. With over 892 million people forced to poo and pee in the open because they have no toilets, the run aims to raise awareness and advocate for the basic human right of sanitation. This run aims to raise awareness of the global sanitation crisis. To find out more and be part of this meaningful movement, visit their website here.

So did you know that these 5 points were Singaporean? Share with us if you know something Singaporean that we don’t already know!

In the meantime, brace yourself for National Day and having NDP songs played at every shopping mall and store in Singapore!



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