Singapore is a very diverse and young country. It has many languages, cultures and religions for a country its size. Due to the many different languages and cultures in the country, there is no single set of culturally acceptable behaviours.

When Singapore became independent from the United Kingdom in 1963, most of the newly minted Singaporean citizens were uneducated labourers from China, Malaysia and India. Many of them were transient labourers who were seeking to make some money in Singapore and they had no intentions of staying for good. A sizeable minority of middle-class, local-born people, known as the Peranakans also existed. With the exception of the Peranakans (descendants of late 15th and 16th-century Chinese immigrants) who pledged their loyalties to Singapore, most of the labourers' loyalties lie with their respective homelands of China, Malaysia and India. After independence, the process of crafting a Singaporean identity and culture began. Both the former Prime Ministers of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong, have stated that Singapore does not fit the traditional description of a nation, calling it a society in transition, pointing out the fact that Singaporeans do not all speak the same language, share the same religion or have the same customs. Even though English is the first language of the nation, according to the government's 2010 census 20% of Singaporeans, or one in five, are illiterate in English. This is a marked improvement from 1990 where 40% of Singaporeans were illiterate in English.

Unlike many other countries, languages, religions and cultures among Singaporeans are not delineated according to skin colour or ancestry. Among Singaporean Chinese, one in five is Christian, another one in five is atheist, and the rest are mostly Buddhists or Taoists. One-third speak English as their home language, while half speak Mandarin Chinese as their home language. The rest speak other mutually unintelligible Chinese languages at home. Singaporean Indians are much more religious. Only 1% of them are atheists. Six in ten are Hindus, two in ten Muslims, and the rest mostly Christians. Four in ten speak English as their home language, three in ten Tamil, one in ten Malay, and the rest other Indian languages as their home language. Each Singaporean's behaviours and attitudes would therefore be influenced by, among many other things, his or her home language and his religion. Singaporeans who speak English as their native language tend to lean toward Western Culture. While those who speak Chinese languages as their native language tend to lean toward Chinese culture and Confucianism. Malay-speaking Singaporeans tend to lean toward Malay culture, which itself is closely linked to Islamic culture. Those who speak Indian languages as their native language would probably lean toward Indian culture.

Singapore, as a country, in general is conservative socially, but some liberalisation has occurred. At the national level, meritocracy, where one is judged based on one's ability, is heavily emphasised. Racial and religious harmony is regarded by the government as a crucial part of Singapore's success and played a part in building a Singaporean identity. Singapore has a reputation as a nanny state. The national flower of Singapore is the Vanda Miss Joaquim. Many national symbols such as the National Coat of Arms and the Lion Head symbol make use of the lion, as Singapore is known as the 'Lion City'. Public holidays in Singapore cover major Chinese, Western, Malay and Indian festivals.

Due to scarcity of land, four out of five Singaporeans live in subsidised, high-rise, public housing apartments known as HDB (for Housing and Development Board) flats. Singaporeans generally take off their shoes before entering their homes. Live-in domestic helpers are quite common in Singapore and there are nearly 200,000 domestic helpers there. As with most Commonwealth countries, vehicles on the road and people walking on the streets keep to the left. The country has strict laws against drug use and has one of the lowest rates of drug use in the world. Singaporean employees work an average of around 45 hours weekly, relatively long compared to many other nations. Three in four Singaporean employees surveyed stated that they take pride in doing their work well, and that doing so helps their self-confidence.

Foreigners also make up 42% of the population and have a strong influence on Singaporean culture. A.T. Kearney named Singapore the most globalised country in the world in 2006 in its Globalization Index. The Economist Intelligence Unit in its "Quality-of-Life Index" ranks Singapore as having the best quality of life in Asia and eleventh overall in the world.

Cuisine

Dining, along with shopping, is said to be the country's national pastime. The diversity of food is touted as a reason to visit the country, and the variety of food representing different ethnicities is seen by the government as a symbol of its multiculturalism. The "national fruit" of Singapore is the durian. In popular culture, food items belong to a particular ethnicity, with Chinese, Indian, and Malay food clearly defined. The diversity of cuisine has been increased further by the "hybridization" of different styles, e.g. the Peranakan style, a mix of Chinese and Malay cuisine.

Arts

Since the 1990s, the government has been promoting Singapore as a centre for arts and culture, in particular the performing arts, and to transform the country into a cosmopolitan "gateway between the East and West". One highlight was the construction of Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay, a performing arts centre opened in October 2002. The national orchestra, Singapore Symphony Orchestra, plays at the Esplanade. The annual Singapore Arts Festival is organised by the National Arts Council. The stand-up comedy scene has been growing, with a weekly open mic. Singapore hosted the 2009 Genee International Ballet Competition, a classical ballet competition promoted by London's Royal Academy of Dance.

Sport and recreation

Popular sports include football, basketball, cricket, swimming, sailing, table tennis and badminton. Most Singaporeans live in public residential areas near amenities such as public swimming pools, outdoor basketball courts and indoor sport complexes. Water sports are popular, including sailing, kayaking and water skiing. Scuba diving is another popular recreational sport. The Southern island of Pulau Hantu, particularly, is known for its rich coral reefs.

Singapore's football (soccer) league, the S-League, formed in 1994, currently comprises 12 clubs including foreign teams. The Singapore Slingers, formerly in the Australian National Basketball League, is one of the inaugural teams in the ASEAN Basketball League, founded in October 2009. Singapore began hosting a round of the Formula One World Championship, the Singapore Grand Prix, in 2008. The race was staged at the Marina Bay Street Circuit and became the first night race on the F1 circuit and the first street circuit in Asia. Singapore hosted the inaugural 2010 Summer Youth Olympics.

Media

Companies linked to the government control much of the domestic media in Singapore. MediaCorp operates most free-to-air television channels and free-to-air radio stations in Singapore. There are a total of seven free-to-air TV channels offered by Mediacorp. The channels are Channel 5 (English channel), Channel News Asia (English channel), Okto (English channel), Channel 8 (Chinese channel), Channel U (Chinese channel), Suria (Malay channel) and Vasantham (Indian channel). Starhub Cable Vision (SCV) also offers cable television with channels from all around the world and Singtel's MioTV provides an IPTV service. Singapore Press Holdings, a body with close links to the government, controls most of the newspaper industry.

Singapore's media industry has sometimes been criticised for being too regulated and lacking in freedom by human rights groups such as Freedom House. In 2010, Reporters Without Borders, a France-based international non-governmental organisation, ranked Singapore 136 out of 178 in its Press Freedom Index, just below Mexico.

The Media Development Authority regulates Singaporean media, claiming to balance the demand for choice and protection against offensive and harmful material. Private ownership of TV satellite dishes is banned. There are 3.4 million users of the internet in Singapore, one of the highest internet penetration rates in the world. The Singapore government does not engage in widespread censoring of the internet, but it maintains a list of one hundred websites (mostly pornographic) that it blocks as a 'symbolic statement of the Singaporean community's stand on harmful and undesirable content on the Internet'. As the block covers only home internet access, users may still visit the blocked websites from their office computers.