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Overview of Singapore

■ Housing

Accommodation in Singapore for exchange students is generally provided by the university. Dormitories and halls of residence are available, and the rent differs from place to place. Depending on the conditions of the exchange programme, the university may defray rent to some extent.
Renting apartments is not impossible, but likely to be more expensive and difficult to find.

■ Transportation system

Public transport is sufficient for getting around. The bus network is more thorough than the train network (MRT), but the speed varies depending on traffic and timings are not always reliable. In most metropolitan cities’ rush hour, human and vehicular traffic tends to increase the commuting time significantly. The MRT network is currently undergoing expansion and is expected to serve more areas in the near future. For now, upgrading works may cause train delays.

■ Shopping

Shopping can vary from high fashion brands to local mom-and-pop shops. It is possible to buy anything in Singapore as long as it is not illegal, as long as one has the money. Orchard Road has a collection of shopping malls that cater to the youngsters, more financially well-off consumer, offering fashion and food at slightly higher prices. International brands such as Uniqlo can be found at several shopping malls, including those located at major MRT stations. Shops surrounding residential MRT stations such as Ang Mo Kio or Toa Payoh have a variety of mom-and-pop shops offering cheap food and household items such as buckets or extension cables. Cheap electronics at various levels of quality can be found in Sim Lim Square, and is generally reserved for the very adventurous. NTUC Fairprice is an affordable, quality supermarket; Sheng Siong is cheaper but of lower quality, and Cold Storage and Jasons have a more international/organic varieties.

■ Cuisine

Singaporean cuisine is indubitably the main draw of this island city. The amalgamation of Malay, Chinese and Indian traditions translates to a wide variety of food that no Singaporean can live without. Foods of other cultures such as Japanese or Thai food are also readily available.

Where to eat cheap
- University canteens can, contrary to popular belief, offer excellent food at unbeatably low prices. Otherwise, open-air hawker centres and coffee shops are also very cheap, and some have such good food that people queue to eat there. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner can be found at the hawker centre, and many of them serve Singapore’s Tiger Beer at night. Food courts are the indoor variety of the hawker centre, and cost slightly more. They can be found in virtually every shopping mall.

- Fast food:
The usual chains such as McDonalds, KFC, and Burger King are readily available throughout the island.

■ Culture

While there is no solid idea of what Singaporean culture is, a few points can be picked out.
1. Kiasu
If there is a queue, the thinking goes that there must be something good at the end of it, so the tendency is to join the queue regardless. This “fear of losing” attitude also applies to over-stocking of plates at buffets, and being easily lured by discounts and deals.
2. Food
Singaporeans love their food and have great pride in it, often resulting in friendly disagreements over where the best food of each variety may be found. Must-try foods include chicken rice, laksa, chili crab, bak chor mee, sambal stingray, satay, Nyonya kuehs, and traditional desserts.
3. Complaining
Singaporeans have come to expect a high quality service, especially from their government. When something is not to their liking, the tendency is to complain, though usually no concrete action is taken. Creative or clever complaining can be very entertaining and helps to let off steam in an overcrowded nation
4. Attitude towards foreigners
Unfortunately, due to the extremely high influx of foreigners in recent years, the general attitude towards foreigners is quite negative. Low-skilled labour such as construction workers and domestic helpers come from India, China, and the Philippines, and are often regarded with disdain. On the other hand, white/Caucasian foreigners have tended to be rich expatriates and are treated with some amount of envy and awe. Attitudes vary from person to person, and it is best to expect some level of racism in Singapore.

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