Official name The Republic of Singapore, island with an area of approximately 640 sq km (they're still reclaiming land). Located at the southern tip on the Malay Peninsula, above the Indonesian island state of Sumatra.

Meritocratic and multiracial society.

Males are required to undergo National Service (affectionately known as NS) after the age of 18 (19, for those who need an extra year to complete their tertiary studies at polytechnics or junior colleges). Compulsory service lasts for 2-2.5 years, and the conscripts get paid on a monthly basis. they are then eligible reservist duties up to the age of 40.

One of the most stressful places to live in (also one of the only countries that actually assign you a grade for " extra-curricular activities").

A country with more public high-rise apartments than private housing estates.

A country where you have to pay for a piece of paper called the Certificate of Entitlement ("entitling" you to take your ride to the streets). COE costs about 10% of what your ride costs.

Non-seasonal, tropical warm and wet climate. Wetter North-East monsoon hits in October, peaks in Decemer/January, subsides around March, while the drier South-West Monsoon takes over the rest of the year. Driest month is usually June. Average temperature between 26 to 31 deg C (79-88 deg F), average rainfall is 2345 mm. Rainfall is solely convectional.

Singapore's independence was influenced by 3 major historical events:

1. Sir Stamford Raffles' recognition of Hussein as the rightful heir to Singapore. Back then, Singapore was part of Dutch territory, and the Dutch installed Sultan Abdul Rahman as ruler of Singapore. No doubt Hussein was supposed to be ruler, but he was unfortunate enough to be away when his father died, and the crown went to Abdul Rahman. This caused major conflicts (none ended in violence, though) between England and Holland, both of which were vying for monopoly of the Spice trade in the East Indies. This was the first step towards Singapore's independence from colonial rule, because it turned out to be a very productive colony, and productive colonies attract merchants, traders and the like, who will eventually request independent rule given enough time to adapt and acclimatise.

2. The Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824, which effectively put the Malay Peninsula under British control, and everything else south of that under Dutch control. Borneo was split between them.
This is important, too, because it settles the debate over owndershp of the island. With this disute out of the way, the British could concentrate on making Singapore prosperous.

3. Separation from Malaysia in 1965. Singapore merged with Malaysia in 1962. However, differences in political ideology ensured that this union would be short-lived. Malaysia was intended as a country for Malays, but Lee Kuan Yew wanted it to be a place for Malaysians (of any skin tone, race or religion).
The merger was called off on 9 August 1965 (National Day for Singapore). Singapore requested membership of, and was admitted to the United Nations on 21 September 1965. It became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations on 15 October 1965. On 22 December 1965, it became a republic, with Yusof bin Ishak as the republic's first President (Yang di-Pertuan Negara). On 8 Aug 1967, Singapore joined Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines to form the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The Government was in a very bad position: The post-war economy was in shambles, there was a baby boom (thanks to soldiers returning from World War II) and nothing seemed like it didn't need fixing. Ministries and Boards were set up to take care of individual problems.

1. The EDB and TDB (Economic/Trade Development Board) were created to invite multi-national corporations (MNCs) to set up branches here.

2. HDB (Housing and Development Board) created to settle the problem of inadequate housing. They hired construction firms to mass-produce high-rise flats. The old high-rise flats were plain white rectangles. Now, they are well-designed, comfortable and somewhat less affordable than they used to be.

3. Jurong Town Corporation was set up to manage the industrial sector. Industrial estates were created all over hte island, with the largest one located in Jurong, at the South-West corner of Singapore. Singapore's industries are comprised of a mix of light, medium and heavy industries, such as garment-manufacturing, textile manufacturing and oil refining.

4. The Ministry of Education was created to handle the education of the workforce and children on the nation. the government intended to make the workforce skilled but affordable, so as to attract the MNCs. The focus of education later shifted away from technical education, towards service and information-related education.

With the main problems solved, the goverment's focus began to change. The workers were getting too educated, and workers in surrounding countries (Malaysia, Indonesia, Phillipines) became more affordable. The focus thus shifted from the manufacturing industries to electronic industries, and today Singapore's economy is information-driven. the service sector forms the bulk of the economy, and manufacturing industries (~25%) serve only as supplements to this sector.

today, Singapore is a prosperous country. As of January 2003, it has a population of 4.16 million (squeezed onto 640 sq km of land), literacy rate of 93.2%, total trade of S$432 billion, GDP of S$153 billion and Internet penetration rate of 48.4 (more E2 users!). Its education system is based on the British system, but is slowly moving away from that, and should soon be halfway between the British and American systems.

Contrary to popular belief, chewing of gum is not prohibited, but its import and sale are. There is a good reason for it - idiots used to spit them onto the train tracks (here we call it the Mass Rapid Transit, MRT for short), which resulted in delays. And since we are heavily dependent on the service sector (being natural resource-free), delays cost us hell. If you try to be discreet about it, Customs will usually let you through; stuff the gum in your bag, don't let it hang out of your pants of bag pockets. And don't chew it in public - do it at home. Dispose of it properly.

One thing you should take note of should you decide to visit: drugs are major contraband here. The authorities are very strict about this, so don't try your luck even with 1 gram of the stuff. Leave it at home. Don't say you weren't warned.

Amazingly, there are fines for not flushing the toielt afer use. The toilet fine varies from place to place: I've seen it hit $500 before. But this isn't enforced - relax, just be responsible about toilet usage. We have cleaners to clean up after you, but don't abuse them. Be responsible for your poop.

Censorship is a terrible problem in Singapore. Be warned: if you see a circular green-and-orange sticker on anything you buy, look closely. If it says "censorship board" or the equivalent, it is most likely censored. Even the seemingly-innocent Animatrix was somewhat heavily censored. The censorship board is lightening up on its censoring criteria, but this is happening far too slowly for me to notice. This is also one of the reasons why pirated VCDs are selling like hotcakes here. Try not to laugh when you see anti-piracy campaign posters all over the place.

Far worse than censorship is the phenomenon of self-censorship. Case in point: Chee Soon Juan spoke out against some of the government's policies, was impounded by the ISA (Internal Security Act), and henceforth little was heard about him. Singaporeans are politically apathetic, but this is hardly any fault of theirs. The newspapers are controlled by the government (by this I mean that "politically destabilisng" articles are not allowed to be published), so forum discussions on government policies are pretty much pointless (little changes that do not affect the big picture have been made, though, to silence murmurs from the population).

The PAP has enjoyed an indestructible monopoly in the field of local politics since the founding of Singapore. A portion of each member's paycheck goes to the party fund, while other parties are denied funding from corporations and companies. Singapore is divided into constituencies, with the parties vying for control for these individual constitutencies by garnering votes during elections. Opposition party-controlled constitutencies are denied privileges granted to PAP-controlled ones, such as public apartment upgrades, new amenities and facilities. These constituencies are usually promptly broken up and assimilated into other constituencies to divide opposition support. Potong Pasir GRC is one of the few remarkable constituencies that still remain under opposition control. However, since the government hasn't screwed up yet, few people complain about this lack of political diversity.

Malay is the official national language. The lesser-known reason for this is that the indigenous people were Malay, and this is done out of respect for our origins. The current majority of the population is Chinese (76.5%). The other races include Malays (13.8%), Indians (8.1%), and other races (1.6%).

Any place that doesn't serve an economic, commercial or residential purpose will have green stuff planted on it. This widespread greenery is readily apparent in bird's-eye views of the country.

The average Singaporean is well-educated, but isn't exactly creative (a side-effect of the rigid education system). He/she can speak 2 languages: English, and his/her own native tongue. Most of the Chinese can speak their native dialect in addition to Mandarin. Along the way we pick up smatterings of other languages, and incorporate this into the English language, forming what many of us term "Singlish". It is a big headache for the government because the foreigners find it hard to understand us when we speak that, because even though most of the words are derived from the English Language, the grammar and sentence structure is completely different. The only way to speak Singlish improperly is to speak proper English. Those who are used to it usually don't find it a headache - it shortens many oft-used but lengthy statements.

Most Singaporeans are proud of the fact that they are one of the few prospering multiracial nations. Racial harmony has been the status quo for more than 20 years since Singapore's independence - the racial riots that broke out a few years after independence still remain fresh in the minds of older generations, and few take this peace for granted.

Don't you get me started on cost of living. The cars cost 3 times as much here. Add COE to this, and it means you'll have to work like mad to earn enough for one. But since the public transport system is very well-developed (Point A to B anywhere on mainland island within 1.5 hours), cars usually serve as a symbol of wealth, and not much more.

Singapore has no tourist spots, no matter what your travel agency might say. Don't come for them.

Some information courtesy of Singapore Infomap. Most of it courtesy of my history teacher.