Many people are astonished by the beauty and the pace of progress evident in Singapore without realising that it sprang from a very humble background of being a small fishing village that was inhabited by indigenous tribes. However, today Singapore is a bustling cosmopolitan city characterized by high-rise buildings and landscape gardens (Singapore Tourism Board, 2012). The country brims with a harmonious mix of culture, cuisine and art. Situated in the Southeast Asia, Singapore covers a total land area of approximately 710 square kilometers, which makes it one of the smallest nations of the world and practically an t, the smallest country in the entire region. In spite of its size, the country claims a big presence in the global economy, especially with its efficient workforce. In addition to a sound business infrastructure and a conducive economic climate, Singapore also has a stable and competent government with the ruling party, the PAP, having dominated the country’s politics since its self-rule (Singapore Tourism Board, 2012).
The present population of Singapore stands at around five million people. The major language of instruction is English, although each major ethnicity has its own mother tongue. One of the defining characteristics of the country is the ubiquitous blend of its cultures. The four major races, which include Eurasian, Chinese, and Malay, have come together as a society and live harmoniously (Singapore Tourism Board, 2012). In addition to the beauty and harmonious blending of the various cultures in Singapore, the country is famous for its shopping or consumer culture. Indeed, when going shopping in Singapore, one can have a world-class experience. This is because there are numerous shopping places to explore. It is this shopping obsession of Singaporeans that has inspired filmmakers, such as Li Lin Wee, to create movies, like “Gone Shopping”, to depict the shopping situation in the country (Biston, 2007).
According to Biston (2007), shopping is probably the most preferred leisure activity for many Singaporeans. A mall is the most idyllic place in Singapore and is more of a national treasure than a commercial center. Singaporeans are also drawn to malls due to unfavourable weather since it often rains or is very hot. Singaporeans can do virtually everything in malls. They can watch movies, eat, engage in retail therapy, and also escape from the scorching sun or rain outside. Biston (2007) also adds notes that in October 2006, barely a month after its opening, two million people visited VivoCity, which is the largest shopping mall in Singapore, .
Singapore currently demonstrates a shopping culture that is second to that of developed countries. All the main fast food chains are found here and so are major fashion names. Luxury cars can also noticed on the Singaporean roads except those manufactured by American companies which persistently refus to build right-hand drive vehicles. For those Singaporeans who are obsessed with fashion trends, Orchard Road, which is the country’s another major shopping district, is the place to visit (Singapore Tourism Board, 2012). However, for a person looking to do cultural shopping, the places to go to are Kampong Glam, Chinatown, and Little India. In these three districts, one can find various ethnic products such as jewels, antiques and textiles. In Kampong Glam, some of the most popular shopping centers include Basharahil House of Batik where people can buy tailor-made Malay traditional costumes, and. Toko Aljunied, where people can buy Arab perfumes and Peranakan costumes. The Heritage Shop is also located in this district and sells quaint antiques, collectibles and other objects of yesteryear (Singapore Tourism Board, 2012).
Chinatown is the country’s largest historic district with its history spanning almost two centuries, from the time when the Chinese started to flock in the country in 1819. By 1860, the Chinese population constituted 65 percent of Singapore’s population. Currently, Chinatown contains exotic pre-war shops and is inhabited by various hawkers who sell different wares such as fine silk, gold, jewels and traditional handicrafts (Singapore Tourism Board, 2012). The most suitable time to go shopping in Chinatown is during Chinese New Year because this is the time when the food market in the district is abuzz with various activities, which range from lion dances to Chinese opera performances. For those people who are keen on the latest fashions, some of the best places to go shopping in Chinatown include Ann Siang Road and Club Street. Other inviting centers in the district include Fred Perry, View Point, and Ming Fang Antique House (Singapore Tourism Board, 2012).
Little India is a center that is characterized by a cacophony of horns and lively chatter of its residents. The most notable shopping mall in this distract is Mustapha Center where shoppers can buy household items, decorative items, foods, Indian spices, textiles and apparels, all of which can be obtained at low fixed Singaporean prices (Singapore Tourism Board, 2012). One can also buy gold and electronics in Little India. One of the most notable markets in Little India is Tekka market, which has stalls that sell Indian, Chinese and Malay foods, thus, drawing consumers from all over Singapore. One can also find here a market with fresh products selling farm produce such as flowers, fresh vegetables, as well as fish and meat. One can buy souvenirs such as brass oil lamps or purchase a fresh garland of jasmine with an aroma that will remind of Little India (Singapore Tourism Board, 2012).
The rise of the shopping culture in Singapore has been both a cause and effect of the development of shopping facilities and spaces. The increase in spaces of consumption in the country such as entertainment, food and fashion since the mid 20th century has been one of the deriving phenomena (Chua, 2003). Indeed, towards the end of the twentieth century, Singapore appeared to many foreign tourists as one continuous shopping center, with food and shopping being notable to many visitors. This development was accredited to the tourism industry, which grew up to attain a national status (Chua, 2003). In the 1970s, the government committed to expanding the country’s economy by targeting key urban centers such as Orchard Corridor for development. The government encouraged the establishment of international hotels and shopping centers. Being an efficient transportation hub, the country was able to attract many tourists on their way to other destinations such as Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia (Trocki, 2012).
With the building of the ultra-modern airport at Chiangi, tourists could make a brief stopover and make a quick shopping trip in Singapore before proceeding to their destinations. During the hard times of the bubble economy, Japanese tourists flocked in Singapore where commodities were cheaper than in Japan (Trocki, 2012). With the expansion of the retail sector, the local department stores also developed, and so did foreign chains. Therefore, it can be argued that Singapore’s shopping or consumer culture can be attributed to the globalization of commodities, economic inequality, and the overall state of the country’s economy, which is enhanced by the good will of the government. The shopping bug has possessed many Singaporeans who have proved to be among the disloyal pursuers of fads and fashions. As noted Chua (2003), life in Singapore is not complete without shopping.