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Chinese

The Chinese in Singapore make up Singapore's largest ethnic group.

The Chinese are the largest ethnic group in Singapore, making up almost three-quarters of the country’s population. It’s not surprise then that Chinese culture – from the language and food to entertainment and festivals - features prominently in Singapore.

Most of them made the trek here from the southern provinces of China, including Fujian and Guandong. Those from the Hokkien and Teochew dialect groups are the most populous, followed by members of the Cantonese, Hainanese and other smaller groups.

Many of the Chinese in Singapore were immigrants from China's southern provinces.

Many came here to escape harsh conditions at home and ended up as coolies, or labourers. Others showed a flair for making money, and many of the city’s notable entrepreneurs were of Chinese descent. Today, Singaporean Chinese are well represented across different segments of society – from politics and business to sports and entertainment circles.

While their traditional culture has since been blended with other local ethnicities and Western influences, the festival of Chinese New Year is still celebrated with much gusto; a raucous reminder of what it means to be Chinese.

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Eurasian

The Eurasians in Singapore epitomise the city's vibrant east meets west vibe.

The small but influential Eurasian community in Singapore encapsulates the east meets west vibe of the country. This ethnic group is made of people who have mixed European and Asian lineage and have been present in Singapore since the early 19th Century.

Most Eurasians in Singapore can trace the European part of their ancestry to the Portuguese, Dutch or British, while their Asian ancestry can be traced to the Chinese, Malays or Indians.

The first Eurasians came a few years after the British founded Singapore in 1819, and hailed mainly from Penang and Malacca. During the colonial period, many Eurasians were employed as clerks in the civil service, European banks as well as commercial and trading houses. The women worked mainly as teachers and nurses.

The first Eurasians came a few years after the British founded Singapore.

There are around 15,000-30,000 Eurasians in Singapore today, making up less than 1 per cent of the population. That said, they feature prominently in the country’s media and entertainment industries.

English is the first language of Eurasians, although some from the older generation who are of Portuguese descent speak a version of the Portugese language known as Kristang.

Eurasians also have their own culinary traditions including signatures such as Mulligatawny soup (a curry-based broth), Shepherd’s pie and Sugee cake, whose main ingredient is semolina.

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Indian

The Indian culture adds much vibrance to Singapore's multi-ethnic society.

The Indians are Singapore’s third largest ethnic group, and the community here boasts one of the largest overseas Indian populations.

Many came here from the Southern part of India after the British settled in Singapore in 1819. Today, almost 60 per cent of the Indian residents here are of ethnic Tamil ancestry. More than half of Singapore’s ethnic Indians are also Hindus.

Known for their entrepreneurial instincts, many Indians set up businesses here, trading everything from textiles to jewellery. Today, they are also well represented in political and professional circles.

The Indians in Singapore are one of the Indian community's largest population overseas.

You can't talk about Singaporean Indians without mentioning their cuisine, which adds an extra zing in Singapore’s diverse food scene with favourites such as Thosai (savoury pancake) and Vadai (fried fritter).

Indian festivals here are colourful, upbeat affairs. Deepavali, or the Festival of Lights, is the main Indian festival, while Thaipusam, where devotees pierce themselves in an act of cleansing, is a fascinating spectacle.

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Malay

The Malays in Singapore are a part of a very close-knit community.

The original settlers of Singapore, the Malays are the second largest ethnic group here. As such their culture has influenced other ethnicities that arrived here later.

The Malays in Singapore come originally from the surrounding regions, including the Indonesian islands of Java and Bawean, as well as the Malayan peninsula.

The Malay language spoken by the locals here is closer to the version spoken in Peninsular Malaysia than Indonesia.

It is said that the Malays are Singapore's oldest settlers.

Their cuisine, featuring dishes such as nasi lemak (aromatic rice infused with coconut cream and pandan leaves) and mee rebus (yellow noodles in a spicy gravy), holds sway over local taste buds and is a fixture on Singapore’s renowned street food scene.

The majority of Malays are Muslims, and the key festivals of Hari Raya Puasa and Hari Raya Haji see this close-knit community come together in a colourful celebration of their culture and religion.

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Peranakan

The Peranakans in Singapore are a fascinating blend of cultures around the region.

The spicy Malay influenced taste of Peranakan food is probably the most commonly encountered aspect of this ethnic group.

The Peranakans, are a fascinating blend of cultures from the region. The term Peranakan refers to people descended from marriages between Chinese or Indian men and local Malay or Indonesian women who can be found throughout Southeast Asia.

The Peranakan Chinese, or Straits Chinese, in Singapore can trace their origins to 15th-century Malacca, where their ancestors were Chinese traders who married local Malay women.

There are also Chitty Melaka, or Peranakan Indians, descendants of marriages between South Indian Hindu merchants and local women, and Jawi Peranakans, who trace their ancestry to intermarriage between South Indian-Muslim traders and women of the local community.

Many of the early Peranakans were traders and shopkeepers, while others were involved in the real estate, shipping and banking sectors.

While many of the Straits Chinese have assimilated into the broader Chinese community, they still retain distinctive cultural traits – most notably in their food and traditional dress.

Nonya food, named after the ladies who cook it, features strong Malay and Indonesian influences with its uses of spices and coconut milk.

The Peranakan traditional dress for women known as the Nonya Kebaya features beautifully embroidered details.

At formal events, Peranakan women are also likely to be seen in their traditional dress known as the Nonya Kebaya, which is influenced by the Malay Sarong Kebaya.

This intricate outfit features a sheer fabric blouse that is often decorated with embroidered motifs such as roses, orchids or butterflies.

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