Singapore: Valentina Visits the Whole of Asia in Few Subway StopsTHE ASIAN CITYSTATE IS A WORLDCLASS FINANCIAL HUB AND A PECULIAR MIX OF CHINESE, INDIAN AND MALAY INFLUENCES, AS ALUMNA VALENTINA SALMOIRAGHI TELLS US
Singapore means more than five million people living on an area of 700 square kilometers, and a state where there are three officially recognized ethnic groups and four official languages. These are the basic traits of the city-state known for being one of the most influential financial center in the world. Singapore is a melting pot of Chinese, Indian and Malay cultures, to which must be added the significant contribution of the international expat community working in the offices of the Business District.
The urban planning of Singapore reflects this mix and the government administration is committed to promoting policies that preserve the identity of each ethnic group, while ensuring their integration in public institutions. Thanks to its diversity, Singapore manages to concentrate in a few subway stops what you would meet in a trip across the whole of Asia. Next to Marina Bay and its skyscrapers, the three souls of the city come to life: Chinatown, Little India, and Kampong Glam. Starting a journey from the Chinese quarter, one finds out that life revolves around the open-air market that runs along the whole of Pagoda street, where food and clothing stores alternate with shops selling items that are typical of Chinese culture. The best that Chinatown can give is on display during New Year’s endless and engaging celebrations.
The switch from Mandarin to Tamil, the language of the Indian South-East, happens very fast as you step into Little India; here you come across a completely different scenario: the colors, aromas and flavors are unmistakable. In this maze of streets, bordered by the Hindu temples of Sri Veeramakaliamman and Sri Mariamman, every fall the Deepavali takes place, an elaborate ceremony of flights that celebrates the triumph of good over evil and draws a large number of people from all over Singapore. The liveliness of Little India and its tasty restaurants, however, stay all year round: at sunset, the neighborhood starts bustling with activity no matter the season.
Moving eastward, you run into Kampong Glam, the area inhabited by the Malay community, mainly of Islamic religion. Mosques dominate the urban landscape and the Malay language, Bahasa Melayu, dominates the conversations held in the premises on Arab street, where you can have an authentic gastronomic experience by tasting a murtabak (stuffed pancake) with some ginger tea (teh halia) or teh tarik, which is cinnamon and cardamom tea. An unmissable destination in the neighborhood is the Mustafa Center, a 24-hour shopping mall that sells just about everything. As they often say in Singapore: "If you cannot find it at Mustafa, it does not exist".
Bocconi alum, class of 2006, Valentina Salmoiraghi arrived in Asia fresh from her law degree thanks to an internship sponsored by the European Social Fund and the University, which brought her to work in a law firm in Beijing. From China, she moved to Singapore to work at the South East Asia IPR SME Helpdesk, a project funded by the EU that assists European SMEs with investments in Singapore and South East Asia. Today, in the role of business advisor, she deals with the protection of intellectual property rights, and is also leader of the local Bocconi alumni chapter
by Valentina Salmoiraghi
Translated by Alex Foti