9 Fun Facts About Singapore & Its History You Probably Didn’t Know

9 Fun Facts About Singapore & Its History That You Probably Didn’t Know

Uncover the country’s lesser-known facts!

 While relatively short, Singapore’s history is rich with twists and turns. Although the country celebrated its 57th birthday this year, modern Singapore is considered to have been founded in the early 19th century. There is even evidence to suggest the existence of a significant trading settlement on the island in the 14th century!

While travellers know it as a dense metropolitan city, there are plenty of lesser-known interesting facts about Singapore. Even having lived here my entire life, I never fail to discover something new about our colourful history every day! In this article, we celebrate its rich history with these fun facts about Singapore that you probably didn’t know.

Also read: 13 Historical Facts About Asian Countries You Didn’t Know About

Interesting facts about Singapore

1. Singapore has changed its time zone six times

singapore skyline

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Since 1905, Singapore Standard Time (SST) has undergone six changes! Between 1933 to 1935, the Daylight Saving Ordinance bill introduced a 20-minute offset on an annual basis. On 1 Sep 1941, this increased to 30 minutes. During the Japanese Occupation, Singapore (then renamed Syonan-to) adopted Tokyo Standard Time, meaning we’d be waking up for work an hour earlier! After World War II, we reverted back to the pre-war timezone.

interesting facts about singapore

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Our most recent switch came in 1982 when our clocks were synchronised to follow Malaysia’s time zone. This final change was welcomed by many Singaporeans as this meant Singapore now operated in the same time zone as many neighbouring cities including Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Taipei!

2. Singapore’s history goes back to the 13th century

Although most people consider Singapore to have been founded in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles, did you know that Singapore was once a trading settlement in the 13th century? Known as Temasek (or Dan Ma Xi by Chinese sources), the island was already a centre for a wide trading network inhabited by fishermen and pirates.

Sometime in the 13th or 14th century, legend has it that the Sumatran prince Sang Nila Utama spotted a grand lion standing on the island after a thunderstorm. While there are no records of wild lions here, the name “Singapura stuck and was rendered to what we know now as Singapore. Now that’s a fun fact about Singapore!

3. Old Changi Hospital had a dark history

Singapore’s history is full of trials and tribulations. Nothing shows this quite like the next item on our list of fun facts about Singapore. Built in 1935 by the British colonial government to assist in the operations of their military base camp, Old Changi Hospital was seized by the Japanese during World War II.

This is where things took a dark turn. Although the hospital still operated as a medical facility for war casualties and injured military personnel, it was also used by the Kempeitai. History buffs might be familiar with the name of the Japanese military police due to their inhumane torture techniques. 

Today, this remnant of Singapore’s past is an abandoned site. While entry is prohibited, you can enjoy a virtual tour of the building from the comfort of your home!

4. Singapore once banned long hair for men

interesting facts about singapore

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We kid you not, long hair was once officially banned in Singapore! In the 1960s, the government implemented a policy that prohibited men from keeping long hair. This was an effort to nullify the increasing influence of the hippie subculture, which the stated deemed as detrimental. There were varying punishments for men who went against this ban, from fining to having one’s hair forcefully cut short. Moreover, government facilities had to give the lowest priority to requests by men with such hair lengths.

Thankfully, the ban was rescinded in the 1990s and Singaporeans are able to look back through a comical lens. The Straits Times even included the ban in its list of 50 objects identifiable to Singapore!

Also read: Tourists Be Warned: 13 Things You Just Can’t Do in Singapore

5. Singapore nearly had its own Disneyland

singapore mrt

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This next interesting fact about Singapore is one for Disney fans. If you’ve ever taken the North East Line, you may have noticed the abnormally long distance between Yio Chu Kang MRT and Khatib MRT. It takes around six minutes to travel between these two stations. To put things into context, the travel time between two stations is usually around two to four minutes! 

disneyland in singapore

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Apparently, this was where Disneyland was supposed to be built. That’s right! Disneyland was looking into building a park between the Yio Chu Kang and Khatib MRT stations, to compete with the one in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, due to land scarcity and financial disputes, the project fell through.

6. Singapore’s National Flag almost had three stars

interesting facts about singapore

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Singapore unveiled its national flag on 3 Dec 1959, the day Yusof bin Ishak was inaugurated. Today, it is a symbol of the country’s independence. However, an interesting fact about Singapore’s flag you may not know is that its initial design did not feature a crescent moon and five stars. Instead, it had three stars, bearing a striking resemblance to the Malayan Communist Party’s flag. To prevent any potential political conflict, the government redesigned the flag into the iconic symbol we know today!

7. Singapore’s hawker food has attained UNESCO status

hakwer food in singapore

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Here’s another one of our fun facts about Singapore! Did you know that hawker culture in Singapore has been inducted into UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity? Hawker centres are essential to the Singaporean way of life. With a wide variety of food from different cultures and relatively low costs, it’s no wonder that hawker food has remained popular through the decades! 

Today, Singapore has around 110 hawker centres spread across. Together, they are home to over 6,000 food stalls selling many local food staples from chicken rice to carrot cake. As such, hawker centres are important communal spaces that best represent Singapore’s multiethnic and multicultural heritage.

Also read: 10 Best Hawker Centres in Singapore That Locals & Travelling Foodies Swear By

8. Founding place of the World Toilet Organization (WTO)

We’re sure this is one interesting fact about Singapore you surely didn’t know! Founded on 19 Nov 2001 in Singapore, the WTO is a global non-profit organization dedicated to improving toilet and sanitation conditions around the world. 

While at first glance a world body on toilets may sound somewhat goofy, the organization importantly highlights the worldwide sanitation crisis. The organization has been backed by 122 countries and World Toilet Day was since initiated. The organization has undoubtedly left a mark on the world!

Also read: Here’s a List of the Newly Improved Public Toilets in Tokyo, Japan So Far

9. The S$1,000 note has the national anthem printed on the back

Capping off our list of fun facts about Singapore is one for the keen-eyed observer. All Singapore banknotes feature micro text, which are tiny words hard to see with the naked eye. Most bills have the words “Monetary Authority of Singapore” printed on the back multiple times. The S$1,000 bill instead features the entire Singaporean national anthem.

However, these bills are no longer in circulation. But if you do manage to get your hands on one, you’ll notice this cool detail!

Also read: 20 Underrated Things to Do in Singapore If It’s Not Your First Time

It’s always a joy to learn new fun facts on your travels. What are some of your favourite interesting facts about Singapore?

Featured image credit: Andrey Khrobostov | Canva Pro

About Author

Chow Cheng Yang
Chow Cheng Yang

Cheng Yang can often be found in his natural habitat — in his bed with a cup of coffee and a science-fiction novel. With his undying love for jazz music and old movies, he likes to think of himself as a bit of a hippie. When he's not busy with work or school, he spends his free time playing the guitar or practising calligraphy.