This is where you’ll find diversity, racial and religious harmony in Singapore

I was at a hawker centre in Singapore last week… my first visit to one, after over a year.

I left with two packets of shrimp dumpling noodles, a photo in my phone, and perspective.

Many Singaporeans I know — are pretty pleased when we see even expats dress down and visit the local hawker centres for our famously cheap and tasty food. And I noticed more than a couple of Americans and Australians there that day.

For over a year, with the rest of the world, I observed heated debate over diversity, racial and religious harmony, gender equality.

It’s almost impossible to avoid. We live in fear of global terrorism, we pick fights because we’re afraid of opposing genders, different skin tones, and differing spiritual and political views.

Fight or Flight. Our responses all stem from the same thing — Fear.

Being at the hot, humid hawker centre that afternoon — my spirit was bathed in an old familiar sight, and a refreshing perspective.

I saw people of all races… and I would venture a guess that they were all either Singaporeans or Residents (it wasn’t a tourist destination).

These were people who chose to make Singapore — home.

These were also people who enjoyed simple hawker faire that (famously) cost US$2–3 for a hearty meal (like my shrimp dumpling noodles). And sweetened coffee or tea for less than a dollar.

In a place like this. There are no airs.

Nobody embraced diversity — because it simply doesn’t exist.

Nobody has to champion racial harmony, religious tolerance and gender equality — because in a Singapore hawker centre, it is norm.

Melvin Yuan is the founder and CEO of The Commissioned and a founder at Omnifluence. He also blogs at

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