Consuming Culture: Perception of Singapore Little India by Asian Youths

Culture becomes an inevitable attraction in tourism that conjures up more meaning in touristic experiences. This paper will study the perception of the Singapore cultural heritage among the international students studying in the private educational institutions in Singapore. According to Douglas, Douglas and Derrett (2001, p. 114), cultural tourism concerns forms of tourism that relate to aspects of culture whether profiling culture, involving cultural experiences, learning about culture or participating in culture.

Culture has become one of the main reason for travel.

Cultural tourism experiences differ from familiarity with cultural objects to immersion into the societal culture (Bourdieu, 1986). However, usually cultural tourism does not have any putative definition because of the complex nature of ‘culture’ (Alzua, O’Leary, & Morrison, 1998). The notion of cultural tourism may define in various forms depending on the perspective of the writer or researcher. For instance, according to Adams (1995), cultural tourism is a type of travel for personal enrichment. Whereas some researchers defined culture as the consumption of cultural services by the tourist, disregarding the motivation of travel (Foo, 1998; Hughes, 2002; McKercher, 2002).

Nevertheless, cultural tourism involves the tourist to learn about the place history, the host community heritage and the way of their lives. It is also an involvement of any activity, or something that can offer an infinite experience (Zakaria, Salleh & Rashid 2014). Singapore exhibit signs of cultural homogeneity due to internationalisation, but they have had a history of exposure to outside influences and a fluid culture has emerged that is neither wholly Asian nor Western (Ang and Stratton, 1995).

TMC Academy Hawthorn English Language Student Works - Living in Singapore - Sophia

The diversity of cultures in Singapore making it one of the most popular destination for tourist.

Tourism provides communal harmony with the host community through high intensity of cultural interactions. Due to cultural clashes, suppression, assimilation, domination and resistance, homogenization, heterogenization and hybridization (Netphokaew, 2004), tourists, especially youths, can build sustained relationship with the host communities by actively participating and experiencing other cultures. Singapore Little India is one of the cultural hubs in Singapore where youth tourist can easily mingle with the host community unlike in India due to language barrier.

Singapore little India is a vibrant historic area that exhibits the best of Singapore’s Indian community from lively culture to incredible shopping experiences (YourSingapore, 2016). During the colonial era, Indian migrant workers settled in this place which eventually became an ethnic neighbourhood. Today, Little India comprises with many shops selling from Indian artefacts and jewellery to diverse cuisines. A must see cultural attraction in modern Singapore, which defines the multicultural characteristics of the city with a contemporary twist. Festivals, food, places for worship, shopping, contemporary arts, traditional market and many other activities make this place as a cultural hub.

Singapore little India is a vibrant historic area that exhibits the best of Singapore’s Indian community

In this research, researcher focused on the TMC students studying hospitality and tourism courses in Singapore. TMC Academy has diverse Asian youth population from South Korea, China, Malaysia, Mongolia, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Laos and Cambodia. They are 18-25 years old, both male and female with length of stay in Singapore from one month to two years. Most of them never visited India and/or has very limited knowledge about Indian culture.

The data was collected by means of questionnaire and through observation. A mixed method approach was applied to conduct this research which eventually will be analysed. A significant portion of the analysis was dedicated towards the life of Asian youth studying in private education sector in Singapore. How they define culture and their perception of contemporary culture offered in Singapore Little India ethnic neighbourhood.

Written by:
Mr Pinaki Dutta
Dean, School of Tourism, Hospitality and Culinary Arts (TMC Academy)


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