Traditionally, people in Southeast Asia lived in extended
families. However, Singapore is an urban society and most people live with their
immediate families in apartments. Today, about 78% of families in Singapore are
made up of parents and children only. The average household size is four persons.
Most Singaporeans live in high-rise apartments or condominiums. Many of these are
in large public housing developments known as housing estates created by the
government through the Housing Development Board.
Community spirit is seen as very important. Each neighbourhood in Singapore has one or more community centres and housing estates have Residents' Committees. The committees organize activities and community projects such as Neighbourhood Watch.
Arranged marriages are still common, especially among Indians
and Malays. Young people may rely on parents or matchmakers to choose their future
spouses. Most couples have a civil ceremony at the Registry of Marriages, followed
by a traditional wedding ceremony. Many couples postpone their wedding until they
are sure of getting an apartment to live in.
Many women have careers and are not in a hurry to marry. However, single women cannot qualify for their own apartment from the Housing Development Board unless they are over 35. Once married, most women usually take full responsibility for housework.
A dramatic fall in the birth rate has changed the family planning
policy from "Two is enough," to "Have three or more, if you can afford it." Various
financial and tax incentives are offered to parents to encourage them to have more
The traditional belief that a son must carry on the family name or business and take care of his parents when they are old is still strong. Although this attitude is beginning to change, the birth of a male child brings a lot of happiness. Families who can afford it will celebrate with a feast.
Interracial marriages are quite common because many couples
think of themselves as Singaporeans rather than belonging to different races.
The Singaporean government offers a matchmaker service through the Social Development Unit that brings together single people on the basis of qualifications and interests.