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Answers to questions you never had about Singapore



Where do we get our rain trees from? Who names the streets in Singapore?

No, these aren't the answers to your exams. Neither will this information help in your future job interview. 

But if you're ever at a party trying to show off how knowledgeable you are about Singapore, these facts will probably come in handy. Here are the answers to six questions Singaporeans never knew they had about their country. 

1. What happened to all the unused one-cent coins? 

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) stopped the coins' circulation way back in 2002 as no one really used them. If you happen to have a truckload of these seemingly worthless reddish-gold gems, don't pepper them into a wishing well. Believe it or not, they still remain legal tender.

You can either use them or exchange them at MAS, where they'll credit the amount into your bank account.

And if you're wondering about what happens to the coins they get back—the metal gets recycled. 

2. Where do we get our rain trees from? 

Besides obscure TikTok videos, impatient aunties on the MRT, and Yusof bin Ishak, what's something you see almost every day? That's right: rain trees.

Did you know rain trees got their name because their leaves close up right before it rains? Learning is fun!

According to the National Parks Board (NParks), we actually have tree banks nurturing rain trees along with other tree species. One such is the Pasir Panjang Nursery, a 12ha tree nursery located near HortPark. We also get some trees and plants from overseas.

3. What's the story behind the Merlion?

Ah yes, the mythical Merlion, known for more than quenching the thirst of instagramming tourists (both literally and figuratively).

The Merlion's head represents our original name, 'Singapura' (meaning Lion City), and its body represents Singapore's origin as a fishing village.

But if you thought the Merlion came from Javanese mythology, you're wrong.

Commissioned by the Singapore Tourism Board for their logo in the 60s, the Merlion was designed by a British Ichthyologist (fish expert), Alec Fraser-Brunner. He was the then-curator of the Van Kleef Aquarium in Singapore, which closed in 1991.

4. If every Island in Singapore starts with a Pulau, why aren't we called Pulau Singapore?

Pulau Ubin, Pulau Tekong, Pulau Hantu; out of Singapore's 62 off-shore islands, almost every single one of them starts with a Pulau (which means island in Malay).

But here's something your Social Studies textbooks didn't teach you: Before mainland Singapore was called Singapura or even Temasek, it was known as Pulau Ujong, which translates to 'island at the end'.

Perhaps we should've been called Ujongreans - wait, this sounds pretty familiar...

5. What's Singapore's National Bird?

While we don't have an official national bird, the Crimson Sunbird seems to be the front-runner for the title at the moment. Native to Singapore, the bird was chosen based on a public poll conducted by the Nature Society of Singapore in 2002.

Those who voted for the Crimson Sunbird felt that the small, active, and red bird is a befitting representation of Singapore.

Though seen by many to be the national bird of Singapore, its official status is still in the works. The Nature Society of Singapore has contacted various government departments on this but the final verdict is still not out yet.

6. Who names the streets in Singapore?

There are so many weird street names in Singapore, and if you're like me, you've probably never heard of the Street and Building Names Board (SBNB) under the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). The SBNB handbook explains how building owners and developers should propose street names.

Using Lorong (lane or alley in Malay) to name new streets is discouraged in the SBNB handbook as only "the UK English form of spelling should be used in street names".

For example, an Expressway is bigger than a Highway, followed by a Boulevard, Avenue, Way, Road, Street, Walk, and lastly, Lane.

So if you want to name a street, you'll probably have to be the one that built or developed it. Even then, you'll still have to seek approval from the SBNB, and they are not going to let you name it after yourself...unless you've been an outstanding person "who had made significant contributions to Singapore".


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