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07 August 2020

Quirks in the Island City

Singapore: Quirks in the Island City, 7 August 2020. Images from SingPost.

Technical Specifications:

Date of Issue : 7 August 2020
Denominations : 1st Local, 70¢, 90¢, $1.15, $1.40
$2 (stamp in Miniature Sheet)
Stamp Size : 40.8mm x 29.85mm
64.5mm x 59.7mm ($2 stamp in Miniature Sheet)
Perforation : 13
Paper : Unwatermarked
Printing Process : Offset Lithography (Stamps)
Offset Lithography with Gold hot-stamping (Miniature Sheet)
Printer : Secura Singapore Pte Ltd
Sheet Content : 10 stamps per sheet
Designer : Toby Tan Xun Yi, Pinch Design Pte Ltd

Our habits define us as a nation, uniting us through the way we live our lives in this island city. As Singapore turns 55, we celebrate the vibrancy of our community with the release of a stamp issue featuring our most iconic quirks. Some of the iconic quirks featured in this stamp issue are – Coffee-shop jargon, Our typical local marriage proposal, Chope, Taking wefie, and not to forget, Our love to queue!

Press Release:

In celebration of Singapore’s 55th year of independence, we celebrate the uniquely Singaporean traits of our nation with a stamp issue compiling our most recognisable and iconic quirks.

Designed in the form of sketches, the set of five stamps feature quintessentially Singaporean lingo and traits such as common local coffee-ordering phrases (“kopi-o kosong!”); Singapore’s national pastime – queueing; and more recently, “wefies”. The stamps also incorporated design reflecting how Singaporeans have adapted the changes to their way of life as a result of COVID-19, such as safe distancing measures and the wearing of face masks.

The stamp set also includes a miniature sheet, featuring a visual summary of the Singaporean lifestyle as Singapore battles COVID-19. Singaporeans will be able to identify with many of graphics contained within the sheet, a plethora of stay-home activities such as working from home, video conferencing sessions, home workouts and baking sessions, that many have undertaken during the eight-week ‘Circuit Breaker’ period.

The stamps (valued between 30 cents and S$1.40 each), Pre-cancelled First Day Covers (S$3.40 or $6.05), Presentation Packs (S$9.25) and Miniature Sheet (S$2) will go on sale from 7 August 2020 at all post offices, Philatelic Stores and online at, while stocks last.

In view of the current COVID-19 situation in Singapore, SingPost will be temporarily changing the process of stamp cancellations services for collectors.

The commemorative date-stamp will not be available for use by customers on the launch day of the stamp issue, as a safe management measure to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19. Customers who still wish to have their stamps cancelled using the commemorative date-stamp may deposit their items at any of the four SingPost’s Philatelic Stores or counters on the respective launch days for cancellation by SingPost. Customers will be contacted when their items are ready for collection at a later date.

1st Local: Coffee Shop Jargon

Ask for a kopi (kaw-pee) and you’ll get a rich, thick brew strained through something that resembles a sock. By default, kopitiam-style coffee is served with lots of condensed milk and sugar. If you like it black order a kopi-o or, if you want them to hold the sugar, ask for a kopi kosong. For coffee with unsweetened milk, ask for a kopi-C (the C is for Carnation milk, but they still add sugar to sweeten it). If the weather is too steamy for a hot drink, you can get a kopi peng (on ice). The same terms apply for teh (tea). Fancy a hot black tea without sugar or milk? That’s a teh-o kosong.

70c: Requirements for a Singaporean Marriage Proposal

It may seem thoroughly unromantic, but everybody knows that Singapore’s version of “Will you marry me?” is, “Want to apply for BTO together?”

It goes without saying that the growing appetite for housing has prompted many Singaporeans to propose this way. Further, with an average waiting time of three to four years for the completion of a BTO or Build-To-Order flat, balloting for one prior to an actual marriage proposal has long been the norm for couples here.

90c: Saving Seats

Singaporeans have a habit of reserving seats in food centres – which have free seating – by putting items such as name cards, tissue packets, umbrellas, staff passes or plastic bags on them.

Depending on who you ask, this idiosyncratic practice of “choping” seats is either a practical life hack or an ungracious act.

After the Government announced last month that a $90-million fund will be set up to boost the hawker trade, a number of ST readers wrote in, asking for something to be done about the “choping” of seats at hawker centres.

The practice, they said, has led to quarrels and created scenarios where elderly patrons carrying trays of food are deprived of a seat.

Others argued that tourists who have been brushed away by locals defending their reserved seats come away with a tarnished image of Singaporeans, although the Singapore Tourism Board said it has not received any feedback about this.

$1.15: Wefie

Another modern-day obsession is the need to photograph oneself, otherwise known as the Selfie.  In  Singapore, a self-made group photo is called the Wefie.

$1.40: Queuing Culture

Singapore stands out among other Southeast Asian countries as being very modern, clean, and convenient. How did a country with only 50 years of independence get to becoming such a gem in the region? It did so with orderliness, rules, and strict enforcement. One thing that Singapore is uniquely known for is the queuing or lining up. Of course other countries and cultures have the custom to line up when making a purchase or waiting for anything else but it is really emphasized in Singapore.

Singapore was occupied under British rule before its independence which is why English has remained the predominant and shared language between so many races there. Due to this, Singaporean English and diction is much closer to British English than American English for example. So when you see someone not lining up, it’s common to hear someone else shout “queue up”!

Singaporeans queue up as if it’s second nature and some people even joke that it’s a Singaporean’s favorite past time. Many locals suggest when looking for the best food option within a food center, the best bet is the place with the longest line. But how do you know if those people lined up thinking the same thing without knowing if it’s good? Doesn’t matter–that’s just the way Singaporeans decide if they have no other information.

Souvenir Sheet:

Presentation Pack:

First Day Covers:

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