Eurasians in Singapore

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Eurasians in Singapore
Total population
15,581[1]
Regions with significant populations
 Singapore
Languages

Mainly English

Also: Kristang, Chinese languages, Malay, Tamil and other Indian languages
Religion

Mainly Christianity

Also: Sunni Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, and no religion
Related ethnic groups
British people, Portuguese people, Kristang people, Macanese people, Dutch people

The community of Eurasians in Singapore is descended from Europeans who intermarried with local Asians. Their ancestry can be traced to emigrants of countries that span the length and breadth of Europe, although Eurasian migrants to Singapore in the 19th century came largely from other colonies in Asia, such as British Malaya in particular Malacca and Penang; Chittagong and Goa in India; the Dutch East Indies and French Indochina. They form a distinct group from more recent immigrants and expatriates of European descent.

European ancestry[edit]

Of Portuguese Descent[edit]

The first Europeans to land and seize territory in Asia were the Portuguese, followed by the Spanish who claimed the Philippines. The Portuguese explorers and conquerors were accompanied by the first Jesuit priests to South-east Asia via Goa in Portuguese India. Afonso de Albuquerque, the viceroy of India, conquered Malacca (today just a few hours' drive from Singapore) in 1511, while Jesuit Francis Xavier arrived in Malacca in 1545. Descendants of Portuguese colonialists who lived in Malacca and are of mixed Portuguese and largely Malay, but also Indian or Chinese descent, are collectively known as the Gente Kristang. This group is characterised by having its own distinctive Portuguese creole, the Kristang language, although it is now only spoken by a few, older members of the community. Many are descended from individuals who lived in Malacca or other parts of Malaysia. Others have ancestors who lived in Java or other parts of Indonesia as a result of being expelled from Malacca after the Portuguese were forcibly ejected from Malacca by the Johore-Dutch alliance in 1641. A few Macanese people of Chinese-Portuguese ancestry from Macau are also living in Singapore.

Of Dutch Descent[edit]

In 1602, a Dutch trading company called the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC (literally "United East Indies Company" but better known in English as the Dutch East India Company) was created to conduct trade in the area east of the Cape of Good Hope and west of the Straits of Magellan. In establishing their numerous trade stations spanning across Asia, the Dutch created independent settler societies in each of their colonies, where Batavia (now Jakarta, Indonesia) became the administrative centre and rendezvous point for the company's Asian shipping traffic.

Between 1602 and 1795, the VOC fitted out some 4,700 ships which carried almost a million Europeans to the Far East. Almost 70 percent of the one million of the passengers never actually returned to Europe, making Asia their new home.[citation needed] These early seafarers were not only made up of Dutch, but also included British, Germans, French Huguenots, Italians, Scandinavians and other Europeans who were employed by the VOC. In time, many were assimilated into Dutch colonies situated throughout Asia (though primarily in modern Indonesia) where they were stationed and became part of the respective communities.

Intermarriages between VOC employees and locals were encouraged, which lead to the creation of communities of Dutch descendants. Today, there are only four surviving coherent and large communities who are descended from those early intermarriages. They are the Coloureds from South Africa, Dutch Burghers from Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka), Dutch Indos from Indonesia, Anglo-Burmese and Dutch Eurasians from Malacca, Malaysia. The Dutch Eurasians of Malacca are of Dutch and largely Malay but also Indian or Chinese descent. The Dutch transferred Malacca to the British in 1825 in exchange for territory in Sumatra. The British sought to depopulate Malacca and as a result many Eurasians and other people moved north to thriving Penang (where other Eurasians fleeing Phuket or moving from Kedah also settled) and later south to Singapore as it grew in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Dutch descendants in Malaysia and Singapore are primarily made up of Dutch Eurasians originating from Malacca, Ceylon Dutch Burghers originating from Sri Lanka, as well as early Dutch settlers originating from Indonesia and India.

Of British and Irish Descent[edit]

The British were the most important Europeans in colonial Singapore, as they were the colonizers and settlers in the island. A great number of British settlers after it became a British political territory in 1867. A number of British took Asian partners and their offspring would be Eurasian. Some who had British nationality preferred to settle in Britain or other parts of the Commonwealth. Singapore's second President, Benjamin Sheares, was a Eurasian of English lineage.

Of Other European[edit]

Other Eurasians in Singapore have parents or are descended from individuals who originated from Europe.

Asian ancestry[edit]

Of Chinese and East Asian Descent[edit]

Of Malay, Filipino, Indonesian, Thai and South-East Asian Descent[edit]

Of Indian and South Asian Descent[edit]

Of Arab and Middle-eastern Descent[edit]

Of Japanese & Korean descent[edit]

Other Eurasians in Singapore have parents or are descended from individuals who originated from Japan, South Korea or other parts of East Asia. An example is Stephanie Carrington, who is half Caucasian (American) and half Korean.

Culture and traditions[edit]

Language[edit]

Shepherd's pie, a common Eurasian dish.

English is generally spoken as a first language by Eurasians, whilst amongst the elder generation who are of Portuguese or Portuguese-speaking descent, the Portuguese creole known as Cristão or Papia Kristang – the Kristang language – is still spoken by some people. A number of Eurasians speak Asian languages like Malay, Chinese or Tamil as their second languages.

Religion and Education[edit]

The Eurasian community in Singapore includes people that belong to different religions and to no religion, but majority of them are Christians, mostly Protestants of British descent. Many Eurasians in Singapore have been educated in Catholic mission schools like St Joseph's Institution. Protestant Eurasians in Singapore include Anglicans (Episcopals), Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans and Evangelicals. Many Eurasians in Singapore have been educated in Anglican and Methodist mission schools like St Andrew's School, Anglo-Chinese School and Methodist Girls School.

Cuisine[edit]

with Eurasian culinary traditions include Eurasian smore (a beef stew), mulligatawny soup (mulligatani in Kristang), shepherd's pie and vindaloo (vin d'arlo in Kristang). Sugee cake made with semolina is also associated with the Eurasians, but also with the Peranakan Chinese.

Prominence in the media, entertainment and fashion industries[edit]

Eurasians are prominent in the media, entertainment and fashion industry. Eurasian models are sometimes called 'Pan-Asians' for their mixed appearance but this term is a misnomer. 'Pan-Asian' in this context does not mean 'across Asia' but is synonymous with 'Eurasian'. A common belief amongst those in the advertising industry in Singapore and Malaysia is that Eurasian models who appear in advertisements can represent different ethnicities both European and Asian and so there would be no need to create two separate sets of advertisements one targeting consumers of European origin and another targeting consumers of Asian origin. Eurasian actors who appear in television series and movies can also represent roles of different ethnicities both European and Asian.

Popular places for Eurasians[edit]

Soon after the founding of Singapore by Stamford Raffles in 1819, people from other trading centres in Asia including Eurasians came to Singapore. Wealthy Eurasians set up home along Waterloo Street and Queen Street, not far from today's Singapore Management University. The types of houses that they lived in included shophouses, two-storey houses, terrace houses and bungalows. These were typically owned by well-to-do merchants and traders. The houses on Queen Street also consisted of shophouses that were occupied by non-Eurasian coolies. The living conditions in these shophouses were poor but at least the coolies could live close to where they worked. These houses on Queen Street were owned by the more well-to-do Eurasians. A number of buildings and churches of the period in the vicinity still stand today. Today, few Eurasians can be found residing on Waterloo Street and Queen Street. Eurasians can be found spread thinly across the island in both private and public housing. Although Katong on Singapore's east side is commonly considered Singapore's main Eurasian enclave because of some history, modern Eurasian literature and the present location of the Eurasian Association, it is more of a Peranakan Chinese enclave. The Singapore Recreation Club facing the Padang, Singapore near City Hall, founded by several Eurasian men, is considered to a social and sports club that is popular amongst the Eurasians in Singapore.

Prominent Eurasians in Singapore[edit]

Further reading[edit]

General works[edit]

  • Kraal, Diane (ed.); Wing Fee (ill.) (2005). Gateway to Eurasian Culture. Singapore: Asiapac. ISBN 981-229-356-6. 
  • Braga-Blake, Myrna (ed.); Ann Ebert-Oehlers (co-researcher) (1992). Singapore Eurasians : Memories and Hopes. Singapore: Times Editions for the Eurasian Association, Singapore. ISBN 981-204-367-5. 
  • De Witt, Dennis (2007). History of the Dutch in Malaysia. Malaysia: Nutmeg Publishing. ISBN 978-983-43519-0-8. 
  • Kraal, David (2005). The Devil in Me : Tasty Tidbits on Love and Life : Confessions of a Singapore Eurasian. Singapore: Angsana Books. ISBN 981-3056-78-9. 
  • Scully, Valerie; Catherine Zuzarte (2004). Eurasian Heritage Dictionary : Kristang-English/English-Kristang. Singapore: SNP International. ISBN 981-248-052-8. 
  • Tessensohn, Denyse; Steve Hogan (ill.) (2001). Elvis Lived in Katong : Personal Singapore Eurasiana. Singapore: Dagmar Books. ISBN 981-04-4316-1. 
  • Tessensohn, Denyse; Steve Hogan (ill.) (2003). Elvis Still Lives in Katong. Singapore: Dagmar Books. ISBN 981-04-9928-0. 

Family histories[edit]

  • Scully-Shepherdson, Martha (2006). Looking Back : A Family's History Discovered and Remembered. Singapore: Martha Scully-Shepherdson. ISBN 981-05-6271-3. 
  • Shepherdson, Kevin Linus; Percival Joseph Shepherdson (co-researcher) (2003). Journey to the Straits : The Shepherdson Story. Singapore: The Shepherdson Family. ISBN 981-04-9926-4. 

Fiction[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

External links[edit]

General[edit]