“Hotpot Singapore”

By Matthew Lam

In 1819, the year when the British founded Singapore, the place was just an abandoned and unimportant piece of rock about 625 square metres in size at the tip of Malaya in Southeast Asia.  There were only 150 inhabitants, including pirates. 

Since, the peninsula had magically transformed into a vibrant immigrant society. In the 19th and 20th century, the British made Singapore an important seaport and to support the economy, they encouraged immigrants from Southern China and Southern India to supplement the native Malays. Immigration continued to thrive during that period as trade flourished between China in the East and India, Middle East and Europe to the West. The invention of the steamships and the opening of the Suez Canal spurred more trade and more flow of migrants into this country.

My photographs are here to show the diversity that is my city.  We have a population of 5.7 million with a mix of Chinese(76%), Malays(15%) and Indians(7%). Each ethnic group speaks its own language but all share a common English language.

About 18 million tourists each year flood our small peninsula. That is about six times our population. They come from Asia and the rest of the world.  Singapore appears like a meeting place for the world and a hotpot that melts the major cultures of the world’s civilizations,  including Chinese, Indians, Malays and the Western civilizations.  

Singapore is efficiently run, clean, orderly and has very strict rules.  For instance, on a Sunday morning, I would think twice about crossing the road if the red man of the traffic signal is flashing even if there is no car on the road. During this pandemic, we have strict rules about wearing masks, social distancing and contract tracing.  While our culture diversity is something to cherish, in a pandemic, all must come together to adhere to the same common rules and not allow faith and race to play a part in the decision to enforce those rules.

A successful hotpot, melting diverse cultures to produce an economy and system that works.



Matthew Lam (2005) lives in Singapore and travels extensively for holidays in Asia with his family. He has a deep interest in documentary photography and uses vibrant colors to represent what he feels about the people he sees in Singapore and beyond.  He also enjoys writing screenplays and sees photography and filmmaking as very much an integral part of his creative passion. He is working on a photography book, Hotpot Singapore.