The Amazing Hawkers of Singapore

Last week, in his National Day Rally speech, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced his proposal that UNESCO officially recognises their Hawker Culture.

For those who may not be aware, UNESCO has what’s known as the ‘Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’, which comprises unique cultural practices and intangible elements that promote the diversity of a place’s cultural heritage. Entries submitted for this coveted recognition are assessed by a committee and, once agreed, added to the other successful applicants and or previous winners on the UNESCO list.


Those of us familiar with Singapore and the splendour of Hawker Culture will know and appreciate that it’s more than just a place to grab a bite. For many it’s a way of life. A rich part of their living culture that’s been part of every life from generations past. It’s in their DNA!

It’s the Singapore equivalent of the English Pub. A place to meet friends. A place to chat and gossip about your day. Tell stories. Reminisce. It’s much more than being one of the crowd. It’s about being part of something bigger than yourself. It’s community. Even for someone like me who only gets to inhale the magical smells and taste the skills of the Hawker’s art every once and a while because it goes deeper than that. It’s like a belief system. A place that offers sanctuary though food and good cheer. Somewhere you know you’ll be welcome and leave more content than when you arrived. 

The Singapore Hawkers have as much right to be placed on the UNESCO list as any stone monument or indigenous culture. 

I’m sure most Italians are just as proud of the Pizza as they are their International Football Team (maybe not this year). But so they should be!! The Hawkers are a culinary society of their own making. A community that’s taken shape over decades if not centuries. They have a place in Singapore history and in the hearts of the people. I take off my hat to the PM for his commitment to the cause in the hope that the folks at UNESCO have all had the pleasure of experiencing the Hawker magic before casting their vote. If they have – then you’re on the list.