Eurasians in Singapore: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The community of Eurasians in Singapore is descended from Europeans who intermarried with local Asians. The ethnicities within the community span the length and breadth of Europe, although Eurasian migrants to Singapore in the 19th century came largely from colonies already in Asia, such as British Malaya; Chittagong and Goa in India; the Dutch East Indies and French Indochina.

Currently, the community boasts family names which come from the Armenian (the Galistan, the Dragon and the Avakian families), British (the Caine, the Hogan, the Philips, the Reeves, the Fenley, the Hale, the Shirlaw and the Smith families), Danish (the Lange, the Olsen, the Rasmussen and the Jensen families), Dutch (the Marbeck, the Ess (formerly, "van Es"), the Hoeden (or "van Hoeden"), the Van Cuylenberg, the De Bakker, the Westenra, the Ten Haken, the Feenstra, the Gronloh and the Vanderstraaten families), French (the Longue, the Poulier and the Cherbonnier families), German (the Oehlers, the Keller, the Kaiser and the Roelcke families), Italian (the Marini, the De Luca, the Esposito, the Angelucci and the Scarpa families), Portuguese (the Coelho, the Carvalho, the Conceicao, the de Almeida, the de Silva, the de Souza, the de Cruz, the de Cotta, the Nonis (or "Nunis"), the Gomez (or "Gomes"), the Lazaroo, the Monteiro, the Oliveiro, the Pereira, the Pestana, the Rodrigues and the Theseira families), Spanish (the Castellano, the Fernandez, the Lopez, the Zuniga and the Hernandez families) and Swedish (the Holmberg, the Johansson and the Lindblom families) nations.


European ancestry

The Portuguese

The first Europeans to land in Asia were the Portuguese, followed by the Spanish. The Portuguese explorers also ferried the first Jesuit priests to Asia. Their descendants, who are of mixed Portuguese and Chinese/Indian/Malay descent, are collectively known as the Gente Kristang.

This group is characterised by having its own distinctive dialect of Portuguese, the Kristang language, although it is now only spoken by a few, older members of the community.

A number of Macanese people of Chinese and Portuguese ancestry from Macau are also living in the island.

The Dutch

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. 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.

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.

The British

The British were the most important Europeans in Singapore, as they were the colonizers and settlers in the island. A great number of British settlers remained in the island 2 years after it became a British political territory in 1867. Different British nationalities (English, Scots, Welsh, and Irish) are living here. Some Anglo-Burmese even settled the island. Although most settlers got out of Singapore in 1963, they are leading in the Singaporean economy, along with Chinese.

Culture and traditions


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 descent the Portuguese creole known as Cristão or Papia Kristang – the Kristang language – is still spoken by some people.


The Eurasian community in Singapore is overwhelmingly Christian, most being Roman Catholics of Portuguese descent who celebrate Christian feast days such as Christmas, Easter and Corpus Christi.


Foods commonly associated with Eurasian culinary traditions include devil's curry (curry debal in Kristang), curry feng, Eurasian smore (a beef stew), mulligatawny soup (mulligatani in Kristang), shepherd's pie and vindaloo (vin d'arlo in Kristang).

Prominent Eurasians in Singapore

Benjamin Henry Sheares (1907–1981) served as Singapore's second President from 1971 to 1981.

Further reading

General works

  • Asiapac Editorial; Wing Fee (ill.) (2003). Gateway to Eurasian Culture. Singapore: Asiapac. ISBN 9812293566 (pbk.).  
  • Braga-Blake, Myrna (ed.); Ann Ebert-Oehlers (co-researcher) (1992). Singapore Eurasians : Memories and Hopes. Singapore: Times Editions for the Eurasian Association, Singapore. ISBN 9812043675.  
  • De Witt, Dennis (2007). History of the Dutch in Malaysia. Malaysia: Nutmeg Publishing. ISBN 9789834351908.  
  • Kraal, David (2005). The Devil in Me : Tasty Tidbits on Love and Life : Confessions of a Singapore Eurasian. Singapore: Angsana Books. ISBN 9813056789.  
  • Scully, Valerie; Catherine Zuzarte (2004). Eurasian Heritage Dictionary : Kristang-English/English-Kristang. Singapore: SNP International. ISBN 9812480528 (pbk.).  
  • Tessensohn, Denyse; Steve Hogan (ill.) (2001). Elvis Lived in Katong : Personal Singapore Eurasiana. Singapore: Dagmar Books. ISBN 9810443161.  
  • Tessensohn, Denyse; Steve Hogan (ill.) (2003). Elvis Still Lives in Katong. Singapore: Dagmar Books. ISBN 9810499280 (pbk.).  

Family histories

  • Scully-Shepherdson, Martha (2006). Looking Back : A Family's History Discovered and Remembered. Singapore: Martha Scully-Shepherdson. ISBN 9810562713.  
  • Shepherdson, Kevin Linus; Percival Joseph Shepherdson (co-researcher) (2003). Journey to the Straits : The Shepherdson Story. Singapore: The Shepherdson Family. ISBN 9810499264 (pbk.).  


  • Lazaroo, Simone (1994). The World Waiting to Be Made. South Fremantle: Fremantle Arts Centre Press. ISBN 1863680896 (pbk.).  
  • Lazaroo, Simone (2000). The Australian Fiancé. Sydney: Pan Macmillan Australia. ISBN 0330362003 (pbk.).  
  • Lazaroo, Simone (2006). The Travel Writer. Sydney: Pan Macmillan Australia. ISBN 9780330422567 (pbk.).  
  • Shelley, Rex (1993). People of the Pear Tree. Singapore: Times Books International. ISBN 9812044493 (pbk.).  
  • Shelley, Rex (1991). The Shrimp People. Singapore: Times Books International. ISBN 981204292X (pbk.).  

See also


External links


Family histories

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