In 2020, S’pore Hawker Culture Could Become A UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage


Singapore is proud of our hawker centres. For good reasons. After all, it’s the only thing we can truly call our own.

Only in Southeast Asia can you find things like kopitiamshawker centres or coffee shops. And even then, they differ from countries to countries.

Each countries’ hawker culture reflects the soul and culture of the society they’re in, and Singapore isn’t any different.

The Government Has Been Trying to Keep Hawker Culture From Disappearing

If you’ve thought that the hawker culture might die, you’re not wrong. After all, the government is concerned enough to do something about it.

Although KF Seetoh of Makansutra disagrees with their ways.

There are scores of hawker food out there that are in danger of dying out. Owners who have grown old but do not have anyone to pass the business on to.

It doesn’t help that young Singaporeans are more attracted to the office life and chose not to muck it out at coffee shops.

There are incubation programmes tailored to help young people break out on the hawker scene. And efforts have been made to elevate the young people in the hawker business.

Like interviewing them and encouraging people to follow in their footsteps.

So when we heard that the government plans to get Singapore’s hawker culture listed as a UNESCO “intangible cultural heritage”, we’re not surprised.

First Things First, What’s UNESCO?

If you haven’t got it, getting on the UNESCO’s list is a big deal. Remember back in 2016 when Singapore Botanic Gardens got onto the list?

Mainstream media, the people behind the Singapore Botanic Gardens and the government went crazy congratulating Singapore and themselves.

To get onto the list basically means your country, be it cultural or a site has something that’s worth knowing and protecting.

Singapore To Get Hawker Culture Listed on UNESCO by 2020

If you’ve missed PM Lee’s National Day Rally yesterday, he mentioned Singapore’s plan to get our hawker culture listed as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity”.

To him, Singapore’s hawker culture is a unique part of Singapore.

And it’s more than just food. The hawker culture is something that resonates with every Singaporean. In fact, he claimed it’s the “best cure for homesickness” for overseas Singaporeans.


Hawker centres, he said, are community spaces where people of all races, income and religions get together to eat.

With UNESCO’s support, this hawker culture will be kept safe from disappearing. Plus, it will also let the whole world know about this our local food and multicultural heritage.

In other words, marketing.

Timeline of Getting The Hawker Heritage UNESCO-ed

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu said in Mar 2018 that Singapore is looking at a possible listing.

The Federation of Merchants’ Associations Singapore (FMAS), National Environment Agency (NEA) and the National Heritage Board (NHB) will be working together to make this a possibility.


They will be submitting the necessary documents in Mar 2019 and results will be announced at the end of 2020.

So, what do you think? Is Singapore’s hawker culture good enough to get into this UNESCO list?

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