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#trending: 'Is nudity seen as offensive in S'pore?' Woman asks why locals insist on using private cubicles in changing room

A woman from Germany took to TikTok to express her confusion over changing room etiquette in Singapore. She asked if it was okay to change openly in a female public changing room.

A German expatriate's video questioning Singapore's changing room etiquette has gone viral on TikTok, with many Singaporeans chiming in to offer their opinions.

A German expatriate's video questioning Singapore's changing room etiquette has gone viral on TikTok, with many Singaporeans chiming in to offer their opinions.

  • In a TikTok video, a woman from Germany expressed her confusion over changing room etiquette in Singapore 
  • She uses open showers and changes openly in her country, but noticed that women in her Singapore gym insist on changing in private cubicles even when there are long queues
  • Most people online agreed that it is a cultural difference between the two countries, since Singaporeans tend to be more "shy and conservative"
  • Some joked that it is simply because "Singaporeans like to queue"

SINGAPORE — For Singaporeans, some everyday habits are so normal that they don't even think twice about them, such as changing in a private cubicle when using a public facility. For foreigners who are used to different settings, Singaporeans' behaviour can sometimes be baffling.

One such person is a woman from Germany known only as "Anna", who expressed her confusion over changing room etiquette in a TikTok video posted last Friday (Feb 17).

"Singapore, I have a question for you," she begins. "Is nudity seen as offensive here?"

Anna then goes on to explain that in a gym here, despite the changing rooms already being split by gender, women still insist on waiting for one of the only two private cubicles in the female changing room.

"During crunch time, there is a queue forming in front of those cubicles for people to get changed," she elaborates.

"I'm just getting changed right where I stand. Because it's a female changing room to begin with, right?

"Like, is it not okay to do that?"

Anna says that such a situation would be completely normal in her native country.

Similarly, instead of having a separate shower cubicle for each person as is the norm in Singapore, it is more common in Germany to have an open shower where "everyone showers together".

"I don't know, this is a cultural thing. Help me understand," she pleads.

Her video has since received 156,900 views and 1,100 comments, mostly from Singaporeans offering their own perspectives.

Most people online agreed that it is a cultural difference between the two countries, since Singaporeans tend to be more "shy and conservative".

One TikTok user remarked: "We do have open showers but (only in) select locations like the beach." 

However, men noted that the practice of waiting for private cubicles appears to be unique to female changing rooms, stating: "In the guys' changing room, we change anywhere."

One suggested that this might be because men often use urinals in public toilets, whereas women use only cubicles and are used to the "closed, confined space".

Another said that most Singaporean men have undergone compulsory National Service and are "kind of used to (changing openly)".

Women, as well, claimed that "girls from girls' schools are used to changing openly while those from mixed schools are not".

TikTok users also assured Anna that "it is not offensive, just unusual" to change outside of the private cubicles.

"As long as (you're) not in public, it's fine," they said.

Even fellow women agreed, saying: "If the cubicles are packed, I just change outside."

Some quipped that it is simply because "Singaporeans like to queue", referring to a running joke about Singaporeans' tendency to camp in long lines due to the "kiasu" fear of missing out tendency when it comes to the best hawker food or the latest iPhone.

Others jokingly warned Anna of one of Singapore's laws: "It's also illegal to even change in your own house if someone spots you changing from across the block!"

Under Section 27A of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act, any person who appears nude in a private place and is exposed to public view is criminally liable.

In the comments for her video post, Anna asked about "school showers after a physical education class" and marvelled at how they are also separated into closed cubicles.

"I had no idea!" she wrote.

Anna is one of a few foreigners living in Singapore who have been confused by the people's mannerisms, which often make for humorous encounters.

In July last year, an American explained that she was initially offended by the term "wait awhile" when she first heard moved to Singapore.

An Australian who used to live in Singapore and now lives in Malaysia also talked about how customs in these places had converted her to eating rice with a spoon instead of a fork as she used to back home.

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