Singaporeans Speak On Singapore’s Confusing Place Names
Top Image: Stephanie Lee / RICE File Photo

For a small island, Singapore really loves its confusing place names. Outram Secondary School will relocate to Sengkang in 2026 without changing its name. For comparison, Outram and Sengkang are on opposite ends of the North East Line. On the other hand, Tampines Meridian Junior College is not in Tampines. It is, in fact, in Pasir Ris. 

There is no shortage of other befuddling title decisions. The names of shopping malls don’t tally with the obvious—Sengkang Grand Mall is right next to Buangkok MRT station, for one. Roads with similar names are far apart—Farrer Road and Farrer Park are found in different regions of the country. Queen Street isn’t in Queenstown. Bukit Merah and Tanah Merah are nowhere near each other.

Singaporeans speak about some of these confusing place names and how they’ve been personally affected by them. 

“I’ve always been confused by Raffles City’s nearest MRT station. I get that Raffles City, the shopping mall, is nearest to City Hall. And City Hall is a historic place in Singapore. So it only makes sense that Raffles City’s nearest MRT station is called City Hall. 

But Raffles Place MRT station is just beside City Hall MRT station. I can’t be the only Singaporean who wanted to go to Raffles City and alighted at Raffles Place MRT station.

I ended up meeting my friends later than I expected when I alighted from Raffles Place MRT station and all I saw were Singaporeans in suits walking back to their offices after lunch. Raffles City shopping mall was nowhere to be seen. I can’t be the only person to have been that stupid. Please tell me I’m not alone.”

— Haley, 26 

“Farrer Park MRT station and Farrer Road MRT station. Farrer Park MRT is in the middle of Singapore and connected to so many places because it’s near town, but it also has its own shopping mall. 

Then there’s Farrer Road MRT station. When you alight, it’s in the middle of nowhere. All you see are a bunch of HDB flats. It’s confusing just to even talk about it. I don’t even know whether I’m describing Farrer Road and Farrer Park correctly. I could be mixing them up right now. 

Who is Farrer and how did they conquer two areas in Singapore that are relatively far away from each other?” 

— Daniel, 31

“Let me get this straight. Punggol Park is in Hougang. And Punggol Waterway Park is in Punggol. 

Sometimes, when a running buddy asks to meet at the park in Punggol, I don’t know whether he’s referring to the Waterway Park or the one in Hougang. I have to ask him to be more specific. 

Or sometimes I have to deduce which park he’s referring to. If he suggests dinner at Waterway Point, it’s Punggol. If he suggests going to Hougang Mall, it’s Hougang because Punggol Park is somewhere on the fringes of Hougang. You barely walk a few minutes, and you’ll reach a road called Hougang. 

This is the one confusing place name that affects me.”

— Lionel, 31 

Image: Stephanie Lee / RICE File Photo

“Are Singapore names really that confusing? Yeah, I mean, you have the same names for different places, but knowing the difference is what makes you Singaporean

The Singapore citizenship test should ask what MRT station you’re supposed to alight at to get to Raffles City. Is it City Hall or Raffles Place MRT? 

Yeah sure, it’s confusing but that’s how you can identify a true blue Singaporean. We know Marina Bay Sands is at Bayfront MRT, not Marina Bay MRT. Singapore is also so small. And public transport is so efficient. 

What do you even lose when you go to the wrong place? You’re 20 minutes late? Fine by me.” 

— Vernon, 36 

“When I found out that Jurong Point shopping centre was at Boon Lay MRT station, I was like, that’s fucked up. Then why is Jem at Jurong East MRT station? 

They might as well switch. It would make more sense. I understand that Jem could stand for Jurong East Mall, but people only identify it as Jem. Jurong Point is called ‘Jurong Point’. It just bothers me.” 

— Xue Qi, 25

“I sometimes get confused by Bukit Merah and Tanah Merah. Bukit Merah means ‘Red Hill’ and Tanah Merah means ‘Red Earth’. One is in the south, and the other is in the east. 

My geographical knowledge of Singapore is already very bad. Even when I walk home, and I miss a turn along the route, I take about a minute longer than the average Singaporean to get my bearings. 

So when people talk about Bukit Merah and Tanah Merah in the same sentence, it gets confusing. It doesn’t help when Tanah Merah has a ferry terminal and Bukit Merah is near Harbourfront, which also has a ferry terminal. I’m geographically challenged.” 

— Elaine, 31

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