Should National Geographic UK brush up on Geography?

An “F” grade for National Geographic UK. Here’s why.

Shawn Seah
2 min readAug 28, 2022


Picture from Gardens by the Bay, Singapore. Photograph taken by writer.

On 27 August 2022 (Saturday), National Geographic UK posted a photograph of Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay, and — bizarrely and inexplicably — the caption was:

“From the Archive: A family from India walks through the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore, Malaysia.”

First problem: Singapore is not in Malaysia.

Well, to be exact, we were briefly part of Malaysia, but we have since left Malaysia (for close to six decades).

Today, Singapore and Malaysia are sovereign and independent countries.

More charitably, perhaps National Geographic UK meant the more unusual, odder, or older term, Malaya? This term might have been slightly more accurate, albeit somewhat anachronistic. (After all, Gardens by the Bay was only opened in 2012.)

Second problem: I would be grateful if anyone could tell me why National Geographic UK wrote specifically, “a family from India”?

How did they know that this family was not a Singaporean family? Did they check with them and look at their passports?

Singapore is a multi-racial, multi-cultural country, mainly comprising Chinese, Malays, Indians, and Eurasians, as well as many other nationalities and races. Some Singaporeans have close ties with India.

So, it might come to a surprise to the writer at National Geographic UK that there are Indian Singaporeans and Permanent Residents too and Tamil is in fact one of the official languages of Singapore.

So the caption should perhaps have more accurately read:

“From the Archive: An Indian family walks through the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore.”

When a mistake or joke first appears on the Internet, it’s often taken in a light spirit — and rightly so.

“Downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee”. Screenshot from writer’s Facebook.

In June 2021, when an American posted jokingly that Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands was in “Chattanooga, Tennessee”, it was funny. I even joined in the fun.

In July 2022, when a Scottish travel page labelled Jewel at Changi as “Almondvale Shopping Centre, Livingston”, it was less funny, but still funny.

But now this is where this post is not clearly or expressly a joke by National Geographic UK. And the UK in particular should be a little bit more aware of and sensitive to the history of Malaysia and Singapore.

All considered, I award an “F” grade for their post. And I would strongly recommend more geography, history, as well as sensitivity lessons.



Shawn Seah

Singaporean writer and public speaker, passionate about education, social issues, and local history and community stories.