“I have lived in Singapore with my family for several years. I hope these notes, prepared from recent experience, will be interesting and informative for tourists visiting Singapore.
The long list of positives:
The people of Singapore are clean, level-headed, honorable and disciplined
Drivers don’t honk their horns, there’s no swearing or arguing on the street, and people rarely raise their voices
There’s no malice or envy. They see every problem as a task or a challenge, and they’re happy to take it on
They take healthy living very seriously: nutritious, weekly massages and meditation are all essential. In every department store, and virtually every hundred meters on the street you’ll find a massage parlor. Many places also offer the (now familiar) tank of dead-skin-eating fish for a foot cosmetic service.
Public safety in Singapore is even better than in Switzerland. If children don’t want to go home on the school bus, they can simply walk. There is virtually no crime. Nobody smokes on the street. There are no drugs (drug dealing is punishable by death in Singapore)
In the interests of keeping the streets clean, chewing gum is not sold in shops in Singapore, and foreigners are also not allowed to chew gum – though I’ve never heard of anyone being stopped for it
Foreigners in Singapore stick together, and the locals are very respectful towards foreigners
The most commonly spoken language in Singapore is Mandarin Chinese, and my daughters picked it up remarkably quickly. Now we live in the USA, but the girls still often speak Chinese to one another. It’s hard to keep it up at that age, but we’re trying. My daughter Lily often mixes up Chinese and English words – it’s very sweet
Imagine – when it rained, people held their umbrellas over my head to keep me dry!
Once, for instance, I went into a Starbucks and ordered a coffee, specifying that I didn’t want it too hot, because I had to drink it quickly. All the same, I was given a very hot cup of coffee. I had to rush somewhere with my daughters, but the barista knelt down in front of me to beg my forgiveness for not correctly fulfilling my order. The next time I went in I got a lukewarm coffee for free…
In Singapore, punctuality is extremely important, especially for locals. Nobody is ever late. If you call a taxi, they’ll tell you that they’ll be there in 5-7 minutes, or 7-9 minutes, and they stick to it
The locals protect their skin from the sun. It shocks them when they see Europeans sunbathing. They use sun umbrellas to protect themselves when walking in the street. They use whitening soaps and creams, and go in for all manner of skin whitening treatments. The whiter your skin, the higher your social status. Street workers are typically dark skinned
They don’t eat bread. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all hot meals, usually soups, rice with vegetables, fish and meat. Instead of coffee, they generally drink chicken broth
In Singapore, nobody expects a tip! They always give and take money with two hands, accompanied by a slight bow, as a sign of respect. If you don’t do likewise, it’s a sign that you are a tourist
From the perspective of a foreigner in Singapore, it’s interesting that you can find hotels literally everywhere
You can order food from home, it’s delivered for free, and you only pay at the end of the month! Everyone takes off their shoes at the entrance to apartments (and churches)
There is a defibrillator on every floor of every department store
Want to know what McDonalds is called in Singapore: Máidángláo
Now come the things I can’t honestly say I’ll remember fondly:
There’s no real creativity among the locals. The main goal is always to fulfil instructions and execute tasks, even at the expense of quality, or if it clearly isn’t going to work.
Too many mosquitos.
‘Singlish’, the inane creole form of English used by many locals: ‘Can you?’ ‘Can-can’ etc. (awful)
The relentless tropical heat and high humidity, meaning we could never bear to be outdoors for long
There are no human rights. If you’re ‘somebody’ you can find a way to get anything done. If, however, you’re some poor laborer from the Philippines, your life means nothing in Singapore. They cram about 40 Filipino or Indian workers into the back of a small truck to take them to a building site. During their lunch breaks they sleep and relax on the dirty ground
Small children ride on the back of motorbikes with no helmets. On highways. Children as young as my daughter Lilly ride pillion, with no safety belt
The taxi drivers aren’t familiar with large parts of the city. Most only know Chinese characters, so with google maps in Latin characters, we have no way of communicating the address. (Only Singapore citizens can be taxi drivers)
Asians are, as a rule, quite unforgiving. Even of themselves. I heard of several instances where people committed some relatively minor infraction and could see no way of atoning except suicide
They keep a ‘dossier’ on everyone. Even us. There are plain-clothes policemen in the street, and among the taxi drivers, and CCTV cameras cover virtually every inch of the city
The Pampers and Huggies diapers were poor quality in Singapore, and not sufficiently absorbent. We used the Japanese brand MamyPoko instead. I only mention this because some of you might be travelling there with small children.”