I’ve Been Living in Singapore for 4 Years and Would Like to Share 10 Things That Surprise Me Every Day
Hi everyone! My name is Vasilisa and I am from Belarus. This is the fourth year I have been living and studying in Singapore. The country is not that big — there are 5.8 million people living on the territory of 247 square miles. In the 1960s, it was a poor and corrupted country but the country’s current prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew managed to perform an economic miracle and turned Singapore into one of the most successful countries in the world.
Especially for Bright Side readers, I am going to tell you about some surprising things a person can find when visiting Singapore.
1. Singapore is a country of fines.
Strict laws and high penalties helped turn Singapore into the country it is now. The country is even called the “fine city” in jest.
You are not allowed to smoke, litter or even eat in unauthorized places. For example, one can’t have a snack on public transport. If you litter twice, you’ll get a signboard that reads, “I have littered” and you’ll have to clean streets all weekend. Drivers are fined for not fastening their seatbelts and can be imprisoned for speeding.
People are also fined for saying filthy words in public places or even for leaving an unflushed toilet. They say some elevators have detectors that will block the lift until the police come if someone decides to defecate there.
Additionally, it is forbidden to connect to somebody else’s Wi-Fi — this action is considered as hacking. Until recent times, there was even a law that prohibited walking naked in your own flat. What if the neighbors could see you?
Some criminal actions are punishable by beating with sticks. But the most severe punishment is connected with using and distributing drugs. This action, as well as murder, is punishable with the death penalty.
2. It’s very safe here.
Due to its strict judicial system and legislation, Singapore is considered to be one of the safest countries in the world. The crime level is very low here and most imprisoners are road rule breakers. There are many cameras in the city watching the order of things and there are almost no policemen. You can safely walk in the city both during the day and at night.
3. People lead a healthy lifestyle in Singapore.
This is a small stadium not far from my home.
The authorities of the country try to make people accustomed to a healthy lifestyle. And they partially do it with the help of limitations and bans. For example, hookahs, electronic cigarettes, and snuff are forbidden here. One can’t buy alcohol after 10:30 PM, while cigarette companies print scary pictures on cigarette packaging. But these aren’t the only ways Singapore promotes a healthy lifestyle.
Almost all yards near houses have exercise machines and treadmills — people can train for free there. Also, there are many athletic complexes where Singaporean people have yoga and pilates lessons. Various exercises are held both in yards near homes and in malls. For example, every Thursday near my home there is a free Zumba lesson. If you live in a building of a higher ranking, then there will likely be a gym and a swimming pool present. Also, for elderly people, they create special clubs where apart from visiting sports events for free, people in their golden age can simply spend time together and walk in the park.
Also, much attention is paid to healthy eating. Many products in shops are labeled with stickers that say, “Healthy Choice” — it’s the food that has less sugar, more fiber, no trans fat, etc. They even have special campaigns where if you buy more products with this sticker, you can register them in a special application and get points.
Various marathons promoting a healthy lifestyle are held in the country. For example, the marathon for slimming gives an opportunity to win prizes if you show a good result after losing weight; another one is a step marathon which allows people to take part in a lottery of prizes if they take 1,000 steps daily. And, of course, there are numerous running marathons in Singapore both for kids and adults.
Together with the high level of medical services and high social responsibility, these conditions give good results. According to one source, in 2017, the average life expectancy in Singapore was 83 years.
4. An unusual person named Mr. Toilet lives in Singapore.
Jack Sim and me
There is a person with an unusual profession living in Singapore — his name is Jack Sim and he is known as Mister Toilet. Jack manages the World Organization of Toilets and he even made up a holiday called The Day of Toilets in 2001. If you ever want to celebrate it, it’s the 19th of November.
This organization does many good things: it educates about proper hygiene and promotes the creation and maintenance of a normal sanitary society. The idea is to take care of people’s health because unsanitary conditions and water pollution affect it negatively. This organization has done great work in India where, as we know, the hygiene culture is at a very low level.
I had the honor of meeting Jack personally and I must say, he has a real talent for motivating people (he’s even better than Schwarzenegger), even if it’s about something unusual like sanitary hygiene. He said that he had built many business projects but at the age of 50, he realized that this life was not eternal and he wanted to do something really useful for this world — that’s how he started this organization.
5. Do you see tissues? It’s occupied!
There is a word “chope” in the Malay language that means “stamp”. And in modern Singlish (the local dialect which is a mixture of Singapore and English languages) this means, “to reserve a seat in a food court with the help of tissues or other objects”. This may sound funny, but it is really true!
In Singapore, you can reserve (or stamp) your table at a restaurant by simply putting a pack of tissues, an umbrella, a ticket, a plastic bag, a bottle — or just about any of your belongings on it. That’s it! No one will occupy this spot because they know it is already occupied.
Of course, if you have simply forgotten your tissues or an umbrella on the table, the staff will likely take them away after a couple of hours. Or not! People will keep meeting, eating, and saying goodbye, and those lonely tissues will still be lying on the table like an indestructible monument to a Singaporean “chope”.
6. A car is a luxury.
Firstly, taking into account all the duties and registration fees, taxes, and other various payments, the purchase of a car in Singapore ends up costing an arm and a leg — approximately $100,000 (and that’s on the low end). Additionally, there are many toll roads, toll tunnels, and paid parking lots which also become quite expensive. This harsh method helps the small country to fight traffic jams and air pollution.
At the same time, public transportation is developed very well here. Well-equipped buses, trains, metros, monorails and bicycle paths are all made for people’s comfort. There are various promo campaigns held in the sphere of public transport such as free entries to the subway till 7:45 AM (only in the downtown area), cheap night buses and more.
7. It’s very hot and at the same time, cold in Singapore.
Singapore has an eternal summer — the air temperature rarely goes below 85°F. That’s why if you are going to visit this country, remember to take sunscreen and a hat, otherwise, you might end up having a heat stroke.
But local shop owners, metro and bus workers, as well as office clerks miss the cold very much and set their air conditioning at 60°F. Air conditioners are everywhere and you can imagine the temperature differences a person has to endure going inside and outside all day. Frankly speaking, I still haven’t got used to this and that’s why I always carry a sweater with me.
8. A little about local styles
Generally, Singapore residents’ clothing style looks more European — they also like brand names and cool styles. But there is one thing to note — due to the hot climate, the most comfortable shoes are flip-flops. That’s why you can come to most restaurants wearing these simple shoes. If some event requires a dress code, they will always make an announcement that flip-flops are forbidden at the event.
Men can’t come to the office in shorts and restaurants can also prohibit such attire. Also, there is an old Chinese tradition that tells people not to cut their nails. In the past, this was an indication of being an unskilled worker. Unfortunately, nowadays, you can meet many people wearing this kind of “manicure”. Frankly speaking, it looks so-so.
9. Most families have housekeepers.
Many local families have their own housekeepers. These women come from the Philipines, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka to earn money. They usually live in a flat owned by the family they work for and very often it’s the only way for them to earn money. Their room most often looks like a tiny closet without windows. These housekeepers do all the house chores and look after the owners’ children, having only one day off per week and one vacation every 2 years. Of course, not all hosts are so strict with their housekeepers and in some families, the conditions are different.
All the money they earn is sent home. Usually, it consists of 500-600 Singapore dollars per month (400-500 USD). Apart from salary expenses, the hosts also pay fines and spend money for the housekeeper’s food.
10. It’s a really futuristic city, and it’s simply beautiful.
The city authorities decided that there would be no stone jungles in Singapore. That’s why 30% of the city is covered with greenery. There are many parks, botanical gardens and a national park here — one can easily see many flower pots both in malls and on the streets. Plants and trees can be seen everywhere — on the roads, on pedestrian crosses and building roofs. They pay much attention to the environment, education, and the quality of medical care in Singapore. The government is trying to apply all the latest technologies such as special sensors to provide its residents with maximum comfort.
The easiest way to come here is for school, as I did. At first, Singapore was nice to me but it felt a bit distant. After some time, I got used to this country and I really love it now. Singapore is like a hub of talents, a bridge between the worlds. I came here from Belarus and now, thanks to the education I got here, I can move to any place in this world. Yes, the city is full of comforts but I had to trade in a bit of my freedom. It’s each person’s choice to decide whether they want to live in this country or not.
Bonus: what you should see in Singapore
If you are going to visit Singapore, keep in mind that it’s monsoon season from November till February. Usually, the rains start and finish quickly but they bring a long-awaited evening coolness. Generally, you can come here at any season — it’s always sunny and warm here!
What you should do in this city:
- See the famous hotel Marina Bay Sands with a swimming pool on its roof. Rooms in the hotel are quite expensive and the swimming pool is always overcrowded due to its popularity; hence, I would not recommend to stay at this hotel nor visit the pool. However, there is a nice bar on the roof called Ce La Vi — the entrance fee will be the same as the entrance fee to the observation deck but you’ll receive a free beverage from the pub. If you are a girl and it’s Wednesday, you can get the privileges of the so-called Lady’s Night — a day when the entrance is free. This promo exists in many city pubs.
- Go for a night safari and visit the zoo.
- Have a ride on one of the biggest Ferris wheels in the world.
- Visit Chinatown and Little India and their local restaurants and shops.
- Go shopping on Orchard Road.
Places you can visit for free:
- Gardens by the Bay
- Haw Par Villa Park
- Buddha Tooth relic temple and museum
- An open-air concert on Esplanade stage
- Botanic Gardens (sometimes they give free concerts and free tours.)
- The Chinese garden
- Sentosa Island (if you don’t go by monorail, walk from VivoCity mall to Sentosa Boardwalk.)
- The fountain show, “Spectra” at Marina Bay
- Theme festivals
- Concerts featuring the symphonic orchestra
- Walking tours in Chinatown and Little India
Have you ever been to Singapore? Would you like to visit? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments!