Five years ago I wrote this post outlining Why I moved to Singapore. Now that time has passed and I’m older and wiser. Let’s see if I still feel the same way.
What I said then: Singapore has a can do attitude and want’s to be the best
Check out this advertisement in the heart of Singapore CBD. I think this sums up the can-do feeling of the city.
When Singapore wanted to host a Formula 1 race, they didn’t just build a track on the outskirts of town. They instead created F1’s first night race through the city streets, and combined it with world class entertainment.
What do I feel now? Agree (kinda)
Singapore does have a can-do attitude and wants to be the best. There’s been many examples of this that have come to life since I arrived. None more striking than the Jewel at Changi Airport.
And they way that handled the Trump Kim summit was truely first class.
However when I wrote this statement I also thought it applied to the common everyday “man on the street”. Since being here I know this is not the case and it feels like a lot of people are riding on the prosperity of Singapore with out contributing much to it. There is an ever present vibe of laziness in the atmosphere.
I can’t blame them. Singaporeans have had to work extremely hard during school years, early mornings, and extra tutoring pushed by tiger parents. By the time they’ve got the nice job at the shiny office in the city, I too would want to put my feet up a bit and think “mission accomplished”.
People do work hard here. Don’t get me wrong. But in my experience it’s terribly inefficient and people are staying back late at the office for “face”. IE to be seen by the boss still at their desk even though they may not actually be doing extra work. Someone else told me that people also stay back late to enjoy the air conditioning in the office too. Is this true? Comment below if so.
What I said then: It’s Fun!
Every Sunday you can get your groove on poolside or beachside at one of the many ocean side bars along East Coast Park or Sentosa Island. If you are heading into a pub on a night security meet you with a smile, not a quiz about how many drinks you’ve had, and the concept of a 1am lockout in a 24 hour city is laughable (sorry Sydney).
What do I feel now? Agree
I think I feel the same. The type of fun I have these days as a bit more chilled. But there’s no doubt when Singapore wants to entertain you, she goes all in with dashes of innovation and creativity too.
Check out the new Funan Mall. There’s am rock climbing wall in the middle of it. Think that’s unique? There’s another two malls that also have this.
The bar scene is next level and only get’s stronger with 11 of Asia’s top 50 bars located here.
Then there’s Sentosa. Go bungy jumping, ziplining, ride a cable car then watch the sun-set on the beach to a DJ pumping out the beats at Tanjong Beach.
Bungy Jumping at Sentosa – Image credit: AJ Hackett Bungy Singapore
What I said then: No douches, No bogans
This is what a music festival in Australia looks like.
I’ll also add in you will pay triple to cost compared to Europe / Asia and be served low strength alcohol drinks and bossed around by over zealous security. This is a large part because the scum of Australia is now attracted to festivals and regulations have had to be increased to keep them in line.
What do I feel now? Agree (but there are douches)
Well for the most part obnoxious bogans are no longer part of my life. But I do encounter the odd douche now and then. The above was written in the context of music festivals. Something I don’t do very often anymore. But if given the choice between attending a festival in Singapore or Sydney then I’m going to take Singapore any day.
Garden Beats is my favourite Singapore festival.
Attending multiple Laneway Festivals in Singapore was a treat too.
While I believe the festival scene in NSW has improved “socially”. There are now so many regulations involved in hosting one that many have been forced to shut down or cancel, losing a ton of money along the way. #NannyState
Meet the Kiasu Douche
The negative type of person I encounter now is the Kiasu Douche. These are generally selfish people who’s behaviour will ruin your day if you’re not careful. Kiasu is a Hokkien (Chinese dialect) word roughly translating as fear of missing out.
This behaviour is sometimes celebrated here as national characteristic and many believe it has contributed to the economic miracle that is Singapore 21st century Singapore.
If you’re not used to it (like me, even after 5 years). It can be frustrating and disappointing.
The negative side of Kiasu rears its head mostly in public places. Here’s some examples that you’ll see everyday
- When eating out.
– One person studying in crowded in a cafe with their books spread out taking up the space of four people. Meanwhile people are forced to stand or have to take their coffee outside.
– Not returning your tray or cleaning up your mess. McDonald’s and Starbucks in Singapore a disgusting at busy times because of this.
– Chopeing. I have accepted this now, but it look awhile. This is the concept of reserving a table in a food court while you go and get food. You do it by placing an item – usually tissues – on a table and then head off to get your food. I don’t like it because it means no one can use the seats while others are getting food, making it very inefficient.
If you have your food and haven’t choped you can find yourself walking around a tray for ages, looking for a place to seat. You’ll see loads of empty seats, but they are actually all been reserved. It will drive you nuts!
- On public transport.
– Not moving to the inside of the train, or to the back of the bus when it’s crowded. Even when directed by the bus driver.
– Placing bags in seats to stop someone sitting next to you, or spreading legs as wide as possible to maximise your space on shared seats.
- While walking on the street.
– Walking in the middle of the path so other’s can’t easily pass.
– Walking directly at someone walking the opposite direction with clear intention you aren’t going to step to the side of them.
- While driving (here’s when it gets dangerous).
– Not letting in merging traffic, even if they have right of way.
– Not indicating when changing lanes- this is actually because other Kiasu drivers will speed up and try to block the driver from entering their lane. (Why??)
– And my favourite. Attempting to sneak across the jammed intersection as the light turns red only to get stuck halfway and block the entire intersection for the traffic that’s just got the green light.
These are small things, and for the first few months in Singapore you may not even notice them, but once you experience them daily, they will start to grind you down and frustrate you. Knowing you can’t trust people to behave considerately keeps you always on edge and it’s tiring.
I firmly believe that Kiasu makes life in Singapore more difficult than it has to be. While the Kiasu person does get a temporary advantage, it comes at the expense of many others. If everyone agreed to just drop it then the quality of life would improve.
What I said then: Innovation
At almost 50 years old Singapore is a young country and had the chance to learn from other’s mistakes. They will do many things differently. Some are great, some suck, but ultimately they go into making it a more prosperous and enjoyable place to live for the population as a whole.
What do I feel now? Agree
Not much to comment here. I agree 100% and I think it will always be the way.
Shout out to Grab for being one of the main local companies leading in innovation and exporting it across SE Asia.
Services offered by the Grab super app
What I said then: Low Tax Rate
For most people, income tax in Singapore is 15%. If you are a Singaporean you will also have to contribute 20% to the CPF (Superannuation) that you get back when you retire or to be spent on your medical requirements or a house deposit. As I’m a foreigner I don’t have to make CPF contributions, which means my tax bill has more than halved compared to Australia.
What do I feel now? Agree
100% agree, and there are also many tax advantages as an Australian working overseas in Australia. Especially around negative gearing an Australian property. This topic is boring as fuck, so I dwell on it except check out this book -“The Aussie Expat – The Luckiest Person on Earth” if you’re keen to explore this more. Singapore also has 0% capital gains tax. So invest away!
What I said then: Close and cheap access to the rest of Asia
It is quite common for people living in Singapore to bring weekender bag with them to work on Friday morning. Then check out Skyscanner at lunch and book the cheapest flight to a near by location
What do I feel now? Agree
100% still agree and this is one of the things that is keeping me here. While the story above might be embellishing somewhat (although I did do this twice). Accessibility and costs to amazing destinations is unparalleled anywhere on earth.
Since I’ve been here I’ve visited on multiple occasions; Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Japan, China, Hong Kong, and one off trips to Taiwan, North and South Korea, The west side of my home country, Australia is also very accessible with annual trips to Perth and Margaret River. A typical year of travel looks like this: 2015 – WHEN TOO MUCH TRAVEL IS NEVER ENOUGH
Taken at the end of 2019. Still cheap to go everywhere
What I said then: Living Conditions
Rent is expensive enough to make your eyes water, or have to double check if someone put too many 0’s on your rental agreement by mistake. But you do get some pretty amazing facilities for your money. Many of the newer apartments have pools that you would ordinarily find only water parks. Some even with waterslides and islands.
What do I feel now? Agree
100% agree. In fact things have probably gotten better! There’s an oversupply of condos in Singapore right now. That means two things;
1. There’s been a whole lot of new ones been built, and the facilities are even better than what I reported in 2015.
2. Rent is cheaper now. In my (very casual estimate) rents have dropped by approx. 30% in the last five years.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s still crazy expensive. But landlords are open for negotiation and big discounts can be found. If you like your place you can also likely negotiate a further discount when you decide to extend your lease.
Don’t rule out HDBs (public housing). I’ve now travelled far and wide across this island and seen that HDB living isn’t bad at all. Expect better value for money with lower rents, larger rooms and high convenience with shops and leisure activities at the base of most blocks. Foreigner’s can rent HDBs so there’s no reason not to explore this option.
In the old post I also mentioned transport. This continues to improve with a new MRT line having opened and another due to open next year. Prices are still amazing cheap for a world class city like Singapore and now you can pay with your Visa or Mastercard. Just tap your card (or phone with Android / Apple Pay) on the entrance gate or bus entry.
What I said then: Food
Next is the amazing food. Singapore has always been a mix of cultures which is no more evident in their food. A fusion of Malay, Hainan and Hokkien Chinese with Indian and even some European / British influence thrown in as well. Suburbs have been planned with hawker centres placed in the middle of neighbourhood. These open walled food courts are serving up fresh, authentic and cheap meals for around $3 – $7 just a few steps away from most peoples houses’.
What do I feel now? Mixed
I’m mixed on the issue of food. I haven’t eaten at hawker centres as much as I expected. I did a lot in 2015 but found the low quality ingredients caused me to gain weight. Maybe they are just not meant for Ang Moh’s slower metabolism?
Hawker Centre’s have a very price sensitive audience and will avoid putting up their prices if possible. Instead of raising prices, the quality of ingredients have been sacrificed in order for the stores to remain profitable. This is also partly why I avoid them.
There are still hundreds of GREAT hawker store around. Including Michelin starred ones. It’s worth doing your research first, as often the best ones are located in the HDB heartlands.
Restaurant wise there aren’t too many cities that come close to Singapore for world class restaurants and innovative eateries.
Candied Bacon with Ice Cream – one of the more unique dishes I’ve had in Singapore.
It can be nose-bleedingly expensive. So take some time to research and save it for a special treat. Apps like The Entertainer can help you eat at many places 1-for-1. Totally worth the membership fee.
Am I glad I moved to Singapore? Absolutely
Looking back on these five years it’s been one of the best decisions of my life. My career has accelerated and given me exposure working not just in Singapore, but across Asia Pacific.
My mind is more expanded and tolerant (despite some of the rants above!) I believe I have a more worldly outlook on the world.
I’ve met some incredible people, both Singaporean and from all over the globe.
Finally, I’ve had travel experiences that I just could not afford to have if I stayed at home in Australia.
While it’s not always perfect (where is?). If I had to make the decision again, the answer is “yes” in a heart-beat.
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