Singapore – liberating or suffocating? You decide …

Crossing over from Malaysia into Singapore was like emptying out the 3-week old dirty bath water and filling it with clean, filtered, fresh water. There is literally a bridge between these two countries but the divide is so much more. Malaysia embodies a sense of functioning chaos and a cavalier disregard for mutual consideration. It’s a every man for himself, first-come-first served, money-talks world. Poverty and overpopulation drive a culture of looking out for oneself, perhaps at the expense of others, and turning a blind eye to the suffering of animals and the environment. Perhaps it’s survival. Despite the chaos, there is something exciting about Malaysia. Maybe it’s the unexpected, the delight of being surprised. Maybe it’s the constant reminder of how fortunate you are. Maybe it’s because it’s funny, hilarious even at times.

* This was a cheesecake ( well half meaning slices had been sold!) spotted in Malaysia that is sprinkled with dried chilli, peanuts and DRIED FISH!

Singapore on the other hand is clean, orderly and rule-obiding. In general, Singaporeans dont smoke, litter, spit or chew gum ( it’s against the law). There is a general sense of feeling safe and a strong regard for rules. I have to admit that after spending 3 months in hard-core asia ( he he), I embraced the orderliness of Singapore. I liked walking and cycling around our neighbourhood and not being harassed. I liked not seeing cats and dogs that were hungry and mistreated. I liked getting around the island on the very efficient MRT. I appreciated lining up in a queue and paying fixed prices. I enjoyed eating out in a smoke-free environment.

* guess who came to visit? Pop!!

* Maya on the double-decker bus

* Sienna on the MRT after an afternoon of shopping with mum

Singapore for us was a bit of a break from traveling. We had a home-base for a month which meant no unpacking and packing the blasted bags. We could shop in a supermarket, wash our own clothes and catch up on Netflix. Our 3 bedroom condo was in a huge complex that had pools, playgrounds and a gym. Our cleaner came twice a week, the gardens were immaculate and security manned the gates. Oh and when you filled up your garbage bags you simply opened the garbage chute in your apartment and off it went. This is pretty standard living for most Singaporeans. I’ve never really considered apartment living in Australia but I have to say it was enjoyable. There was no fighting over deck-chairs around the pool, equipment in the gym was wiped down after use, there was no litter in sight and dogs were picked up after by owners ( or maids/ nannies rather).

* our condo complex in Singapore

Well , what is there to do in Singapore? There are shopping centres, gardens, water parks, more shopping centres, zoos, theme parks, museums, restaurants and more shopping centres. We went to the movies, explored the parks, ate chilli-crab, got lost in the underground malls ( ok that was me and Shell) rode the Singapore Flyer, spent a day at Universal Studios, visited every zoo, drank a Singapore Sling at Raffles and spent time in our complex. It’s actually a great place to live for families, with plenty to do given how easy it is to get around.

So, is there a down-side to living in Singapore? Well yes, actually. Even though I embraced the rules and orderliness, some people might find it suffocating. I mean come on, no chewing gum? I don’t even like chewing gum but I found it a bit ridiculous. The other thing I noticed ( well my friend, Shell, who visited pointed it out) was the attitude of some of the children. You see, we were in one of the complex playgrounds one evening and I was pushing the twins on a swing. Two children (about 8 years old) came up to me and said ‘can we have a go?’. I naturally told the twins it was time to share and they hopped off the swings. Maybe 20 minutes later ( the same kids were still on the swings) the twins wanted a turn again. No problem , I thought, and asked the kids if we could now have a swing . The response I got back ‘ maybe in about 10 minutes’. My jaw nearly hit the floor. The kids were with a nanny who did not react. Needless to say we did not wait 10 minutes ( they wisely chose to move on quickly). This is what I think is ‘entitled single child syndrome ‘. Common in Singapore because of the average wealth, high-rise living and tendency to have one very beloved child. I’ve always thought that three is a tricky number with children, due to one being constantly left out ( it might just be my kids?), but now I’m thinking one has some draw-backs too.

The four weeks we were in Singapore went super quick. I can see why expats are drawn there. It’s easy as far as asia goes and I guess is a bit more like home for a westerner. Singapore definitely has its own unique asian culture though. It is asia without the chaos, dirt and craziness. I think you either love it for this aspect or find it too much of a nanny state. One thing in common with its neighbour though is the heat. Singapore is HOT. It may be somewhat more sophisticated than Malaysia, but frizzy hair knows no boundaries and respects no bridges. We loved Singapore, but we are ready to muddy the waters again and move on to Thailand. First stop , Chiang Mai.

* throwing peanut shells at Raffles – I told the girls it was the only time they could throw garbage on the ground. They embraced the challenge 🙂