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Why I’ll Never Return to Singapore

by on November 5, 2013

Singapore: What Happens When Everything Goes Right?

Update: Wow the response to this has been tremendous! Thanks to each of you that took the time to leave your thoughts. I have been reading all of your feedback and comments. In the original version of this article I incorrectly stated the year of Lysher Loh’s suicide. I have now updated that and my sources. Despite that factual error on my part, I believe all of the points in this article still stand. Thanks again!

Last week was my final week living in Singapore. I don’t plan on ever returning.

Behind the curtains of the hawker stands and the brand new five billion dollar casino, there is a struggle in Singapore. A struggle that is constrained to the small boundaries of this city-state, but reflects issues rooted in the human experience. What happens when everything goes right?

Singapore, in its current political state, has only been around for 50 years. In this short time, it has defied all odds, and become one of the worlds most outstanding countries. It leads the world in education, banking, and shipping, and has created an everyday existence of unrivaled cleanliness, safety and stability. In Singapore, even petty theft is uncommon.

IMG_0710

But Why?

One answer is pride. Every student in Singapore starts their day by vocally and harmoniously declaring their pride in their country. Similarly, they start each class by verbally acknowledging their teachers. Unlike most schools, Singapore mandates curriculum on empathy and cultural understanding. The wars of foreign countries are studied in school so that the mistakes of others will not be repeated by Singaporeans.

After graduating, every citizen is required to do active service in the military. Historically, Singapore hasn’t been a warring nation, so the excess manpower in the military is assigned to civil work. Again, pride is the outcome.

In Singapore, people simply do as they should do. They actually follow the golden rule.

But How?

Singapore was founded with an extreme sense of the necessity of survival. From the beginning, government officials declared that they would do whatever was necessary to survive as an independent nation. Whatever was necessary.

The leaders of Singapore’s educational system saw the importance of math and science, and built a system almost exclusively around those two areas. The political leaders saw the benefits of being inclusive, and uninhibitedly opened the country’s borders to foreigners. The leaders understood the importance of tourism dollars, and literally added land to their island city-state in order to build a world class casino.

Singapore’s leaders set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to grade their government’s performance, and within 50 short years surpassed them all. In essence, everything went right.

This, I believe, is the reason Singapore is a country in struggle.

In 2001, Singaporean student, Lysher Loh made national news after committing suicide. Lysher was a 10-year-old girl. She cited stress at school as the reason for taking her life.

Unfortunately, her case is not an isolated one. The suicide rate in Singapore is rising at an unprecedented 29% a year. With people between the ages of 20-29, the increase is a horrifying 80%.

In a school system built to produce scientists, bankers and mathematicians, an artsy student was deemed a failure. The school system is one of the world’s most efficient, but it is only able to produce a limited type of human widgets.

When the census was taken in 2011, it was revealed that only about 60% of Singapore’s population were Singaporean. The rest were foreigners. Singapore has become so open, that outsiders are getting close to outnumbering locals.

During my months in Singapore, I walked around and tried to investigate the heritage of the people. Time and time again, citizens laughed and said “what heritage?”

IMG_0744Like all current global citizens, modern Singaporeans are living in a time of change. New media is helping to facilitate conversations that used to happen in small groups behind closed doors. For the first time, open letters to the heads of education are going viral on Facebook, and political critiques are spreading on YouTube. The conversation is spreading, and fueled by the Internet, the voices are getting louder.

So Why Won’t You Be Returning?

I would describe my time living in Singapore as sterile. Nothing particularly bad happened, but it wasn’t particularly good either. Daily life was convenient, but it was only the bare minimum of living. I had everything I needed to be comfortable, but I didn’t have anything that inspired me. Even though there wasn’t a language barrier, I encountered a hefty communication barrier. In my experience, people were polite but conversations rarely moved past surface-level niceties. Of the conversations that I took part in and overheard, the vast majority of them were about work. I routinely watched people work 15 hours days and stress over strict deadlines. Yes it was living, and they were making progress, but it wasn’t holistic and people openly admitted to me that it wasn’t fulfilling.

There are an incredible amount of amazing places in the world. I don’t want to waste my limited time and resources in places that doesn’t make me better.

So then, what happens when everything goes right?

In the case of Singapore, it meant that more serious questions had to be asked. The country had accomplished amazing feats in some of the world’s most competitive and lucrative industries, but at what cost? When a country is founded on the idea of surviving regardless of the cost, what happens when it thrives? In the case of Singapore, its spirit stagnates.

—–

Post image is of man-made gardens near downtown Singapore. It seemed fitting to include a photo of optimized nature with this post.

Sources:

Suicide statistics:
Samaritans of Singapore (SOS): http://www.samaritans.org.sg/
“Suicides hit all-time high in Singapore in 2012″ – AFP News: http://sg.news.yahoo.com/suicides-hit-time-high-singapore-2012-112353103.html

Population statistics:
Singaporean Government (National Population and Talent Division, Prime Minister’s Office): http://population.sg/resources/work-pass-framework/

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How The Hell Do You Afford To Do All of This Stuff? Aren't You Afraid You Are Going To Get Grotesquely Murdered?


Despite the rumors, I am not a drug dealer :-) Instead, I am a storytelling consultant. I do marketing, video production and write code for people (a weird mix I know) in exchange for money. As far as being murdered, there was a close call once but it ended up being a miscommunication with an ex-girlfriend. Check out this page to learn the easy (and non-life threatening) way to add more adventures to your life.


{ 369 comments… read them below or add one }

Carter Kash November 6, 2013 at 12:16 am

This is one of my favorite posts from you. I couldn’t agree more. I was there too for a few weeks doing visa runs from Thailand. I have some wonderful Singaporean friends. However, I won’t be returning to Singapore anytime soon.

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Danny Dover November 6, 2013 at 4:30 am

Thanks Carter :-) Coming from you, that means a lot.

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Nibiruisison November 13, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Poppycock ~ to all You envious buanbuana sahibs…..I am sure the ‘sterile’ environs of Singapore must have been distasteful compared to the colorful slums , laden with child prostitutes & narco-traffickers, poverty stricken worshipful denizens to your presence. Bullet Ridden buddhas & Chain monkeys sure must lent a ‘freer’air to your exotic travels and habitations…….well….don’t come back ~ in fact the colonial boats left in 1959…….must be hard having to speak to the more educated & better cared persons…that you must look for a “struggle”….yes! housing, education, clean streets, FOOD, water, safety….everything working, everything glossy must be so ‘boring to you’….foolish idiots ~ how dare you even ! having grown-up 2 doors from the killing fields of Pol Pot & years of living dangerously from Confrontasi…..well….imbeciles like you SHOULD NOT travel…just stay home in your hovels…..and as for military service ~ well at least I can now bear arms responsibly rather than some x-box geek…..and the privilege of my Singapore blessed education has freed my mind GREATER as it is the gift of a true democracy…..very few people in this World have been so LUCKY as Singaporeans are….English, Shakespeare, healthcare, housing, education, food….might seem like ordinary non-essential to such a buanasahib like you….But to MOST people on this Planet it is still an out of reach dream….We DARED to Dream……..so don’t come back instead go to Syria or some other slum ridden wartorn exotic hovel where you can lord it over the locals………bye now! and good riddance.

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Jean November 13, 2013 at 11:39 pm

I am French and living in Vietnam for 13 years and have been to Singapore quite a lot (I lived there 6 months 10 years ago). I put it more aggressively than I would have but I think I understand where you are coming from and I agree with you. It is so much better when Asia matches our (white people) expectations and give us such a great self image. After all poor people are so nice, so friendly and have such a healthier take on life, don’t they? why Singapore spoils all of this?

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John November 14, 2013 at 3:24 am

I am Vietnamese and I have been in Singapore for 6 years. In my own opinion, what Singapore has achieved is very outstanding. Any achievement must come with a cost and this cost is unavoidable in the case of Singapore. What can you expect from a small island with no natural resource at all ? What does Singaporean has except human power ? This country is so young and vulnerable. If it is weak and poor, it will be influenced by its big neighbors. Therefor, it’s impossible for Singaporean to live without a proper job. Working harder than people in other areas is the only solution to become richer and stronger. As a result, you feel more stress and your energy will be drained.
In Vietnam, people is more carefree because they can live any how. You still have something to eat at the end of the day. However, 7800 people die in the last 10 months due to traffic accidents. A lot of mothers die when they give birth in the hospital due to lousy doctors and equipments. People is very easy to have food poisoning. When you are out on the street, you can be a target of a robber any moment. I doubt that you can live happily with all those things surround you.
In short, every country has pros and cons. For me, Singapore is a very ideal place to work and stay. If you want inspiring scenes, happier environments, you can travel somewhere occasionally.

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kel March 20, 2014 at 11:39 pm

Agree with you ….as compared to THAILAND , VIETNAM , MYANMAR , PHILLIPINES , LAOS , CAMBODIA , MALAYSIA , INDONESIA == SINGAPORE is good place to work and live ….
EXCEPT not much to see and visit …due to its size…

Jeremy November 14, 2013 at 2:03 am

I am a 26 year old Singaporean male and I can’t agree more with this post. It seems like every post out there that portrays Singapore in a little bit of negativity receives over the top, anger-fueled response(s) from Singaporeans like the one from Nibiruisison. Now that guys was pissed. The PAP has done a lot to put Singapore where it is today. But I feel the cost of having a country filled with zombies, brainwashed and unhappy, is too much. You can see it everyday in the faces of Singaporeans everywhere. I’d have to agree with this article.

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John November 17, 2013 at 2:34 am

Sensational, we get it Danny.

You are the best in SEO and internet marketing. You definitely know what will draw traffic to your site.

Congratulations!

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waenhir December 8, 2013 at 9:06 am

I agree. I am leaving in a few hours. Although I am getting panic attacks, I still believe leaving here is the right answer. I cannot imagine living here anymore. Life is dead. It has no meaning. Sooner or later, I will end up being bitter or suicidal or both. And i want neither.

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Kenny November 14, 2013 at 7:20 am

You sound very negative about the outside world and only think of Syria here Syria there. Have you ever stayed outside of Singapore before? For me, yes I do and for few years here and there.(job) I would say Singapore is never a home.

Is Singapore really safe? Do you know foreigners who have that little idea of yours came to Singapore and came to realise oh god why there are so many accidents occurring? Or are you only looking at Syria or busy finding a country which has the highest accident rate per population to start comparing? Well, I dont mix well with negative people anyway, they have closed-mind comparing the worst situation in any possible way.

If the so called “Singapore education system” is so successful, why do we need FT to take over our spots for white collar jobs? Are the FTs really better than us Singaporeans? Yes? Then the Singapore education system is a piece of sh1t based “mind-nopoly”.

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Calbee November 16, 2013 at 2:05 am

first of i just want to say that im not good in speaking the international language but i will try my best to tell you what i want to say (if singaporeans want to talk shit about this then look how you speak the language do you think its right?) this is plainly my opinion and my view about singapore .if you have complain then i wont stop you bec thats your opinion :)

i couldnt agree more. im a foreigner working here in singapore for quite some time now. in my opinion singapore is definitely not a home for me. people here are brainwashed, being proud of there country is not an issue for me , but bragging about it, is. #1 pride of singaporeans is the most irritating out of hundreds of negative attitudes, they keep on complaining , asking “why like this” “why like that”. what they cant see is what foreigners like us see about them. they complain about having too many foreigners in there country 60:40 , and why is that? it shows that companies who hire foreigners know well in fact that singaporeans are either lazy(depending on what they have to do) or they lack knowledge (about a certain job).why cant you just accept the fact that people are hiring outsiders bec. they are better than you?(called pride) challenging them will make you better instead of complaining about them so you can get a spot(will just make you look more shitty[sorry for the term but its true]). i see singaporeans look for easy jobs with high pay (wtf). people here want easy life.(well who doesnt? but too much is too much). Random stuffs in singapore is always (too much if you know what i mean). i have many singaporean friends who work hard and some make it on top , im just saying that most of the people here are completely ………….. thats why this things happen to your country. singapore? SAFE?! maybe yes, it is a low crime rate country BUT why does it still have car accidents or petty stealing? for car accidents people here drive safely as in literally safe , i can see almost all of drivers drive very far away from each other but still there are accidents everywhere like the ferrari in bugis , people here are very ignorant about there surroundings. i still see some people bumping each others car. i dont know if people here are very comfortable about there country bec they think its SAFE , old uncles rape young girls, old aunties beat up there grand children, people rushing to get in the mrt even if they bump other people and cost trouble , cutting queue’s. rules everywhere . old people here are very rude . young people trying not to care(but still complain at the end). trying hard to live like white people(im sorry to say but its true).

yes your country is rich .. but what happened to its people? i see people come and go im my work place why? bec they complain working there is too difficult and tiring. some even doesnt go after the 1st day of working.

this country is not a living country but for me its just a training ground. yes you can learn alot in this country but you wont rather learn than live here

like what Nibiruisison said “we dared to dream” in my case “if this is how you dream, i would advise you to just keep on dreaming”

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馬馳 / 马驰 WAS a CHINESE C☭MMIE in a ferrari who BUTCHERED a Singaporean Taxi Cabbie November 16, 2013 at 5:42 am

@calbee:

May I ask which country/territory you claim to be from AS WELL AS which country/countries/territory/territories you are CITIZEN(S) OF?

I am aware they may NOT be the same – for example, a hongkonger could possess up to THREE (3) passportS.

I need not have to state (no pun intended) that passports are only awarded to CITIZENS.

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localguy November 18, 2013 at 4:00 pm

first of all i wanna point out that there really are exceptional n elite FTs in Singapore which we have no issues with. its the majority of the FTs which dont really have better skills than us that we have issues with.

do u really think companies chose u guys because u’ve got more talent than the average singaporean? bitch please. lets just take the service industry as an example. when i call-up my service provider, its always a foreigner answering my call. cant even speak proper english. on the other hand, most singaporeans are able to speak atleast basic english without any difficulties. (you may bring up singlish but we only use em when we are having convos among ourselves. n if we are required to speak normal english we’d have no problem doing so unlike u guys).
but y do these companies prefer u guys? talent? bullshit.

companies prefer FTs because they demand lesser pay. FT work here for afew years n when they bring back the money it will be a boom. they’d be insta-rich. but not for singaporeans where the cost of living here is way higher. most mid-low income families are struggling to meet ends meet.

one more thing. ur a foreigner, so ofcourse “singapore is definitely not a home” for u dumbass.

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Richard November 16, 2013 at 8:47 am

I nearly choked on my morning orange juice!

“a true democracy…..”
one party parliamentary monoply for 50+ years. (oh sorry, and one party elects the other party candidates, suggesting two parties)
I’m lucky to have had “a truly democratic EDUCATION where freedom of thought and expression was cherished.

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PG April 12, 2014 at 1:46 am

What a load of bullshit from Nibiruisison

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Singapore Lovers November 16, 2013 at 4:20 am

Singapore you are the BEST, Peoples are jealous on the WAY you BECOMING ONE OF THE GREAT NATIONS, See How SMALL you were, But How BIG you STAND in THE EYES of others countries Who’s Had
bigger LAND than YOURS,,,,,,,,,,,SINGAPORE, CAI YOUUUUUUU

Love u
From INDONESIA

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Suntec city Singaporean BASHER robert james springall is a British Citizen like david sandison of pricewaterhousecoopers (pwc) who thinks Singapore is HEAVEN sans the fact that it is easy to get a TAXI November 17, 2013 at 6:16 am

@Singapore Lovers:

If you are a citizen of the ONLY country that has DUMPED United Nations (UN) membership, left the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) because it became an OIL IMPORT and has the world’s YOUNGEST SMOKERS, here is something to peruse:

[continued]

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Grant Christian Lynn November 6, 2013 at 6:32 am

I am an Indonesian but I’ve been studying in Singapore for 10 years and I couldn’t agree more too. It’s crazy living here where there are like so many foreigners and everyone is chasing deadlines even in school. The pace of life is crazy. Suffocating. I am really hoping to leave here once I’ve obtained my Diploma.

P.S I REALLY LOVE YOUR BLOG. KEEP POSTING !

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Danny Dover November 8, 2013 at 2:27 am

Hi Grant,

I am sorry we didn’t get to meet in person while we were both in Singapore. Maybe in Indonesia? Best of luck with the rest of your schooling! Cheers bud!

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Random Guy November 13, 2013 at 8:35 pm

Oh no! I’m so sorry that people in the world have drive and ambition, or actually work hard to pay their bills. I’m so sorry that it’s “suffocating” to achieve and strive. Yes, definitely leave.

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Robert November 14, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Uhmm… Grant? What are you doing there, getting your diploma for TEN YEARS? Been working illegally?

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Belle November 15, 2013 at 8:37 pm

Please don’t jump to conclusion so fast. Grant could study here since secondary (some of Indonesian friends do) and leave to US/UK/Aus for degree. Please be open to people even in the internet

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Jake November 6, 2013 at 8:51 am

Hey, thanks for this post. I was in malaysia a while back and I heard the same story about Singapore from the locals there.

But for me, I would say the same was true for the US. The focus on achievements , 15 medals in school etc… We don’t have that so much in Europe.

Saying that, coming from Sweden, I feel everything here can be a safe grey box. Everything just works, but I don’t feel inspired by much going on here.

Brings a quote to mind:
“[...]but I’d rather be shipwrecked on this lovely island than safe in a sad, gray cell.”
― Corey Ann Haydu, OCD Love Story

Thanks for your post!

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Danny Dover November 8, 2013 at 2:30 am

Hey Jake,

Interesting comparison to the US. I think some of the observations certainly apply to parts of the US. The startup scene in San Fran has crazy working hours and the working attitude and hours in NYC are both extreme.

Intriguing comment on Sweden. I haven’t spent much time there but I’d be interested to hear more. Cheers bud!

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Genesis Quah November 13, 2013 at 12:54 am

Hi Jake,

I’ve been studying in Gothenburg for a few years, and I can say it’s anything but a sad, gray box. Plus there so much nature and wildness, something that no longer exists in the day to day life of Singapore – unfortunate since I find nature fundamental to human existence.

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Peachy November 14, 2013 at 7:45 am

Hej Jake
I spent 2.5 years in Sweden myself and did my masters in a field most singaporeans would say ‘What??’ to (at SLU in beautiful Uppsala – the agricultural uni). Sweden is special to me and will always be, primarily for its nature, my friends and your great Scandinavian style

@Genesis I agree 110%: nature is fundamental to the human spirit. I choose any day a lonely frosty place than a mall full of stuff I don’t need. I promise, -20C in Kiruna in December with 10mins of daylight is heaven to me.
(Anyone wants to trade places?)

@Danny, I certainly understand where you are coming from. I myself just returned last week, from Austria where I was working for an Austrian company. My bosses wanted me there permanently but due to a change of plans, I had to come home. Back on 1 Nov I asked myself – would I hv taken the job (which I started only in JUly) if it was to be based in Singapore and not Austria? But while I see your point, my personal experience so far hasn’t been all that bad. It is home afterall and I like to be positive…and have the chance to visit/ return to Sweden someday soon (:

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Elliott S. November 6, 2013 at 10:07 am

Interesting read Danny! I have a colleague who works in Singapore and his experience is exactly as you described. Sounds like a good society needs a little crazy to stay strong.

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Danny Dover November 8, 2013 at 2:31 am

Are you just trying to justify something you did? :-p

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Emily November 6, 2013 at 10:30 am

Thank you for this post Danny. It’s so poignant and honest. I’ve been living on the road in AMerica in my VW Van since January, and after reading this, you seem to have put words on what I have been thinking about certain parts of America.

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Danny Dover November 8, 2013 at 2:32 am

Interesting to hearing another comparison between this article and the USA. That was not what I was thinking when I wrote it :-)

I am intrigued my your lifestyle. Just subscribed to your blog!

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Shaad Hamid November 6, 2013 at 9:08 pm

Hi Danny,

Sorry you feel that way about Singapore. But as someone who has lives most of their life in a developing country such as Sri Lanka and as someone who can relate to the struggles of the early (1940-1960s) Singaporean leaders, I must say what Sibgapore has achieved is nothing short of a miracle.

The struggles they faced are no different to the struggles of neighbouring countries (India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand etc.) such as communal tensions, political instability, rampant corruption, unemployment and a joke of a justice system to name a few. To the rest of the neighbouring countries Singapore stands as a beacon of hope and a model to aspire to. It’s not perfect, but I’d rather have their problems than problems of injustice, accountability, corruption, poverty etc. although you may not visit Singapore again, there are over a billion people in the region wishing their leaders are as visionary as the founding fathers of Singapore.

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Danny Dover November 8, 2013 at 2:35 am

Hey Shaad,

As always, I really appreciate and respect your contribution. (I really mean that)

Your perspective on Singapore is completely new to me. Thank you for sharing it. I can certainly see how some aspects of the country would be inspiring. Maybe I should have focused on a more optimistic and global perspective while there? I saw a lot of good but I saw more bad.

Thanks for adding something important this post :-)

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Shaad Hamid November 9, 2013 at 12:43 am

No problem Danny. I would suggest you read the following book by the man whose leadership is attributed to taking Singapore from the 3rd world to the 1st: http://www.amazon.com/From-Third-World-First-Singapore/dp/0060197765/ref=pd_sim_b_1/187-9531023-5650118

I’m not making a commission out of it by the way! :-D

I can promise you that this will give you an entirely different perspective on Singapore. It obviously is a biased perspective but it’s an important perspective and a perspective that must be read. You need to hear his side of the story.

Like I said in my previous comment, the issues these leaders had to overcome and find solutions to are the same issues us in Sri Lanka and India face today (actually we’ve had them for over 60 years with no politician actually having the bollocks to find and implement a solution). Today’s Singaporean youth can’t relate to the struggles of their forefathers. Almost every Singaporean youth I have met and spoken to had nothing positive to say of their country. I can appreciate their frustrations and their angst. But my reply to them usually is to visit either India or Sri Lanka and live there for any considerable time. Only then will they appreciate their own country. Had it not been for their leaders foresight, Singapore would have been just another Asian post-colonial failed state. I urge the Singaporean youth to start with gratitude, it really annoys me when they show little respect to what they themselves and their leaders have achieved. The region is quite unlike Europe or North America; succeeding in Asia is a complex ballgame. The various cultures, the languages, the beliefs, the histories etc. are all deeply rooted and embedded in their identities. Moving forward for most Asian nations is hard. Eradicating bribery and corruption is impossible. But alongside all the struggling Asian economies, stand Singapore..

Let the country with no flaw cast the first stone :-D

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John Palmer November 12, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Shaad,

A very well written response to an incredibly negative and downtrodden view of a country that has achieved miracles.
Singapore may not have the craziness of HK or NYC but I would rather know my family is safe, my business transactions a clean and where we can have an excellent lifestyle.
At least the author has voted with his feet as this is the same advice given to people with the same opinion.
If you dont like it here – please leave – there are millions all over the world who would kill to be here.

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Maverick November 13, 2013 at 8:27 am

Totally agree with Shaad and John. I like some of the points Danny mentioned, those about survival and the pace of life. I don’t think Singapore will be able to survive and be what it is today, without this pace of life and constant competitiveness.

You talk about a few suicides in Singapore ? Can’t believe that this is why you say Singapore is struggling and this is why you’ll never return. Do you ever read the news in other countries and the mind boggling number of suicides there ? Do you know that Singapore is one of the happiest countries in Asia ? (No. 30 in one of the recent studies). Singapore may not perfect, but its relatively much better.

I’ll talk about work, its a place for people who are stable and are some of the best in what they do. Its not a place for rebellious people who do not like rules (most of them are probably unhappy and unfulfilled, letting out steam on other people who are happy and want to live a stable life). It absolutely not a place for people who just want to relax and push the envelope. Its a place for those who believe “Work means work”. You will be expected to be always on your feet at work, as John said correctly, there are millions of people who would throw away their current plans if they get an opportunity to work and live in Singapore. To quote Blake from Glengarry Glen Ross, “You don’t like it, leave! You can’t play in the man’s game, go home and tell your wife your troubles! Go home and play with your kids.” I agree it can be hard, but that’s the price you’ve to pay if you want to be efficient and productive and really grow in your field. Its still a much better and highly efficient environment for work, with much less red tape, compared to most other cities. You don’t like to play ? Don’t blame those who’re better at the game.

Some people may say that the city is heartless and cold, with people everywhere (trains/buses/streets) engrossed in their handphones and gadgets. That is not a problem of Singapore as a country, its an outcome of having freedom, money and technology at your fingertips, its a luxury, which people are so lucky to have. Besides, its much more productive and preferable than jostling for space or being hassled and struggling to not get robbed (and even attacked) all the time, which is a reality in most of the cities. Okay, you may call that exciting, perhaps that’s how you roll.

Sterile ? Not enough adventure for you ? Leave and don’t cry out loud ! There will be someone else who will be more than happy to get the opportunity left open by you. Just hope he or she is not another ungrateful person.

Is john palmer a Singaporean CITIZEN? November 16, 2013 at 2:31 am

@john palmer:

You may like to perform an online query for these terms:

” nsf conscription regardless lifelong reservist nsmen male conceive “.

I wonder if you mean “kill” LITERALLY.

No regards,
“Is john palmer a Singaporean CITIZEN?”

P.S. Here is another online query to perform:

” hongkies three passports “

Albert November 13, 2013 at 11:49 am

Dear Shaad,

You have written some really good and valid points there which I can totally empathize. Thank you!

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Augustine November 13, 2013 at 5:09 pm

Hi Shaad,

I really wonder if you have visited those places you have mentioned! If you look with a plank in your eyes, you really can’t see properly bro.. It has been proven time & again that people living in developing countries are more happier that urbanized countries.

What the writer of this article mentions here is – Singapore has progressed to a level that is very much adorable. But a society needs a life! It’s not only about money.. Running behind money doesn’t give you everything to have a life! What’s needed is a nice mixture of love/passion/interests/do-littles etc., It’s not only about developing one’s Intelligence quotient but also about one’s emotional quotient.. I can go on with this// blah blah// I do not say that Singapore does not have all these extra bits but – All the writer of this article wishes to get across is to let the reader know that Singapore has got everything but lacks a few abstract things/essence that is found elsewhere.. pls do some research & improve the society further.. It’s wrong to be defensive & I believe if conscious effort is put forth, a great deal can be improved in this aspect in Singapore..

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Samantha November 13, 2013 at 5:44 pm

Dear Danny and Shaad,

Alot of what Danny wrote was well written and very true. But I must say, having lived in Singapore for most of my life, lived in HK for almost two years, now living in Jakarta for the last 7 months and travelled quite a bit for the last 20 years…I must say I am more inclined to agree with what Shaad wrote.

But hey, I don’t see any paradise anywhere else in the world right now. If I go live in America or Australia, the pace is probably more relaxing and I’ll probably be able to afford bigger apartments and cars, but I would worry more for the safety of my children and being treated as second class citizens. I’m just writing off the cuff, but there is no one perfect place. And what may be perfect for you, may not be so for someone else :)

Having said all that, I do hope the Government of Singapore will look into reversing the influx of foreign “talents”. There are “foreign talents” and there are foreign talents, not all foreigners are “talents” that Singapore should retain. A lot are talented in ways that I would rather not have in a country I call home. If I leave Singapore, I think that would be a major push factor…Just my SGD 0.02 worth of thoughts :)

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Happy Wanderer November 14, 2013 at 9:21 am

I’m a Singaporean, born and raised and in my late 20s. But I have also lived in a few places in the world, including Sri Lanka, for 6 months. So Shaad and Danny, I understand where the both of you are coming from.

I do feel that our govt did a good job bringing us up, but now they aren’t as revolutionary and dynamic with our present social issues as they were then. I do believe that more culture and heritage (yes we do have that) needs to be preserved and encouraged. I have gone through the experience of yearning for more soul from Singapore but I also appreciate being able to walk down the street at 3am and not fear for my life. I appreciate that I don’t have to bribe people to do things. I appreciate not having to take anti-parasite pills as a way of life. I appreciate not worrying too much about whether the next meal is gonna render me green and projectile vomiting for the next few hours. I appreciate not feeling like an alien walking down the street or entering a room.

Singapore is too sterile and materialistic in general, yes, but I have been moving in circles here that are inspiring. People who talk more of global ideals and the Universe and Life. People who believe that we are spiritual beings seeking a physical experience. People who know there’s more to life than a 9-5, a salary, a car, marriage, etc. People who work hard and play hard (and I don’t mean malls and clubbing and shit). I think it truly is that what you focus on expands.

I left Singapore and relished getting away from this sterile country but now that I’m back, I have discovered there is much more beneath our well-organised, sterile facade. We are young, and we have much to learn. But I now relish and appreciate being able to be a part of these formative years and hope my country and I can figure this out together towards a more well-balanced path.

Danny, I hope you find what you’re looking for wherever you’re headed, and maybe if you ever come back, you could add on to our tapestry of experiences here. And everyone else who’s a ‘fan’ of Singapore, relax man, this is his experience and his opinion (and a pretty polite one at that, considering). Everyone’s entitled to a different one and we can learn a lot from each other by discussion. Don’t need to get all riled up.

Cheers

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ran November 17, 2013 at 5:23 am

Dont understand what actually u are looking for in life? God gives u a safe and convenient place but u dont appreciate it. U need to be citizen of some other country first for a few years then u will learn to appreciate ehat Singapore has provided u. Really ungrateful guy.

光譜行動 (光谱行动) 1987 November 17, 2013 at 7:32 am

@ran (November 17, 2013, 1723 hours) :

A good number of CHURCH DEVOTEES would definitely APPRECIATE YOUR GODLY ADVICE, منافق!

MALE Singaporean ஜனில் புதுச்சேரி, Professionalism Does NOT Equate With Patriotism November 16, 2013 at 2:42 am

@shaad hamid:

When Singapore became an independent nation state, it ALREADY had the SECOND (2ND) HIGHEST STANDARD OF LIVING in the Asia-Pacific region AFTER JAPAN.

By the way, I would like to mention the world’s HIGHE$T PAID minister of FOREIGN AFFAIRS and law does NOT even think Singapore is a COUNTRY.

I of course, need NOT mention காசிவிஸ்வநாதன் (“கே”) சண்முகம் by name – you may ALWAYS ASK HIM HIMSELF.

By the way, If YOU are a CITIZEN of SRI LANKA, YOU I AM SURE ARE ABLE TO READ THE non-Latin script HERE – I am also AWARE it was ONLY MADE an official LANGUAGE of Sri Lanka in 1987.

Anyway, if anybody wants to contact shaad hamid, they may do so at +44-(0)7824-833-484 or
” shaad @ shaadhamid . com “.

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SF November 13, 2013 at 12:22 am

I second Shaad. I would rather have the “problems” that Singaporean are facing than what the other countries are having. I was a Malaysian and later converted to becoming a Singaporean and I am always proud of Singapore as a country and have high respect for the leaders!

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Jean November 13, 2013 at 11:28 pm

I would have not say it better. Thanks for this remarkable comment
Jean

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zal November 14, 2013 at 4:15 am

From all of thus comments, shaad hamid gave best perspectives and share the same point of view with some Asian neighboring countries. I’m indonesian, visit singapore quiet often, experienced a few months in London, few months in washington. Yet nothing best than see the stability and safety feeling when you walking down in Singapore. If you experienced living in a corrupted system, weak law enforcement, and uncontrolled freedom like Jakarta nowadays, you will dream on living in well organized place like Singapore.

The author had his experienced based on wher he’s coming from. But, As Albert comments, Shaad, You have written some really good and valid points there which I can totally empathize. Thank you!

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Chris November 15, 2013 at 11:26 am

I think almost all people coming from developing countries share this sense of jealousy for Singapore’s safety and all its other excellent government services. However, if you are not living in Singapore or any of the places you visited for more than a year you can hardly comment about how the city impacts your life. Like some other commentators who pointed out that life is a lot more than just being to live safely and earn a good living, many people live much more fulfilling lives with the lack of it. There many safe places in the world; Switzerland, the Scandinavian countries, Edinburgh a small city in Scotland and tonnes of other as examples for safety, job security, good education, housing and medical benefits. But these places retain their character in the processing achieving these goals. They do not renovate every building in town once every 10 years and erode the heritage of their cultures.

Singapore is a very pleasant place to live and work in there I’m sure that’s why so many foreigners come here. However, it lacks an essence of what it is, what makes it unforgettable and what makes it so special that leaves every one who has stepped foot on its shore an irresistible and visceral desire come back for more. Now I have for once found all that in a city that is not singapore.

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I am NOT dzaky putra wirahman’s (facebook #: 1664863412) MALE COMPATRIOT November 16, 2013 at 2:48 am

@zal:

(Over) One-third (1/3) of the registered millionaires living in Singapore are Indonesians.

In fact, a significant number of wealthy miscreants from Indonesia have even managed to obtain a Singaporean passport, even though technically multiple citizenships in both countries is ILLEGAL for adults.

Regards,
“I am NOT dzaky putra wirahman’s (facebook #: 1664863412) MALE COMPATRIOT”

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Danny Bronski November 6, 2013 at 10:18 pm

I’ve always felt that human beings need a healthy dose of adversity to flourish and approach their “best selves”, but at the same time it is a little ridiculous to focus on the negatives of such a successful society (albeit one that may not be the most exciting place to visit as a tourist).

Up until very recently in human history, the vast majority of people struggled (as a rule) to feed themselves and their families, most witnessed or experienced debilitating illnesses and other indignities that could kill them or change their lives for the worse very quickly, and certainly very few experienced anything like fairness under the law or options that allowed them to exercise even a little control over their destiny. Now we have it so good in developed countries that we become obsessed over hurt feelings issues, and how certain things in life fail to meet our preconceived notions. Such is the suicide rate problem in Singapore. Too close to perfect brings it’s own unique set of problems (often problems of character), but damn… those are high class problems in the grand scheme of things… if you are thinking straight about the grand scheme of things.

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Danny Dover November 8, 2013 at 3:30 am

Hey Danny!

Unfortunately this won’t make for a fun or fruitful discussion but I don’t actually disagree with anything you said. :-)

A few clarifying comments:

> but at the same time it is a little ridiculous to focus on the negatives of such a successful society (albeit one that may not be the most exciting place to visit as a tourist).

As you implied, I think the last part was key to my perspective. When the normal issues of travel don’t exist, the other issues that may be present elsewhere take a new emphasis. While I didn’t have to worry about things like finding cell phone coverage, I couldn’t help but ignore the social issues I saw around me.

> Now we have it so good in developed countries that we become obsessed over hurt feelings issues…

This makes me wonder where we as a developed society will be in 300 years. We worry about hurt feelings now, what aspects of life will we complain and worry about then that don’t seem significant today.

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rick chinn November 7, 2013 at 12:38 am

Hi Danny,

Thank you for this. I found it wonderfully insightful. You are one very amazing person!

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Danny Dover November 8, 2013 at 2:54 am

Thanks Rick, I learned from the best :-p

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Michelle Robbins November 7, 2013 at 9:08 am

Sounds eerily similar to what I believe befalls most musicians/bands. That first record (or two) is amazing and usually the result of a lot of struggle, sacrifice, etc. But once success comes, the music gets more sterile, uninteresting – it’s as if adversity and suffering is necessary to produce the best art, and once that’s gone….?

I’ve never been to Singapore but it sounds very much like an extremely large gated community in an upper middle class suburb in the states. Everyone is healthy, has good jobs, goes to good schools, but the community has no culture or vibrance to it. There’s no ‘there’ there. #stepford

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Danny Dover November 8, 2013 at 2:59 am

Hey Michelle!

Interesting parallel! I couldn’t agree more.

> it’s as if adversity and suffering is necessary to produce the best art, and once that’s gone….?

Unfortunately, I think that is correct. Not to say that happy people can’t create art, just that the most creative and expressive art tends to come from people who are forced to deal outside the lines of normal everyday life.

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GT November 7, 2013 at 10:39 am

I’m Singaporean and I appreciate your candour and that your experience was true for you.

However, I must point out that for you, you have the choice to come and go. I am a Singaporean who lives in New York and no matter where I go in the world, a part of me will always remain Singaporean. For better or for worse, that’s the place I grew up, that’s where all the people I care about are, that’s where my strongest memories of friendship and growth took place.

Believe me, as a high-achieving artsy student, I know all about what Singapore values and doesn’t value. But I refuse to be resentful about it. As a Singaporean, I value the opportunity to start a tradition of innovation and creativity, and not just to partake in one.

I love New York, but as long as I am not an American citizen (and I have no plans to be), New York will remain a place of transience for me. It’s easy to say, “I don’t like this place and I’m never coming back.” But what happens when you can never really leave? I choose to say instead, “I’m going to make sure this place remembers that I was here.” That’s a much more difficult thing to do and I think you should acknowledge that.

I think you give us too little credit. Sure, I’ll be the first to say that there are lots of sheep in Singapore – but there are also lots of people who have critically thought about their place in Singapore, Singapore’s place in the world, and decided that that’s where they need to be and want to be. Moreover, I think your post betrays an ignorance of exactly how Singapore got to where it is right now, and where it’s trying to go. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that many young Singaporeans think of Singapore the nation as just beginning, not fully-formed as you seem to do.

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Danny Dover November 9, 2013 at 2:18 am

Hey GT,

Thanks for your well thought out contribution. It seems like there are at least some parallels between your time in NYC and my time in Singapore.

> I choose to say instead, “I’m going to make sure this place remembers that I was here.” That’s a much more difficult thing to do and I think you should acknowledge that.

I respect that idea and am glad that you are pursuing it. I hope you are able to make an impact on NY.

For me, that is not my goal. I travel constantly and intentionally don’t want to leave my mark on everywhere I go. I certainly want to leave my mark on some places (Seattle, Barcelona, San Francisco maybe Saigon?) but for the vast majority of places I’d rather just take in their own culture and not try to push my presence on them. I think far too many places have been ruined by outsiders corrupting what was once authentic and virtuous.

> Moreover, I think your post betrays an ignorance of exactly how Singapore got to where it is right now…

Agreed. I try to be as honest as possible in my posts. It sounds like from your comment and from Shaads that this showed some of my lack of knowledge of SE Asia. I have no argument there, I am in this region to learn more about it. I learned a lot in Singapore but now want to spend my time learning elsewhere.

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British Citizen brian dalby does NOT want to be a Singaporean CITIZEN for personal convenience. BOO! November 18, 2013 at 2:17 am

@Daniel Dover:

Hello Danny,

You may have noticed that Singaporean Citizens tend to be extremely CIRCUMSPECT of Malaysian-Chinese working in Singapore –– especially the WHITE-COLLAR MALES.

You may like to perform an internet search for these terms:

” Cherry foreign jiang huayi chin tan lui IPPT audacity Everest “.

Regards,
“British Citizen brian dalby does NOT want to be a Singaporean CITIZEN for personal convenience. BOO!”

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gu November 12, 2013 at 11:50 am

That’s a great response. And you’re right, as a young Singaporean myself (also studying in the USA), I see myself as part of the shaping process of this (relatively) young country and “not fully-formed”. To criticize it as hopelessly sterile is to claim that it’s stagnantly so. That’s not true. I see the sterile environment as a product of the attempts to first build a secure economic and political base upon which society and culture can develop and flourish. Can we really expect from Singapore, barely 50 years old, the kind of heritage/cultural identity we see in countries which are hundreds of years old? It’s not to say that the post was wrong in calling Singapore sterile–its error lies in assuming that Singaporeans (or the politicians/policy makers) are willing or even glad to let it remain so for eternity.

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Kwong November 13, 2013 at 5:53 am

I agree! I think Mr. Dover deserves the benefit of doubt when he calls our society sterile, but if I could aid, as some have already done, in contributing a more positive perspective about our island-state. As a young Singaporean, I can report from where I’m standing that there is such a burgeoning arts’ scene you wouldn’t believe your eyes if you saw it. To remark that sterility is uniform across Singapore at this very moment is to deal in superficialities. While Mr. Dover hasn’t done so, some people I’ve met have been quick to judge it so. Quite understandably, a ‘visit’ to Singapore will not allow one to break open these superficialities. But even now, and everyone my age is busy sitting for our A Levels or our IBs or what have yous, we are still writing and painting and making music and thinking. Alright, some of the writing may not be good, we’re only 18 or 17 or 16 or 15 or so. But give us some time, we’ll get there. I’ll report on behalf of my peers that there are circles and circles of writers and artists and musicians that are showing those around them there is passion and inspiration in this little red dot, and that people are looking to GET BETTER at what they LOVE. Look in the right places, and you’ll find that for a state fifty-years young there is so much buzz around to be enjoyed! Singapore may seem boring because we don’t have a lot of places to do things. Not a lot of resources. But the one resource we have is people! Sure, some people tend to be really pessimistic about everything, and the future and whatever; but they’re a vocal and numerically dwindling group. Talk to the rest of us!

I’m sorry we haven’t met, Mr. Dover, in your time here. That may be due to the deadlines I’ve got to meet and the studying I’ve got to do, as you’ve rightly observed. But to quote a lesser known line from a remake of a better known movie, ‘study, drill and technique do not stifle talent; they free it’, and that kind of reflects how our education system has allowed us to nurture our passions. There is structure. And, manoeuvred adeptly enough, it allows us all to find a way to develop skills about the things we love. Something great is happening in Singapore! There is art that is filling this wonderfully sterile space. Visit Singapore again, Mr. Dover, when we, and I pray, our talents, have grown. I promise you there will be so much life and optimism (and probably a fair share of pessimism, which is always there, what can you do, right?) you’ll write another article titled ‘Why I’ll Never Leave Singapore’!

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Nic November 14, 2013 at 1:05 am

Wonderfully written Kwong!

Mr Dover, I appreciate your post and although there is a fair bit of truth in what you have written, I must point out that there is a growing arts scene in Singapore as well. Small as it is now, it would be unfair to say that arts in Singapore is entirely stifling. As a young arts student myself, I am glad that my generation of Singaporeans have been given a safe environment to work in, where my primary concern revolves around my creative skills, without having to worry about violence or survival.

Yes, it is a country of high living costs, and it will be hard for me to make a living out of the arts, but no place is perfect, and I am fully am aware of problems that may come my way for the choices I have made. But at least I have had a decent amount of government-imposed compulsory education, and so has had everyone. Basically, I think all Singaporeans are given a fairly good start in life. And even now, my government and society is starting to embrace arts as a viable form of living. Just look at the amount of art schools, galleries, exhibitions, events and even scholarships and grants popping up around my little island. It may still be tough to make a living out of art alone, but I don’t think it will be any less of a struggle anywhere else in a similar society. I believe any country that allows me not to worry about being killed/robbed while walking the streets alone at night, is doing a pretty good job.

As Kwong has stated, we’re still a young nation, with many more ideas to built upon and grow here. I’m glad that the only reason why you’ll never return to Singapore is because of our supposed lack of culture, and not because of rampant violence or hate crimes, or an unpleasant environment to be in. Our culture is evident, even in our street language (Singlish), and is uniquely born out of a pot of other cultures, and it will only continue to grow. I do hope you’ll give Singapore a chance to change your mind again, and see my country from a different perspective. Not for the many other ways we could be like other countries, but for how my country is interesting just the way it is.

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Sam November 15, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Kwong:
You are the perfect example of exactly what Danny is speaking about – what you don’t understand is that this writing and painting and making music and thinking was enforced upon us. Sure, it may be a passion now but ultimately we were pushed to take it up in the first place through society’s warped perception that we all had to be perfect and completely all-rounded. Though I’m not criticizing this fabricated and imposed passion, I do feel that it isn’t real and that this ‘passion’ is probably as superficial as our country itself. How many of us would take it so far and be brave enough so as to become writers or painters or musicians? The limit to a Singaporean’s passion for arts is capped at recreation. We want to get better but society simultaneously stifles and chance of our succeeding at it to the extent of seeking it as a profession. Also, your statements about Singaporeans as a resource really begs the question of how valuable a resource the people are being now – do you really, genuinely find them interesting? Clearly you haven’t been out much.

And no, I’m not a xenophobic outsider reproducing criticisms I have read about Singapore online. I have actually lived there for a larger fraction of my life, and comparing myself to my peers back in Singapore at the moment, I am glad to have left.

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GT November 17, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Have you been involved in Singapore’s art scene?

I have, and in my experience there is no comparison between Singapore’s and other art scenes in terms of passion. The perverse thing about Singapore’s art scene is that because it is so difficult to make a career out of it, the people who choose to do it – regardless of their level of skill – are insanely passionate about it. I’ve seen them work, I’ve worked with them, I’m one of them.

I don’t need to tell you about how vibrant New York’s art scene is – but I did find that I was disappointed by the level of “passion”, relatively speaking. The path to an artistic career may be no less difficult in New York, but it is much clearer than it is in Singapore, and so lots of people who are plenty talented and a little bit passionate step on that path in New York knowing that if they work hard, they’ll get there. In New York, “making it” in the arts is not all that different from “making it” in, say, finance, in terms of the pipelines available to funnel talent to the top. There isn’t anything comparable in Singapore – the ones who choose to work in the arts in Singapore have no idea where they’re going, they can only take it one day at a time.

I definitely would like to see greater professionalism in Singapore’s arts, but when that happens, what you see is more people going into the arts *because* it’s now a reasonably stable career option, not because they are somehow more passionate. That was my experience in New York.

I have to say, comments such as yours really get my goat. I’ve worked with people in Singapore who’ve effectively sacrificed family life – a family – for the arts, who come to work in the middle of the night to keep the show going, who’ve paid for arts events they’re running out of pocket and didn’t claim reimbursements even though they could, who sleep overnight in dressing rooms or out in the open because they were working till 4AM and that’s just what they have to do to get the show running, who showed up at work even while her mother’s funeral was going on. Virtually everybody in Singapore’s art scene has a story like that. So save your “are you brave enough” spiel – there are plenty of people in Singapore who are.

Liam M November 7, 2013 at 11:25 pm

Sweet blog. I enjoy reading your posts. The singapore suicide statistics seem a bit unreal huh?

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Danny Dover November 8, 2013 at 3:33 am

Hey Liam, thanks for reading man!

The stats represent the increase in suicides, not the total percentage of people who commit suicide. What worries me the most is that these were the stats collected from last year. The data is not yet in for this year (as the year isn’t yet complete) but it looks (anecdotally) like this is a continuing trend. :-(

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Edmund W November 15, 2013 at 10:35 am

I live in Australia but I am born in Singapore. Congratulations on creating controversies and bringing people to your website and raising your profile.

Danny, like any tourist, you visit a place with a purpose in mind prior to boarding that plane. You are disappointed because you did not find what you want to find in Singapore. If you visited Singapore from an impoverished village looking for a safe and better life, your views of the country might be very different from someone who has been successful back home in US and lived a pampered comfortable lifestyle.

Humans are strange creatures. There are those of us who look for more “meaning” in life because life is “too comfortable”. I feel the same in Australia because Australians have had it too comfortable for too long – high minimum wage, free health care and great social security. But guess what, people here still complain”life is hard” here especially those on social security payments. On the flip side, I am thinking of moving back to Singapore because I know I am helping people who want to help themselves. Life is not easy in Singapore, though there is a perception of wealth. There is nothing wrong with people talking about work all the time, I would much rather that than hear a group of people on social security talk about their plans for the day lazing in the park in Australia. If you meet a group of nuclear physicist, what do they talk about? If you have dinner with a group of doctors, what do they talk about? I think just because of the few Singaporeans you meet do not share your passion for certain interest does not make them “boring”. You will just have to find someone who does.

But ultimately you have achieved your goal of creating advertising and promoting yourself. Well done.

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ahCong November 16, 2013 at 11:37 pm

Dear Edmund W,

You are spot on with your comments. Articles such as these serve many interests , more often with intention to aggravate and attract attention. Read & respond with care.
To all Singaporean everywhere who empathise and agree with Danny’s writings .. be true to your Self. There are probably deep rooted frustrations from denying your lineage.

ahCong **SGP in my blood

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Deia @ Nomad Wallet November 8, 2013 at 2:41 pm

I lived in Singapore for 4-5 years in my teens and I couldn’t wait to leave because, as you say, it’s just so sterile. But at the same time, it has achieved some really great things. Like Shaad Hamid mentioned above, it’s doing so much better than other young countries. Maybe it’s not so bad to be sterile and corporate and controlled when, in return, the people make a decent living and enjoy a safe environment. It’s not for me and it’s not for you, but evidently many people are proud to be Singaporeans.

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Danny Dover November 9, 2013 at 2:20 am

> It’s not for me and it’s not for you, but evidently many people are proud to be Singaporeans.

Well said, I think that is the big takeaway.

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Ame November 12, 2013 at 6:31 am

Proud? See: false consciousness, Adorno and Horkheimer

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Vito November 8, 2013 at 11:40 pm

You point to Singapore suicide stats to help prove your point, but in reality, you’re actually disproving your point because you’re taking the stat out of context.

Instead of “horrifying”, the suicide rate in Singapore is actually quite low – one of the lowest in the world, and a fraction of the suicide rate in the USA.

When the rate catches up to USA’s rate that is almost 4 times higher, then you might say….hmmm… that they’re the same as USA and still not “horrifying”. It’s going to be quite a while before there is anything horrifying about Singapore’s suicide rate.

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Danny Dover November 9, 2013 at 12:28 am

Hey Vito,

I appreciate the comment and the sentiment. I realize that suicide is a very sensitive subject and as such may have overshadowed the real point of my article (There are a lot of places I want to use my limited resources to visit, Singapore is no longer one of them). I’ll take that note going forward as that was my mistake.

That said, I stand by numbers. The numbers you are quoting were based off of the data from 2009 (for the US numbers) and 2011 (for the Singaporean numbers). This article uses the numbers from 2012, which is the most recently available data.

The large gap that you are referring to between suicide rates in the US and suicide rates in Singapore does not exist any more.

The point I was trying to illustrate was the trendline. The Singaporean rate is rising quickly.

My goal in this clarification is not to start an argument, merely to explain the disparity you saw in the numbers I quoted. Regardless of stats, I think we can both agree that even 1 suicide is too much.

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Sanjana November 9, 2013 at 9:49 pm

As a traveler, Singapore holds no interest for me either. But like the other comments on this post, the country holds a different meaning for different people. When you’re coming from a place that has a lot of poverty, corruption and political violence and instability, you wish for something normal and sterile.

As a traveler though, I’d have a much more interesting experience in India than in Singapore, in spite of the danger involved in traveling to India. (before the haters get riled up, I’m Indian, brought up in Dubai, but have lived in India for 6 years, so I know what I’m talking about when I say “dangers” of traveling to India.)

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Aman C November 10, 2013 at 7:29 am

Interesting to see your blog post agrees with what some Thai friends had to say, when they stayed there (Thais can be very insular, but they have a wonderful, vibrant society). On the other hand, Indians (where I belong), find Singapore vibrant and wonderful. Why do they find Singapore wonderful is a scream – they find a lot many Indian there, that’s why. So they get together there and make a village. It wouldn’t be wrong to say Indians resist experiencing local cultures when they go abroad, which I find rather sad.

And like the above post says, if you want to undergo extremes of emotion, come to India. I assure you, you will find enough of anger and tranquility, warzones and islands of peace, sinners living with and saints. One thing is ubiquitous though – Religion. You will find it everywhere.

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Huch November 12, 2013 at 7:31 am

Hi there,
Thank you for your post. I would like to commend you on the way you put across your thoughts – open-minded; respectful; skeptical but not cynical. However, as a Singaporean – by birth and conviction – who has been studying and living abroad (US, UK, and France) over the past 5 years, I would like to differ from your point of view.

Let me clarify some points which you have delivered with eloquence and poise.

“very citizen is required to do active service in the military” – I may be nitpicking, but this is not true. Only physically and mentally fit males are required to serve national service, and not all who serve do so in the military. They are spread across the police force and the civil defence force (firefighters and paramedics) as well.

“Historically, Singapore hasn’t been a warring nation” – yes, we may not have been a warring nation like the United States, or Western European countries, but we faced three years of brutal Japanese Occupation during WWII. The horrors of this three years may be fading, but our diminished trust in allowing a foreign force (the British troops) defend our sovereignty has not been recovered.
“Last year, Singaporean student, Lysher Loh made national news after committing suicide.” – This is also not true. Lysher committed suicide in 2001, which was more than a decade ago. To be sure, any death by suicide is one life lost too many. And life in Singapore is stressful. But compared to other countries, we’re not faring too bad. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide_rate)

“In a school system built to produce scientists, bankers and mathematicians, an artsy student was deemed a failure.” – Again, I would beg to differ. In Oxford, where I did my undergraduate studies, I encountered numerous Singapore students who were gifted in the arts and humanities. They did an extraordinary range of subjects, not just in the sciences, but also in philosophy, literature, languages, politics, geography, history, and archaeology. They did not shy away from their passion for the humanities, and they were certainly not considered failures. Yes, you’re right in the sense that there is very much focus on science and maths. But if you ever change your mind and return to Singapore I welcome you to participate in our arts scene, which is growing; our literature scene, which is gaining new fans; our drama scene, which is expanding; our comedy scene, which is making its infant steps towards adolescence; and our music scene, which is breaking new frontiers.

“Even though there wasn’t a language barrier, I encountered a hefty communication barrier. In my experience, people were polite but conversations rarely moved past surface-level niceties. Of the conversations that I took part in and overheard, the vast majority of them were about work.” – You may be right, but let me also offer you my point of view here. From my experience, Singaporeans do talk about other things apart from work. We gossip too! We sometimes make jokes as well. I have noticed, however, that Singaporeans are not as forthcoming when speaking to foreigners, especially those who do not speak with our accent. We’re shy. We’re not comfortable in not sharing our tales with people who do not look or sound or act like us. But we’re trying. Give us time to grow in confidence. But Singaporeans are not alone. I found the same to be true with the Americans and British. In my first year abroad, I found it difficult to connect more deeply with my peers at university. But as time progressed and they realised that I could actually speak English, I found myself engaging in more stimulating conversations.

I will returning home after five years abroad come next summer. Not because it is amazing, but because I want to make it more amazing. A more amazing home. For my family. For my friends. And for friends from abroad, old and new, whom I will always welcome with open arms.

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Richard November 12, 2013 at 6:01 pm

nice!

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Kate Ng Yew Jia November 12, 2013 at 9:28 pm

You, my good man, have put my thoughts into eloquently chosen words. BRAVO!

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Kenneth November 12, 2013 at 10:43 pm

Wow! very nicely written.

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MiCHELLE November 13, 2013 at 2:04 am

I second you on this post.

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Andrew Chen November 12, 2013 at 12:00 pm

You do realize Lysher Loh killed herself in 2001? Might want to get your facts right.

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Richard November 12, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Hey Danny, i’ve read your post. and well your thoughts are quite well repeated by a good portion of people in Singapore as well. Seeing that you wrote this post just 8 days back makes me believe that you probably been feeding yourself on outdated posts about complaints of Singaporeans.
I”m Singaporean too. so when i read titles that say i’ll never do this or that again. or i’ll never come back to Singapore again. just makes me roll my eyes. Like what would a foreigner know about the lives of Singaporeans. Have you talked to the hawker along the street? Have you talked to the busker along the street? Have you talked to a student studying in the university? Have you asked a middle aged woman how her life is?
I don’t doubt that there are aspects of Singapore that would seem sterile to you. My point is this. your limited experience in Singapore gives you little credibility to say its sterile. Though on the exterior it looks that way.
Much has changed from a very rigid mindset to the mindset of alot of people who come out of a survival mentality from war to where it is now where the fledgling generation of leaders have to rise up to take the place of their forefathers and make a new SIngapore. Even as i walked down orchard road just yesterday, i marvelled with my friend as we realized how different Singapore is.
Singapore has a quiet strength that you probably have not seen because you probably like most other critiques never bother to investigate and dig deeper.
Reading your post for the first time, neither do i understand your wealth of experiences gained from travelling either. So i can’t compare my Singapore to other countries.
If you are comparing Singapore’s nightlife and saying its sterile, if you’re looking at suicide rates and saying that Singapore’s stifling, then how about crime rates in your country or how about abortion rates and divorce rates. how about corruption in your country or riots and insecurity in your country and instability and disunited governance.

What i do agree with you is that to a large extent, we get by with the bare minimum, but we aren’t encouraged to the fullest because we have an innate cognisence we have many responsibilities to assume . and many foreign workers use Singapore as a stepping board and then leave because of the cost of living. Have you wondered about what an average person has to deal with to survive here? Have you stayed long enough to understand the problems of those poorer average singaporeans have to deal with and how the government has stepped in with measures to help. Sometimes help comes clumsily and superficially. but we get by with the little time and abundance of things we have to cope with.
It probably isn’t in our nature to abandon all our family and go travelling around the world to fulfil ourselves though that desire too resides within many of us.

The vibrance of Singapore is seen in her younger generation.
Unlike many countries, you can walk around safely at night.
Your thoughts and critiques on Singapore are not uncommon and even our own Singaporeans feel that way. Only difference between you and us is that this is our home.

Naturally i’d be defensive n i do see your point. and i also am not denying that we do not feel the same way when we read about how our little children have to grow into this increasingly oppressive and stressful study system.
But i’d say this in reply to your post. Rather than say i’ll never come return to Singapore. Why not say, let me see how things are in Singapore 10 years from now. Cuz however you look at us, our country is not even past 50 yrs old. What you havn’t seen is the fruits of the 2nd generation of our country’s leaders. You are only judge Singapore based on the fruit of our founding fathers.

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janelle November 12, 2013 at 6:39 pm

“I had everything I needed to be comfortable but I didn’t have anything that inspired me. Even though there wasn’t a language barrier, I encountered a hefty communication barrier. In my experience, people were polite but conversations rarely moved past surface-level niceties. Of the conversations that I took part in and overheard, the vast majority of them were about work. I routinely watched people work 15 hours days and stress over strict deadlines. Yes it was living and they were making progress but it wasn’t holistic and people openly admitted to me that it wasn’t fulfilling.”

as a true blue singaporean,everything you said,but this one especially blew me away,because i Know exactly how that feels.Exactly.every single word.comfort at its best.but the people here,i am sick of them. its so stale here,nothing inspiring.therefore,I work to survive,but also to get out of here asap! your the best..

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Lionel November 13, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Byeee. Please leave soon.

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Dave D'aranjo November 14, 2013 at 9:17 pm

Janelle, don’t listen to that jerk. You have every right to highlight these problems if you see them. You have every right to want something different and better for your homeland. Or, if you choose to leave (whether it be forever or just a while), you have definitely the right to feel accepted by your fellow citizens EVEN IF your opinions (non-violently and non-hatefully) differ from theirs. Good luck on your own journey.

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Youtube user/jemdude22 (jeremy lin) is a MALE singaporean who, like fellow MALE compatriot larry medina, will be subjected to as much conscription and lifelong reservist liability as MALE compatriot robert viswanathan chandran November 18, 2013 at 6:47 am

@Janelle: [ youtube . com / watch?v=GdpAFKn3SG4 ]

By the way, do NOT start me going what happens if a stinkaporean couple has a disproportionately HIGH number of MALE children all born with solely the nationality of a “city, not country” amid the PLUMMETING birth rates.

I am MALE stinkaporean compatriot larry medina cares about as much as HIS MALE stinkaporean compatriot robert viswanathan (v.) chandran.

I am sure MALE Singaporean Youtube user/jemdude22 (jeremy lin) would be SO PROUD.

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CH November 12, 2013 at 7:50 pm

Hi Danny,

I see many of the points you made. I am a Singaporean, and grew up there until 21 when I went to the US for studies in music, because, simply, the arts scene at home was not what I wanted at that time. As an artist I find it important to seek inspiration all the time, and being in a less built-up area in the US meant that I had the space to develop and the freedom do what I want, rather than what people want. (Think beaches, touristy town, nothing higher than 5 stories here.) I have been to New York, Chicago and San Francisco many times in the past 5 years I’ve been here and I am enjoying being far away from the urban lifestyle. Even a couple of trips to perform in the little towns of Perugia and Spoleto in Italy seem to push me further away from the bustling life I had been subject to while back home.

However, being a foreigner in the US, I find myself unable to describe accurately what the US lifestyle is, and thus it is unfair for me to say that the US is better, or make a good comparison between the two countries. Perhaps I do need to spend more time, up to 21 years even, to make a fair comparison. While many of the points you made are valid, I do have to take some of your views with a pinch of salt. That said, I believe myself fit to only comment on your point about education, and while I agree that the education system trains us to be very strong in Math and Science, the arts do not get neglected. Yes, it does not seem to be as important as the sciences, but the arts suffer from the same kind of issues worldwide. For example, funding of the arts in the US has been cut in so many cities that operas and symphonies have been shut down over the past few years. Isn’t it amazing to see how the government in Singapore is making sure arts groups are still available? I have kept up with my friends in Singapore who are in the arts scene and they have more than “survived”, and some have thrived in the environment there. I find myself planning on returning home some time in the next couple of years for good, after I am done with my “exploration” and “inspiration”. I don’t see myself to be stifled when I get back, rather, I will want to be right in the midst of everything happening in Singapore, and contributing to the arts. I believe such is the sentiment of many Singaporeans that you might not have met, and beyond just the arts.

Don’t write us off yet. As you mentioned, politically speaking, we are not even 5 decades old. Singapore might be going through a “mid-life crisis” at the moment, but in 10 years, maybe 20, it will all be different. There is plenty of time. If it doesn’t happen with your generation, or with mine, perhaps my children will be the ones who will be at the frontlines of change. I hope you will come back and see for yourself how we progress, and see if we impress you. Perhaps it will not be such a “sterile” environment anymore. You’ll be surprised, I’m sure.

All the best,
CH

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Evon November 12, 2013 at 7:50 pm

Singapore does not have 29% suicide rate, that’s almost 1 in 3! Citing a source does not equate to citing it correctly!

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Danny Dover November 13, 2013 at 1:23 am

I want to point out the irony here of you citing my article incorrectly. The article above clearly says 29% is the increase, not the rate itself.

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The November 17, 2013 at 7:12 pm

One suicide last year. Two this year. Wow – an increase of 100%! Terrible isn’t it?

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anon November 12, 2013 at 7:50 pm

Hi I would just like to point out that the suicide case of Lysher occured in 2001, not last year.

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Manuel November 12, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Hey Danny,

Spot on!
I’ve been living in Singapore for 7 months, and after my first two weeks, my opinion was exactly the same!
I felt ok, sure, but not happy….there’s nothing that can really provide that for you here.

Singapore is an automate, assembly line type of city, where nobody looks at you in the train, where technology has stolen people’s values and personalities and good authentic people and/or things to do are very very rare.

I guess i could take the angle of the ‘cherish the little that exists’ type of thing, but for me what is original should be the usual, and the usual here sucks balls!
Like you said, bare minimums for living, and no inspiration at all…I guess me being european and you american, being exposed to other realities other than this utopic one, and because our lifestyle is more than capitalising, this city doesn’t feed our unconscious, well, and our conscious too :P

Although my job is kinda ok, it’s still not what i want, and geographically it’s not at all what i want. I’ve known this after my first two weeks. Your blog has motivated me to carry my ideas to a platform higher than my brain, to reality, for real! Thanks for showing your way!
And I take the opportunity to ask you, how old were you when you started to change your life, and how old are you now?

Keep rockin’ dude!

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Mark November 12, 2013 at 8:22 pm

So basically it’s just because people are too career-focused? Honestly, I think you could make that argument for most world-class cities in the world: Tokyo, NYC, London, Toronto and so on.

I’ve only been to Singapore a few times, but I find what it’s been able to accomplish over the past 50 years to be incredible. The suicide statistics, in absolute numbers, are pretty low, so I think you’re not showing the context there appropriately. I think the diversity is one of its biggest plus sides. And I think if you’re into that kind of thing, the culture of the high-class clubs, restaurants, and yes, the casino, are some of the best parts — if you’re into that sort of thing.

So I can get why a person would leave. You’re not into a career-driven, high-culture, big city environment. And that’s fine. But I don’t think you should try to paint the place as somehow being devoid of culture or suffering from a suicide epidemic. Because neither are true.

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jimmy November 12, 2013 at 8:23 pm

Spot on there…

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just November 14, 2013 at 12:54 am

agreed

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Nic November 14, 2013 at 1:11 am

Agreed

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Eun November 14, 2013 at 11:34 pm

If I may, what high culture? Singapore has absolutely none. All there is to the country’s past-times is food and shopping. Other than that, there’s work.

Coming from someone who spent 15 years in Sg before leaving for the West, I can honestly, earnestly state that I will not return, unless they offer me more in terms of career and salary than I can make anywhere else. And because I was largely raised in Sg, I LOOOOVE big cities, high culture and career-driven environments, but if those were my only criteria….there are dozens of other bigger cities, faster paced cities, more career driven environments than Sg can provide, and these cities would have a flourishing cultural scene compared to one that is largely kept online or underground. Most of these cities are also set in far more beautiful places, with so many more things to do in one’s downtime. When was the last time you had a 15 hr hike, or spent the day skiiing or scuba-diving? On a vacation?…I did 2 of the 3 in the past 3 months over a weekend, and I will be spending days sliding butt first down some beautiful mountains (still learning to ride) with fresh powder in a mth or so….and all within a 1 hr drive from home. Tell me there’s more to life in Sg than there is where I am…and if you can back it up, I’ll stand corrected. But it’s an impossible task no?

And yes, I understand that to the many from less stable countries, Sg is a beacon of hope and light, the generation before me actually left their home country for Sg because of the hope they had. These same relatives are now planning their retirement and not a single one wants to stay in Sg for longer than they have to, my immediate relatives are planning to head over to the West or back to their home country. After spending their lives working and living in Sg, they are so cynical and so jaded and so tired of the lifestyle that they cannot bear to stay for longer than they absolutely have to…retirement financial planning.

Despite all these, credit is due where the country has really truly pulled itself ahead of everyone else in such a short span of time. But you and other Singaporeans need to realize that Singapore has so many restrictions, so many upcoming hurdles. And that if the price to pay for such extreme success is a zombified, bored nation…that that will soon prove too high a price to pay.

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jimmy November 12, 2013 at 8:22 pm

This article doesn’t make sense…. There is no perfect country… Singapore has made millions of lives better… just because you cant make Singapore home does not make it any less of a country than others…. there are endless stats that shows Singapore is a top developed country. Please go and don’t come back… thank you. (and yes…nobody told me to write this…)

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loretta marie November 12, 2013 at 8:32 pm

It always makes me sad when I hear of people saying that Singapore is sterile. Sure, to the casual observer, it is clean, efficient, driven and obedient. Having travelled a lot I both appreciate and despise that about Singapore. I wouldn’t mind giving up a bit of safety and convenience for a bit more excitement and personality to be honest.

But there’s another side of Singapore that people miss. Not so long ago people were afraid to speak out about things. Politics and the government for one. Like you mentioned, now, we openly discuss any state of affairs, pledge support for opposition parties, write indepth and intelligent rebuttals to new government campaigns. For Singapore, as proud as we are of our country as you mentioned, this is a big and important step. And the climate is changing quickly.

Crime isn’t is as rare as you might imagine. Like any city, there are place that are safer than others. Even in Singapore there are neighbourhoods where crimes like drug abuse and theft are not rare at all. The same places, perhaps, where members of our community live in tiny, crowded and less than hygienic environments and depend on soup kitchen initiatives for food. I have volunteered many times, and its certainly not all nice and rosy.

Another comment by Huch has brought up some points I wanted to raise too, and well said.

I never get bored of Singapore. There’s always some new person to meet, or a poetry reading, or a secret underground party, or getting caught up with fired up debates on politics or capital punishment, or helping the homeless or starting a band. And there’s the unique local culture and heritage that remains, and grows.

Singapore is indeed a strangle little dot, but the Singapore I know is far more than that. :)

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Kung Guangjun November 12, 2013 at 10:05 pm

You ask for inspiration from Singapore, but what inspiration have you given to other Singaporeans?

Damn, it really doesn’t take much for someone to complain about Singapore. Don’t we hear this ALL the time?Everyone knows this place is boring and tough and rule-bound. That’s Singapore, learn to accept it already.

If you don’t like this country, you can leave, it’s your choice. Just try not to blame the environment if you’re not inspired, cuz it really doesn’t mean anything other than another rant. Just because you have statistics and whatever seemingly “social-relevant” issues drizzled over this doesn’t change the fact that your post is an EMPTY rant against the country’s boring nature.

Singapore is “HERE” and we need to go “THERE”.

If we think we’re “THERE” already, please stay in Singapore and improve this country instead of leaving with a bitchy post. Give before you ask for anything to return. Be the change you want to see in this country.

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Addie November 12, 2013 at 10:07 pm

I guess every single country and nation has its good and flaws. I could agree and also disagree with all that has been brought forward.

Seriously, i cannot see how i can afford to have a family anymore.

A simple example; i used to glue myself and feel so good watching National Day Parades on TV without fail. Now i find myself engaged in other activities.

I still, however, believe in the education system. One of the many factors that makes it ‘fail’ is that there is just too much expectations from everyone. I grew up in a society where we took things as it is (back in the 80s and 90s), and everything turned out alright. Let the schools do their jobs, without having too much interference. If not for THAT system, i am sure we will not see an increasing number of Singaporeans having the chance or opportunity to study or work abroad, excel in competitions at all levels. Do we have to ask for so much then we could already stuff into our mouths? Relax…

Having said all that, ultimately, it is up to the individual. I guess nobody has any right to say or determine what is wrong or what is right.

For me, it appears that the people are ‘crying’ for help (no longer requesting or asking) to make things and lives better but to no avail as yet. That is what getting everyone down and upset. While we all really love our Little Red Dot for all its splendour, somehow, the heart is no longer beating as before.

For the moment,

YES, we have the ‘hardware’ BUT, our ‘heartware’ is losing its pulse…

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Ros November 12, 2013 at 10:10 pm

“I had everything I needed to be comfortable but I didn’t have anything that inspired me. ” Same thing i feel every single day. 25/F/singaporean

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Robert November 12, 2013 at 10:10 pm

Good writing !
I was born and raised in Indonesia, migrated to Australia 2 years ago.
In my entire childhood, I see Singapore as a “developed” country of my dream.
As another commenter has said, I’d rather dealing with what you feel as “wrong” compared to all the racism, poverty and corruption issues in Indonesia.

You mentioned about a little girl committed suicide and how it became an issue in a country. Guess what, a lot more children died in poor countries for various reasons, from malnutrition, diseases, stress, abandoned by parents. And a lot of these kids did not even make the news. Because it’s so common and happens everyday, TV and newspaper did not even care about it, unless it happens in some specific place or involve some important people. People are too busy struggling for survival and have no time to think about what’s right or wrong. “How can I eat tomorrow” remains the primary issue for many.
The fact that a suicide committed by a single child make the news and become a nation’s attention is already a great blessing ! It means Singaporean people has moved past the struggle to meet the basic need of life (food, clothing, place to live), so they can start thinking about “right” or “wrong” in life and society.

When I traveled to US, a shop lady asked me where I am from, I answered “Indonesia” and her smile turned into hostile response, almost rudely asking me to leave. It happened more than twice in US and few other times in other developed countries.
Then I learned a trick. I visited Singapore quite often to the point I can answer when people try to talk a little bit about it, so I changed my answer. Whenever I traveled overseas, when people ask, my answer became “I’m from Singapore”.
Guess what? I got better treatment, nice smile, and sometimes discount offer from shopkeeper who has been to Singapore. You might not realize this, but there are millions of people born in other countries envy you and wish they were born as Singaporeans. You can hold your head up high when dealing with people from almost any country in the the world, a privilege not all of us could ever experience.

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Meulaboh November 13, 2013 at 6:50 am

Hi Robert,
well said. I’m a Singaporean working in Malaysia. I totally agreed with you. Most of my Malaysian friends envy us for being Singaporean. Like what you have mentioned, they also like to said “I’m from Singapore” so as to receive better treatment when they were traveling. Most of them envy us for having a good government.

I also spent two years studying in Australia and have the opportunity to work in Aceh, Indonesia for six months. I didn’t really appreciate what it means to be a Singaporean till staying abroad on these few occasions.

Thanks for your great sharing !

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lynn November 13, 2013 at 8:08 am

Wow Robert you make me very inspired to be a Singaporean. Welcome to our sunny Island and God bless you.

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robert setiadi is PROUD to be an IMPOSTOR November 16, 2013 at 1:50 am

@robert setiadi:

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” dzaky wirahman bmw maybach 1664863412 ”

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Anybody may query at or call +61 (0)3 9214 4751.

Condign imprecations,
“I am NOT dzaky putra wirahman’s (facebook #: 1664863412) MALE COMPATRIOT”

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I am NOT dzaky putra wirahman’s (facebook #: 1664863412) MALE COMPATRIOT November 16, 2013 at 1:53 am

By the way, this was the link which I think the moderators omitted:

[ rsetiadi @ swin . edu . au ]

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Kiwi Kate November 12, 2013 at 10:27 pm

Our time in Singapore was a happy introduction to life in Asia but it really is a fake bubble of an existence. We used it as a great base to explore the rest of real Asia.

Saddest day for me was sitting on a bus conversing with 3 students who’d just finished their school education. one of them was really keen to study Anthropology but couldn’t as there was no way he would be allowed by his parents . It wouldn’t get him a good job.

They were all really surprised to learn I not only had that degree but 2 more and had a very successful corporate career in an APAC.

Creative thinkers are essential part of every society.

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Frank Young November 12, 2013 at 10:29 pm

It’s naive to think there is a one size fits all for any country. Foreigner complaints about Singapore is “too this” or “not enough of that”….Compared to what? Of course, if you already had a preferred country to compare it against, then it would inherently and inevitably “fail”.
I was a New Yorker, but now chose to be a Singaporean, because this place suited my lifestyle choices better. More importantly, Ive come to understand and believe in what this nation is doing.
But my brother, who still lives in NY, would not feel it is right for him. We are all like Goldilocks. And there’s nothing wrong with either goldilocks or the bears’ home.
However, I do feel that some of the examples you used easily misleads the general readers about the “severity” of Singapore’s situation.
Take your statistics on suicide for instance. The percentage increases are indeed alarming, but the reality is Singapore has low numbers of suicides and globally it falls about or below average (per thousand). It is bested by such great countries such as us, uk, Finland, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Spain, etc.. presumably one of these are your benchmark country.
Suicide is a very, very poor indicator of environmental conditions. That’s because it has to do with mental health. On average, 10 per cent of any society suffers from mental health issues.. rich, poor, smart or stupid people all suffer. Unlike physical health, it is not obvious. But we smart enough to understand that if a person with heart problems and suffers a heart attack climbing a flight of stairs, the staircase environment isn’t the fault. But when it comes to mental health and suicide issues, we make stupid correlations. Millions of ppl climbs stairs without incident. Just like thousands graduate art schools, and some fail. without incident.

And the idea that Singapore has “too” many foreigners…So what, goldilocks? The US was and is full of foreigners! Where do you think all the Irish-, German-, African-, Mexicans-Americans come from? The real Americans live on reservations! UK is full of invading danes, vikings, franks in the past. What is so surprising?
Eventually, those who want to stay are held together with a common cause to build a cohesive society.
The rest who wants to leave, like yourself, should go; so that the space can be given to someone else more suitable.
Planes depart daily from Changi. You can get one way seats for under $20 from any of our low cost carriers.

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jack November 12, 2013 at 11:23 pm

I am Singaporean and 21 years of age. Somehow I can’t help but agree with the author. Singapore is good at lots of stuff but one thing it certainly lacks is the spirit. We have zero national identity and the education system is boring as hell. Perhaps I haven’t really seen much of the world to appreciate what I have today. But one thing I am working hard towards is to get on exchange to a foreign university. I can’t help but feel that there is so much more to life out there.

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richard November 17, 2013 at 10:51 pm

lifes always interesting depending on an individual’s outlook.
the comments here are interesting because there are people who stay in the same place yet have such diametrically opposed opinions on the same place we live in.
is it really the country’s fault? or is it really the individual tt ultimately decides what how he will view life.

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MALE Singaporean madhupati singhania January 18, 2014 at 8:27 pm

@frank young:

Singapore is a city-cum-NATION state that has the HIGHEST percentage of foreign-born people as a proportion of its population outside the Arabian Gulf.

However, the Gulf Arabs have plenty of privileges foreigners will NEVER be able to obtain such as, inter alia, guaranteed employment, welfare and citizenship (foreigners CANNOT even be permanent residents [PR] in any Gulf States).

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லிட்டில் இந்தியாவில் கலவரம் January 18, 2014 at 8:31 pm

To frank young:

By the way, jeremy lin (user/jemdude22) will be, like MALE compatriots ஜனில் புதுச்சேரி AND larry medina AND madhupati singhania, be subjected to as much full-time military conscription (“NSF”) and lifelong reservist (“NSman”) liability as MALE compatriot robert viswanathan (v.) chandran.

According to the world’s HIGHE$T-paid minister of FOREIGN AFFAIRS and law, Singapore is “only a city, NOT a country”.

I of course, need to have to mention காசிவிஸ்வநாதன் (“கே”) சண்முகம் by name.

No regards,
” லிட்டில் இந்தியாவில் கலவரம் ”

P.S. By the way, considering the conscription and lifelong reservist obligations and regulations, do NOT start me going what happens if a stinkaporean couple has a disproportionately HIGH number of MALE children all born with solely the nationality of a “city, not country” amid the PLUMMETING birth rates.

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Chun Wui November 12, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Interesting article. I’m Singaporean and I can definitely agree with the competitiveness here.

But! I can’t agree that it is a problem unique to Singapore. Neither can I agree that it is a problem characteristic of Singapore. I am now actually studying in the US and I’ve seen the same competitiveness here as I have in Singapore. Look at the insane traffic of New York and the unforgiving economy that has rendered so many homeless in all the financial hubs of the US. This is a problem with capitalism, limited resources, greed, globalization, e.t.c. It’s a macro issue and has caused similar-if-not-worse competition in other cities such as Hong Kong, Tokyo (which has an even more insane suicide culture than Singapore btw), Seoul, e.t.c. Perhaps, like the stereotypes portray, it’s an Asian thing to be competitive… but I doubt it.

I also can’t say the same about the angle of immigration. Many Singaporeans have been too comfortable with their middle class lives and cannot appreciate that the entire local infrastructure has been built upon the backs of our thousands of foreign low-wage workers. Of course, their backgrounds in relatively less well-to-do countries do cause clashes in culture. Like how the feudal lords of medieval ages looked down on peasants with haughty self-importance, many Singaporeans tend to knock on them because of some of their behaviors. I don’t blame these Singaporeans though. Heck, I’m responsible for it from time to time. It’s just human nature to clash with others you cannot fully sympathize with.

As for culture though, I must respectfully disagree. Singapore’s heritage does not have a long history. We’re an insanely young nation and can clearly not compete with the amazing backstories of London, Berlin, Moscow, e.t.c. We can’t compete with the intense festivities of Diwali in India, Chinese New Year in China, Christmas in the US, e.t.c. We can’t compete with the natural beauty of Seattle, Tasmania, New Zealand, e.t.c. But by god, I so wished to reach through my screen and slap your face when I read “sterile” as an adjective for Singapore. I kid of course. But I do have pride in my city’s culture and we have lots of it too.

Singaporeans are, by far, the greatest foodies I know on the face of this earth. The availability of variety in cuisines in Singapore, I can confidently say, is jaw dropping. From middle-eastern to russian, from japanese to southern-barbeque, from mexican to chinese. You name it, we probably have it. And if we don’t, I’m sure the locals will welcome any gastronomic entrepreneur with open arms. (And surprisingly we still have obesity rates lower than many other countries.) I’ve literally made friends with Singaporeans over just critiquing/complementing a meal we’re sharing. Don’t get me started on the number of arguments we’ve gotten into over which hawker/restaurant/cafe is better than the other.

The nightlife is supremely under-rated as well. I’m not an avid party-goer but I have visited some nightspots in places rumored to have amazing nightlife (like Miami and Taipei). I can’t say that Singapore really loses out too badly in comparison to such fabled Meccas of nightlife. The number of bars with excellent home-grown music are also surprisingly abundant in Singapore given the small population and supposedly stifling environment. Despite complaints of the stifling system here, I have to say I’ve heard some really good music produced locally too.

As for interesting people, well… you sir, do a great disservice to me. Just because you haven’t hung out with the right people, doesn’t mean you should go around beating down the lot of us. It is true that most of us have our guards up to strangers. What kind of urbanites would we be if we didn’t? But as soon as you really take the time to get to know the locals, I’m sure you’ll find more than enough conversation buddies here. I know I have the greatest conversations with my friends.

Yeah, we have our share of vapid twits too. But hey, bad apples are black sheep. We’ve all heard of the stereotypes: the empty Chinese post-communist ultra-consumerist superficial shells, the vacuous American cheerleader who moonlights as a pageant princess, the ultra-fundamentalist middle-eastern who will never open his mind to other modes of living. To generalize a society by the unpleasant few is to make the mistake that leads bigots to prejudice, discrimination and even genocide (in extreme cases).

I could go on and on and on but I don’t have the time to. All in all, I do believe that all societies have culture. You can never have a community of people and not have culture. They just won’t function. I’m sure a society without any past-time or humor would just rot into depression. But I haven’t and neither has the country. It’s just that some cultures aren’t for some people. Perhaps you’re just not into Singapore’s brand of urban living but that doesn’t mean the country is “Sterile”. You’ve neutered us unfairly.

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RKK November 12, 2013 at 10:36 pm

Danny ,

well done !! very articulate !
I read your post & i think you have nailed the facts pretty well in all aspects of your experience , i have a very similar one too & i spent 15 years there and have litreally moved out from there & have moved my business away as well. Its ok to deal with some social realites keeps you street smart and on your mark, rather than a safe haven under the vigilance of the gatekeepers. There is for sure in singapore an exciting spot for the newcomers there who love the weather and proximity of et all to all the neighbouring countries , but thats it , there is no ‘inspiration’ & ‘no soul’ , stagnant.
I see various point of views from people in there responses to your post ,but i agree , its your experience and your own and you shared it , for the first 5 years or so i was extremely excited for being there as well. Its a global corporate city , very successful , with great leadership (now which is hardly respected locally)

The education system is stressful for kids & there goes the Creativity part , off the roof !!

I dont want my kids to go through such crazy torture , i’d rather rather have them study in an environment which gives them enough time and space to be creative rather than restricting them ,bound by a clock & policing around their homework ! i am sure there are better ways of learning.

I think i have a fair bit of experience there too , but the contents of your post are so much in line with my thoughts – that i need not explain further.

‘KEEP IT REAL’

I thank you for sharing this article my friend .

thanks & wish you the best

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John Smith November 12, 2013 at 10:50 pm

At least people here can be thankful for an extremely safe and stable country unlike other countries that are 3rd world countries or countries that are going down the drain right now.

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Christina November 12, 2013 at 11:09 pm

Hmh… agree(?) I got my Singapore PR (Permanent Resident) in 5 years back. And after a year lived and worked there, I decided not to keep it (the requirement way back then was you have to work 2 years in 5 years there if you want to extend it) for one and another reason, one of them is I don’t think I wanna grow old there. Before I got the PR, I often came there for holiday (up till’ now) and for health check-up. If you only stay in Orchard area and for only short time (the longest 1 month), is fine. But more than that, I don’t think I will come back to really live and work there without any “very strong” reason.
And the Singaporean? most of them are kiasu and kaypoh and very branded-mind… :) but I guess it’s because of the social culture there.

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Kenneth November 12, 2013 at 11:11 pm

Thanks for the post. I lived in the UK for 15 years of my life, 5 yrs in Oxford for my studies and 10 yrs of working in London. Frankly, quite reluctant to return home when my dad summons arrived. So, as with all good sons of Asian upbringing, we follow the our parents instructions to go home.

Since then, I have already been back here for the past 16 yrs, I have to say that, the last 6 yrs of rapid development in Singapore was tremendous, you have rightly pointed out the economic advancements and the pillars of economy relies on the commerce and science. The government recognise that, in order to have a balance, the society needs more humanities, not that we haven’t any, but the priorities has to ensure that we are well fed before you could think about arts and culture right? Will you have space to think about arts and culture when you are hungry? So, there goes your answer.

So, the focus on balance education brings about revolution in the way our next generation will be brought up, and thus also explain the vibrancy of our art scene, check out http://www.wildrice.com.sg, http://www.necessary.org, http://www.esplanade.com to name a few, with art fairs happening every weekend all across and around town in Singapore, such as Affordable Art Fair http://affordableartfair.com/singapore starting end of Nov 2013 and the the Singapore Biennale currently on-going till 16 Feb 2014. Singapore has a lot to offer from the humanities, especially for its geographical location, its a melting pot of South-East Asian culture. The newly refurbished, formerly known as City Hall will not house the National Art Gallery, scheduled to open in 2015 will have the largest collection of South-East Asian art in the world from the 19th century to present day with a floor area of 60,000 sq metres.

The sterile and stagnant view of Singapore is a thing of the past, for those who have moved out of Singapore, you have left us without witnessing what’s upcoming. I definitely welcome you back to experience it.

While you may also say that, all we have artificial or man-made, but for an island of no natural resources, man-made is the only answer, as all we have are human, where there’s lack of, we import.

For a country with stability, it brings about confidence that this place provides certainty in whatever one endeavours, be it business or life. You know for sure that, the apartment or land you own will appreciate in years to come, and nobody is going to take your asset away because of corruptions.

Singapore, will be a much different city in the years to come, and it is already happening as we speak.

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Amanda November 14, 2013 at 9:20 pm

I can’t agree more with how Kenneth puts it across that we Singapore has done, is doing and will do a great job in prioritizing what is necessary for us to survive and stay relevant in this global society. Without the fundamentals of economic stability and national security, humanities and other social fabrics of life will not flourish. And we can’t stress again how young we are as a nation who started out with close to nothing. I am sure most of us are definitely proud of where we are today and who we can become tomorrow.

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Yeo November 12, 2013 at 11:16 pm

Interesting view! Thanks for sharing. One can only imagine how tough a time local singaporeans are having. Hey, at least being foreigner you have the option to pack up and leave. Most of us born and bred here dont!

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Dave D'aranjo November 12, 2013 at 11:23 pm

Former Singaporean here. Half-American. I grew up there. Refused to serve NS; was seriously fucked over for that decision. To hell with them. Despite my ‘paperwork’ I will always be part Singaporean. Even if I don’t meet their cultural standards of appearance or citizenship. Their loss. I have no doubt that leaving Singapore behind was the very best thing that could have happened to me. I still struggle with it – but it shocked me out of a certain narrow mindset I’d developed. I ended up in NYC. I look at the attitudes of the people I left behind: small-minded, materialistic, frustrated, powerless… stuck in a rut, self congratulatory, petty, and pampered. They bring these attitudes with them overseas, and then scurry back to Singapore wearing a self-drawn “world-class” badge. Why fret about the shadows on the cave wall? I would rather be a guppy in an ocean of color than a whale in a monotone fishbowl.

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qwerty November 13, 2013 at 6:00 pm

-.-|| don’t be dumb dude. obviously you didn’t know why we need to serve this damn national service. that is because we are surrounded by “hostile” countries and you never know when will they attack us (same like israel, korea)

and from your remarks, you are still narrow minded and you probably did the right thing, getting out singapore because you gonna suffer if you continue staying here.

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Dave D'aranjo November 13, 2013 at 6:43 pm

The idea that Singapore “needs” National Service is a myth the government uses to control and limit the potential of male Singapore citizens to serve their needs. It’s illogical that you’d call me narrow-minded when I am calling for a more inclusive society in general. The truth is, real narrow-mindedness lies in the attitudes of Singaporeans like yourself (based on your posts), and the policies of the government you choose to keep in power (based on their actions). Until that power structure realizes that Singaporeans cannot be so starkly pigeon-holed, they will continue to engender bitterness and cause a good number of earnest and talented people – citizens or otherwise – to pack up and leave in exasperation. If you feel that your fellow citizens deserve to suffer by staying in a claustrophobic environment – with no right to demand changes – “leave if you don’t like it – then, well, I wouldn’t be calling others “narrow-minded”.

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Wonil November 12, 2013 at 11:24 pm

Nice post. It is quite similar in Korea. Korea also has undergone 60 years of rapid economic/industrial burst leaving human stuffs behind. I’ve lived in Singapore for 5 years through my elementary~middle school years and came back to Korea for another fierce competitions within educational fields (high school~university). Students keep on committing suicide(i read a news reports about a high school girl’s death few days ago…) because of their univ-entrance exam scores because in Korean educational system, as you’ve mentioned in your post, students are just grown to become ‘limited types of human widgets’ too. Men in Korea have to serve 2 precious years in military confronting the Northern part of the Korean peninsular (which I also have served.. for 27 months..)

I understand how you feel. But even in Korea, the land of unlimited competition and workaholics (which is not their intention, but rather forced by the society), I am quite happy because I dream of my future and absolutely think that it will be much better tomorrow. It doesn’t mean that people should just think optimistically regardless of current sadness. But at least we can start and try to see things a little bit more positively. I don’t know if I’ve talked too naively but I just wish you the best in your new place enjoying the precious days of your life.

화이팅! (Cheer up!)

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Ben November 12, 2013 at 11:32 pm

I lived in Singapore for about 4 months as an exchange student, and I had a very similar experience. I was born in China and moved to the U.S. when I was 11. Culturally, I’m a pretty even split between East and West. As you said, in Singapore I didn’t have any language barrier, but a lot of communication barriers. Its value system reminded me very much of a traditional Chinese society, but in an oddly westernized society.

I guess the overwhelming sense I got from living there was one of construct. Everything was planned out, neatly categorized, and ran with the upmost efficiency. This makes an incredible habitat, but in a way a difficult place to live if you are seeking art and history. It seemed like the government had really smart people who planned everything out, and the people were very happy living within that. Interestingly enough, Singaporeans took a lot of pride in this, especially when comparing themselves to neighboring SE Asian countries like Thailand, Indonesia, and most of all Malaysia, all of which are not as financially well off on a per-capita basis. However, I observed this pride mostly in the Chinese population, who are undeniably the privileged class there. The Indian, Malay, or “Other” people there didn’t join in as much on the pride. Despite its achievement, Singapore remains a society divided by race and class. While this is improving, its presence is certain.

When I left Singapore I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to return again, at least not for another long stay. To me, its best purpose is to be a stop between places. You have to admit, with a really efficient airport, great security, awesome food, and cleanliness, it’s a pretty good place to stop by. However, if I stay for long, sooner or later I’d like to go to an art gallery or a temple or a concert, and those urges can be hard to satisfy there.

I would say though, I have met a lot of very thoughtful native Singaporeans who have the exactly same feelings, especially in the university. When you say Singapore has a high emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields, know that this is true for Asia in general, especially East Asia. If you want to look for high stress in school, look no further than Korea or Japan. What makes Singapore interesting is that its own national identity is still being discovered, being essentially a culturally Chinese country smack in the middle of SE Asia. Its value system reflects a larger issue that has its root, I think, is the struggle between modernizing and westernizing, but that’s another conversation all together.

Overall I had a great time in Singapore, mostly because I met a lot of lifelong friends. However, they were all my fellow exchange students. For the country itself, I left with a pretty lukewarm impression. The most memorable thing about it was how un-memorable it was. The food was great though, you have to give it that at least. Its a great place to stay for a bit, but not to live.

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MALE Singaporean ஜனில் புதுச்சேரி, Professionalism Does NOT Equate With Patriotism December 21, 2013 at 3:26 am

@ben:

IN FACT, in the United States of America (USA), the world’s HIGHE$T PAID minister of FOREIGN AFFAIRS and law mentioned that Singapore is ONLY A CITY, NOT A COUNTRY.

I of course, need NOT mention காசிவிஸ்வநாதன் (“கே”) சண்முகம் by name – you may ALWAYS ASK காசிவிஸ்வநாதன் (“கே”) சண்முகம் to INFORM you HIMSELF.

Best,
“MALE Singaporean DOCTOR ஜனில் புதுச்சேரி, Professionalism Does NOT Equate With Patriotism”

P.S. By the way, considering the conscription and lifelong reservist obligations and regulations, do NOT start me going what happens if a stinkaporean couple has a disproportionately HIGH number of MALE children all born with solely the nationality of a “city, not country” amid the PLUMMETING birth rates.

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Michael November 12, 2013 at 11:57 pm

What I see from most of the comments is that people have the choice to leave. Most of us don’t have that choice.

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YL November 12, 2013 at 11:57 pm

I love it when you say artsy students are deemed as failures. It’s not a place that appreciates design, sadly.

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Mieun November 13, 2013 at 12:26 am

Thank you for this post. I’m a Singaporean myself. To me, everything is pretty good in Singapore. We have good government, safety, jobs and things planned out for us. We have education, social media and opportunities too. It is definitely a place which can provide me with my basic needs.

However, you are right as I am hardly inspired in Singapore. Everyday, I venture out to seek for inspirations, because my university life simply could not give me inspiration. If I have a chance, I travel out to seek inspirations. If not I read stories and watch videos to learn more about the outside world. Currently, I’m in New Zealand, a place which inspires me so much. I learn how to differentiate between living my own life and living a life to meet up to society’s expectation. Because of how our society is structured, I grew up to believe living up to society’s expectation is my happiness and achievement. Pretty sad huh? Still, despite losing more and more unique culture, I would still call Singapore home because it’s my history and a place where all my family and friends are. The inspiration that I could not get in Singapore, I’ll find other ways to seek for it.

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hellno November 13, 2013 at 12:43 am

Singapore is not make for Singaporean, it is make for the pap govt, their family and their elite business partners to enjoy, while the people and the foreigners slave for them and fight among each other to stay afloat. That is their agenda.

I am really sick of the incumbent and hopefully more oppositions will be in the parliament in 2016.

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Jasmine November 13, 2013 at 1:33 am

Hi Danny!

Interesting piece you’ve written there. My mom is a Singaporean married to my Malaysian dad. I asked her a few years back about the thought of returning there but she firmly said No. I could understand why. Singapore is great in many ways but it’s suffocating to live there. If you have heard about the recent cases happening in Singapore mainly focusing on “human rights” issue, you’d be amazed by how ridiculous Singapore has turned into. The minority group is being oppressed, and even stray cats are facing the same problem too!. Having to return there for an annual family visit never fails to impress me on the development Singapore has achieved. It’s a fast paced development but only on the infrastructure wise. I have yet to experience a pleasurable stay in terms of the hospitality treatment given by some Singaporeans; who in my personal opinion are ignorants and selfish.

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Zhang Di November 13, 2013 at 1:42 am

This is an interesting read, though not exactly a refreshing perspective. Having scrolled through all the comments, one thought comes to mind: it seems that we are a “Love us or Hate us” kinda nation. Isn’t this polarising effect a testament in itself of our unique identity and character?

No matter what complaints we may levy against Singapore, I believe many of us possess a strong conviction – Singapore will be here to stay no matter what happens; when great powers of the world falter, we will survive because that is the true Singaporean spirit!

So to all dissenters out there, please take your bigotry with you and pack up and leave. BUT, DO NOT treat us as a stepping stone and tarnish our land with your self-righteous sense of superiority.

FYI, as much as you have no intention of staying in Singapore, just as many Singaporeans have no intention of visiting the US; it is sterile compared to Europe and Americans have often been said to be insular and ignorant of the world at large.

So, to each his own. Yours is just one story among many that is neither representative nor balanced.

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Dave D'aranjo November 13, 2013 at 3:03 am

“So to all dissenters out there, please take your bigotry with you and pack up and leave.”

THAT’S a huge problem with the mindset of many Singaporeans in the first place: the idea that if you don’t agree, you don’t belong as a citizen…. as if dissent and bigotry are the same thing! It is MORE bigoted to say “agree with me or leave my country/go to jail/suffer a defamation lawsuit”. That’s disgustingly chauvinistic patriotism: “my country right or wrong”. The lack of self-awareness is mind-boggling. A more civil society tolerates dissent as a force to keep governmental power in check. A more vibrant and open society embraces a diversity of opinions, from which creativity flows. The tragedy of Singapore is that too many intelligent dissenters have been compelled to leave due to the overbearing policies and opinions of bigots like Zhang Di.

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Zhang Di November 13, 2013 at 6:55 am

Hi Dave,

Firstly, I’m sorry you had such a traumatic experience growing up in Singapore. However, you only paint a one-sided picture of what it is to live here. There are lots of other people like me who love Singapore and proudly call this place our home. This is an undeniable fact, and no amount of whining will write us off.

Dissent is all fine and dandy. Personally, I’m pro-dissent provided it is constructive and brings about positive changes. Citizens can, and should, adopt a critical (as opposed to blindly criticising) attitude to participate in the public discourse. But non-citizens who lack a genuine understanding of what Singapore is made of, especially those who are only in transit here for a few months, should not judge us from an outsider’s perspective. This reeks of ethnocentrism and makes Danny’s opinion nothing more as another rant, as observed by Guangjun. The added fact that his post is founded on flimsy statistics makes it even more misleading and frivolous.

That said, I fully agree with you on changing mindsets, but not just that of Singaporeans. I always abide by the philosophy that our life is only as interesting as we choose to make it. If he finds it dull here, it just means he didn’t try hard enough to explore and integrate. Change your mindset, and you will change your life. If you are searching for the perfect life in America, I sincerely hope you will find it.

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Dave D'aranjo November 13, 2013 at 10:13 am

I, too, once felt unique and proud to be half-Singaporean. But once I became old enough to be aware of the country’s conservative international reputation – caning, censorship, chewing gum, death for drugs, etc. – explaining this aspect of my identity became hurtful and tiresome. THEN, the government started demanding that I show up for Basic Training: it wasn’t enough that I “proudly [called that] place [my] home”. I was told that I better fucking prove it. Join the military? Nobody ever asked my opinion. The National Service issue was, of course, the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. So I disagreed. “Fine and dandy”, you say? Your CMPB and ICA made my life a living legal hell for years because of this. In Singapore, you can say your are “pro-dissent”, but the ones with the real power wield a larger stick. Their mantra isn’t “live & let live”. Their policy is: “NS, or jail, or exile”. I was 18. A kid being told that he would never come home again; never see his family again. So, yeah, I’m a little angry about that when reminded.

You know what your analogy sounds like? I’ll use mostly your words but change the scenario:
“I’m sorry you had such a traumatic experience being molested. However, you only paint a one-sided picture of your relative. There are lots of other people like me who love him and proudly call him a family member. This is an undeniable fact, and no amount of whining will write that off.” 

NO, I wasn’t molested. That is just a semantic example. The point I’m making is: there are major social problems in Singapore that nobody is addressing. Those who dissent get seriously screwed by the government – meanwhile, society turns a blind eye or tries to rationalize these outrages of rights. It is just Singapore? No, of course I worry about America’s terrible reputation too. (I was born with both citizenships). But, I can’t deny that my life has generally improved since I settled in the US. Years after the fact, and despite living in a new city with wonderful people and opportunities and successes unlike anything that was possible for me in Singapore, I can still read an article like this and remember the mistreatment and insulting behavior of the Singaporean authorities against my right to be free of involuntary servitude. And it still stings.

If I tell non-Singaporeans that I am from Singapore, they often say, “oh, that’s where they caned that guy for chewing gum, right?”. Cringe. If I tell Singaporeans I’m from Singapore, they look me up and down and say, “you don’t look Singaporean”. And the 2nd fucking question is always, “you do NS?”. And sometimes, when I say no, they say, “what you, a coward?”.

FUCK THAT. I cannot change who I am or where I am from and there should not be some sort of bullshit racial or military “test” to determine whether I am a proud Singaporean or not. To hell with that mentality. Can you possibly imagine how insulting it would be if someone said, “you don’t look American” to ANYONE over here? That, Zhang Di, is what I mean when I talk about an inclusive multiracial society. Not propaganda on National Day; “4 races 1 nation”. That is a distracting and xenophobic mentality - paternalistic militarism – and, if you and I agree on anything, it is that this and other aspects of the current mindset need to change. Especially as more mixed-race, multicultural and multi-nationality kids come of age in Singapore. The Singaporean demographic is changing so, so quickly.

So there’s your dissent. And furthermore, I DO believe that an “outsider” can very well come into Singapore and get a sense of things in only a few months. As I responded to another comment, “obviously not see every corner of the island or have every wonderful potential experience – but surely within a few months one can get the general idea of which way the winds blow, so to speak.” It happens all the time all over the world. It is the author’s right to express his observations, your right to express your opinion, and my right to recount my experience. Freedom of ideas is not something the PAP can quash in the internet age.

Ultimately, this isn’t about me or anyone “searching for the perfect life in America”, or wherever. There is no perfect life or perfect country or city. I do know that my opportunities, awareness, skills and general happiness have improved so much since I left Singapore. It seems that there are other commenters who felt stifled there as well and report that leaving was a good move. Like everyone else, I just want to feel happy and proud of my heritage – not vilified or unnecessarily outcast. I’d love for Singapore’s international reputation to NOT be a sterile “Disneyland with the death penalty”. I’d love for my home to be a more open, accepting society that values artistic pursuits more, and doesn’t steamroll those KIDS who see themselves doing something more productive than the STEM / NS prescription. I’d love for Danny Dover’s editorial to not make any fucking sense to me – but unfortunately it makes perfect sense. Singapore has the potential to be so much greater than it already is, and it just seems that the past few years have been dedicated to quantity, not quality – flash, not substance. Demolish the shophouses; put up another condo. Come see Shrek at Universal Studios. Jail the Sticker Lady. “Uniquely Singapore”? Not anymore. Now it’s “Your Singapore”. To the highest bidder.

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Chak Lau November 13, 2013 at 2:18 am

Nicely put. As a Malaysian who spent 15 years (kindergarten, high school and half of JC) in Singapore, I couldn’t agree more that “Pride” is the driving factor behind Singapore’s success, as well as downfall.

Which is why I left JC (and also because I refused to serve military service) to Australia and furthered my education there. 5 years after that I went back to Malaysia and since then, I was always asked:

“Would you go back to Melbourne?” – “In a heartbeat,” I’d say.
“Would you go back to Singapore?” – Instead, there would always be a long pause and I’d always think of what is there worth going back for. I had a handful of good friends but never really stayed in touch with though it’d be nice to catch up with them.

But other than that -no, I really can’t think of any reasons why I’d get my ass off to an airplane or drive 4.5 hours to Singapore. Glancing past the comments, I completely agree that all in all, Singapore is not a country built to secure its citizens’ happiness, but merely the ‘growth’ of the country.

Even with the 5th November hacking incident, the hacker isn’t spared the rights he deserves. I’d like to think that Singapore is a fair and democratic country that advocates things like freedom of speech and complete transparency but it is still quite a gray area to me unfortunately.

It’s nice to see that there might be some Singaporeans truly happy in Singapore but I’m sure it’d be interesting to actually ask each and every Singaporean in Singapore whether they are, indeed – truly happy.

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Dave D'aranjo November 13, 2013 at 6:30 pm

Just want to say kudos to you for having the foresight to avoid NS. If I ever have a family, I will do everything I can to ensure my children are never forced into service as well. All the best.

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ybba November 13, 2013 at 2:19 am

Hi, I hope you don’t mind me sharing my opinion.

Before I begin, let me share a bit of my background, to give what I am about to say some context. I am a Singaporean Chinese student who has lived my whole life here. I have been through various tiers of schools in the education system here and lived in various types of housing as well. However, I was not born here. Therefore I have two passports – one from my country of birth, a very advanced and affluent Western country. Growing up, I had always despised Singapore for being very one-track, boring, uncreative, “do anything also must pay money, go anywhere also must pay money”, generally too small for my dreams. I swore that I would renounce my Singaporean citizenship, grab my Western passport, and get the @#$% out of here. Unexpectedly, I wound up studying law in a Singaporean university and in the past 2 years I have finally come to understand and appreciate my country and my leaders’ contributions to it. The result is that I am blown away by how wrong I have gotten Singapore, and am now in a serious dilemma which passport to keep.

Let me now address some things you have written –
“One answer is pride. Every student in Singapore starts their day by vocally and harmoniously declaring their pride in their country. Similarly, they start each class by verbally acknowledging their teachers. Unlike most schools, Singapore mandates curriculum on empathy and cultural understanding. The wars of foreign countries are studied in school so that the mistakes of others will not be repeated by Singaporeans.”
Actually, this is not about pride, or at least not predominantly about pride. Allow me to correct you in that we do not only sing the national anthem and say the pledge every morning, but we also sing our school songs. So this is not just about pride but also identity. And frankly, nothing wrong with that. I would actually feel uneasy if a foreigner approaches a Singaporean and he/she does not even know her national anthem or pledge. As for acknowledging our teachers – that is not pride but respect. This is an old Asian value – respect for scholars and teachers. Since ancient times, in Asian civilizations at least, the educated have been held in highest regard. What you see is a continuation of this value of respect today. Neither do I see what is wrong with learning from other peoples’ mistakes – Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others. If we can avoid falling down the same trap by opening our eyes and ears, why not??

I would comment on the national service (military) misconception but I think I saw that another commenter already took care of that. On a side note, you wrote “[a]gain, pride is the outcome”. I’m a bit confused here because at first you framed pride as a cause/motivating factor but now it is a result/outcome. Anyway, the reason/motivating factor is necessity, because if we don’t defend ourselves, who will?? (As other commenters have pointed out, relying on allies did not turn out so well for us last we tried.) And the outcome is maturity and growth. Many NS boys resent their time but if you grab an average Singaporean man off the street I trust (and hope) that he will say he does not regret his time in NS and actually looks upon many NS memories fondly.

You are correct when you say that “Singapore was founded with an extreme sense of the necessity of survival.” With regard to Singapore’s emphasis on math and science, Singaporeans consistently do the nation proud in international competitions and I think that is a cause for celebration! Whether it is math and science or languages and humanities I think it is great that a country pushes its student population to achieve excellence rather than taking a laissez-faire stance. While I agree that the arts do not receive as much attention as they deserve (e.g. in my time, 3 schools in Singapore clinched top prizes at the Barcelona Dance Awards, a very prestigious amateur dance competition, while a sports team in Singapore lost, but the sports team got front page coverage and the dance teams only got a small column in the papers), this is changing. For instance, there is the School of the Arts catered to students pursuing careers in the performing arts. Singapore also has a strong history of winning the prestigious Angus Ross Prize. Just to give you an idea, we face competitors from Europe, Australia and NZ..etc, to beat these other students is no small feat and surely says something about the standard of arts education and arts talent in Singapore, no?

I think it unfair that you take a dig at Singapore’s land reclamation in order to build the casinos. Singapore is such a small island that land is scarce. You can only build buildings so high. More importantly, the casinos are hardly the only land reclamation projects undertaken in Singapore. Before them were Punggol (residential area) and Pulau Semakau (landfill). I object to your (perhaps unintentional) portrayal of Singapore’s land reclamation efforts as profit-driven only, seeing as other land reclamation projects were undertaken to fulfill the Singaporean people’s needs.

As for your point on rising suicide rates, I have to point out that as the population booms in size in Singapore, so will rates of suicide, accidents,..etc causes of death. So rising numbers of suicide cases are hardly conclusive. Furthermore, other commenters have also pointed out that Singapore’s suicide rates are very low when compared globally.

Unfortunately, you are right when you say that Singapore is being diluted by influx of foreigners. That is definitely something we need to look into. Yet this is difficult as with strong globalizing forces, borders are disappearing and the movement of people around the world is taking place at unprecedented rates. Of course, this is no excuse for letting our Singaporean people and identity be eroded and washed away in tides of foreign influence.

Finally, I believe that many commenters before me have already expressed this, and I defer to them – that it is, in our eyes at least, better to experience “happy problems” than “worrying problems”. One can never be too safe, or too crime-free, or too drug-free, or too peaceful. If I want a bit of adventure, that’s what travel is for. But at the end of the day, when it comes to choosing a place to build a home and set up my own family, Singapore remains one of the best choices in the world, with its commendable self-sufficiency in resources (for instance we managed to overcome reliance on Malaysia for water), defence (we are doing our best with a civilian army), government (many things to complain about but just as many – if not more – to be thankful for, and education.

At the end of the day, NOTHING AGAINST YOU PERSONALLY but Singapore is an Asian society, and one should not use a Western framework to evaluate or analyse us as chances are that one will get us wrong.

TL;DR afraid you have seen much but misunderstood much as well

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Helen November 13, 2013 at 2:21 am

Please let us know your thoughts after you leave Singapore for a year.

You will have another article for the compassion of life between Singapore and country you choose right now.

after living in Singapore for 17 years before I moved to Australia, I never stop my idea to return to Singapore in some days. Only after I leave Singapore and start to make a living somewhere else, not a holiday, I come to know how good Singapore it is, it is the best place for a Chinese, that is my home.

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RJ November 13, 2013 at 3:16 am

Thanks for your insight about Singapore. Its your own opinion about Singapore and I fully respect that.

However… you hardly mentioned anything about the sights.. the smells.. the experience of your trip that has turned you off so badly that you would put in a strong word like NEVER. Yeah.. I’d get that you prefer not to come back and if you have could were planning another trip.. you’d probably choose another place to go… Trust me.. I have my own travel preferences too.. There are some countries I would go over and over again and never get tired of it.. and there are some countries where I felt “once is enough”.

Instead you brought up historical background, accomplishments, suicide statistics, economy etc etc which truthfully stuff you can surf through the internet if you spent a bit of effort reading on the multitudes of information out there. You did not really have travel to Singapore to form that sort of opinion that Singapore is a country not worth returning to. I would not be surprised if some people may already formed an opinion that Singapore would not be a travel destination high in their list just knowing all this.

Am just saying in every country, has its own history and background. That’s pretty much set in stone and there’s little you can about it.. but every traveller’s experience is different. It’s not completely fair to form a travel judgement based on those facts alone.

In short, I pretty much get that your experience in Singapore was sterile but that is about all I could get about your trip.

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kel November 13, 2013 at 3:26 am

singapore….its a clockwork country…everything is smooth…but lifeless….sighs….

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Kevin J. November 13, 2013 at 3:37 am

Hey over there, as a Singaporean who left for over 7-8 years, and have been living in North America, now Japan, and eventually South Korea and Australia, I have absolutely no intention whatsoever of returning. Explaining my situation to the Japanese who have rather superficial understandings of Singapore and its social and spiritual makeup is somewhat moot, and I never make an effort to, just stating that my real home is Canada although I was born in Singapore and lived there during my childhood and teenage years. Some people actually probably had it worse back in Singapore, and I believe that you are probably ‘luckier’ to have an uneventful and unfulfilling time back there, or otherwise, you probably would have done worse things such as hurting yourself and committing suicide the way some of the others did. The rat race that Singapore built itself upon, in other words the pillars of materialism and a narrow definition of success, is probably not sustainable in the long run emotionally and spiritually, but perhaps, that is what Singaporeans over there have learned to anaesthesize themselves to day by day.

I have never really looked back and missed it, although I know that my family misses me. But then again, living there is immensely unrewarding and unhappy as an experience on many fronts. I do believe for various reasons that deep down inside, I was called to leave it since a young age, and that explains my move to North America at all costs(even financial ones). By the way, a good post in general, except that one phrase “it’s spirit stagnates”. It should read as “its spirit stagnates”. Most people confuse the contraction of “it is” (it’s) with the possessive pronoun of “its”.

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Tanvi November 13, 2013 at 4:21 am

Hi Danny,

I am sorry your experience in Singapore was so flat. With all due respect, I do not believe an entire country, with several different races, not just one cultural heritage but in fact four different ones, the financial hub of asia, the first step for most MNC’s expansion plans into Asia, and a country of peace and democracy, has absolutely nothing that inspires you. Singapore must be doing something right that draws so many people to settle here on an annual basis.

I am certain this is the most diverse experience you will have in Asia. Perhaps the time you spent in Singapore only allowed you to see it from surface level. However, beneath Singapore’s barbie doll face, there is engraved culture and heritage. Singapore manages to house 4 different cultural zones to give their citizens a cultural connection to their origins (Kampong Glam, Little India, Chinatown, Holland Village). I am aware that Singaporeans underestimate this, and that is probably what led you to falling into this perception.

I would defend Singapore further by stating my nationality and the countries I have culturally explored to validate my argument and make comparisons, however i do not feel it is necessary as I believe a discussion based on just Singapore is sufficient to prove my point. I urge you to visit Singapore again with an open mind this time. Inspiration stems from within, and is largely a matter of your willingness to be inspired.

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Alvin November 13, 2013 at 4:29 am

Hi,

I just wanted to say good luck with your new life! I did exactly the same a number of years back, and am a much happier person.

I think that to a large extend, it boils down to matter of what you want out of life. I knew at some point that I could not treat myself in a way where day to day living felt like a mere subsistence.

No matter how difficult things are now, I still think that it was the best decision I ever could have made. All the best!

Alvin

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Nicole November 13, 2013 at 4:30 am

I’m a Singaporean and have lived in Singapore for a very good majority of my life. My primary and part of my secondary school years were spent in local schools while my high school years were spent in an international school in Singapore. I’ve traveled quite a bit and I’m now studying a bachelor’s degree in Australia. Having said all that, i’ve talked to, shared experiences with and learnt about so many different cultures from people all over the world.

Firstly, let me say that as a traveller, every country has its ups and downs, no country is perfect. But the reason that you travel is because you want to experience and live in a culture other than your own. Something new, something different. I could complain about the corruption in one country, or the way everything is so slow moving that nothing gets done in another but i will never ever ever say that i won’t go back to that country because of their flaws.

Moving on from that, like many of the people have said above, Singapore is merely 5 decades old, that is a far cry from the hundreds of years that cities such as London have on us. We are young, growing, adapting and aiming for the possibilities we can achieve. Sure the educational system in Singapore seems hell bent on bringing up superb students in the sciences and mathematics, but as someone mentioned above, our local arts scene is growing and will grow, slowly but surely. Also, at the end of the day, WE ARE AN ASIAN COUNTRY. (Insert stereotypical asian joke here). Asian cultures in general have evolved from the notions of respect, pride, drive for success. You think Singapore has no heritage? We have all the above. Sure, we are becoming more and more influenced by the established west in terms of music, housing concepts, food and even fashion, but if you know where to look, you’ll find little nooks that maintain the traditional cultures of our ancestors past.

Right from the very start, Singapore has been a mixing pot of cultures. From our early days we were well known for our deep waters and for being a convenient transit point for ships travelling from the east to west and vice versa. Because of this, we drew people from all over the world to this tiny island. And this is clearly reflected in our people and food. Singapore holds varieties upon varieties of options that can cater to both rich and the not so well to do. In how many places can you get a bowl of noodles for $3 dollars or less but just a short drive away can indulge in Japanese cuisine for hundreds of dollars a plate.

Every year, streets in Singapore are fashioned to the occasions of different cultures. Chinese New Year, Deepavali, Hari raya and Christmas. During Halloween, events are put up at Sentosa. Tell me, how many countries will do that? Sure, that can attributed to our little size but isn’t that just another good thing about Singapore? You say that the foreigners are overtaking the population of Singapore and that we are open to it? The former may be true but truth is, I don’t think many Singaporeans are happy about it as we think that the foreigners are taking up our jobs.

Like someone has mentioned above, Singaporeans tend to be more shy with foreigners. Maybe the ‘conversations’ you’ve heard are just because of that? I can’t speak for the working class in Singapore but i do know that when my friends and I are together, the LAST THING we would want to talk about is work. But maybe that is just because we aren’t working yet. I do understand about ‘talking beyond niceties’ though. Coming to Australia, everyone you talk to asks you how you are, even if they don’t know you at all, and they thank the bus drivers when they get off. In Singapore, all that is unlikely to happen but theres a common understanding between Singaporeans that just because you don’t do that, doesn’t mean you are definitely a rude person. I think that Singaporeans, maybe Asians in general, just simply keep to themselves more. As a foreigner, you may find that weird, but it works for us, so we keep doing it.

Finally I would just like to say that, NOT EVERY CITIZEN HAS TO SERVE NATIONAL SERVICE, only fit MEN have to. With a country of such a small size, its reasonable to want to be able to protect yourself in case something should ever happen. And with such a small population, how else are you going to get the man power to do so without making it mandatory. Our neighbouring country chooses people from both genders and whether you get chosen for NS all depends on your luck. Every country does it differently, but it’s in the best interest of its leaders to do what they feel is best. Singapore’s government believes it is best to maintain our current choice and we just have to trust that it is.

There are a great deal of people who would stand by their country and call it home. Personally, after being in Australia for an extended period of time, returning to Singapore for the holidays would be the icing on the cake. I guess everyone will have different opinions of things and thats exactly the point of keeping blogs – to voice your opinion to the world. But ‘never’ is a strong word and in a few decades, Singapore might just surprise you.

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Ex-Expat November 13, 2013 at 4:37 am

Most Singaporeans are already foreigners. They are 2nd /3rd generation immigrants from China and India.

Indigenous Malays make up a small part of the population. Therefore, the amount of xenophobic rhetoric that one encounters from many Singaporeans is really alarming.

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DyslexicAtheist November 13, 2013 at 4:46 am

very nice post.
I lived in SG between 1995 and 2000. It was exactly like that and also my reason for leaving.
It’s a great place to go and spend money (for those who have it) but to live and work every day just numbs you down.
People put up with it because everything is so “close and convenient” (they mean shops). What I still miss is the food though :)

When it comes to vibrant places in Asia I still prefer Indonesia, Japan, Hong-Kong …
Anyway the world is to small to stay forever in one place :)
Hope you land on your feet wherever it is you are off to!

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Adrienne November 13, 2013 at 4:55 am

“During my months in Singapore” <– enough said. Dude, you weren't here long enough to get beneath the surface. That is all.

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Dave D'aranjo November 13, 2013 at 6:09 am

I think it is possible, yes, to get the gist of a place within a few months – obviously not see every corner of the island or have every wonderful potential experience – but surely within a few months one can get the general idea of which way the winds blow, so to speak. I’m not sure how many months you’ve been teaching at UWC, but to live that privileged expat life and then seemingly point fingers regarding who is or isn’t “beneath the surface”… sorry, I don’t buy it. The fact that many citizens (and former citizens, such as myself) express similar feelings of grave disenchantment with the current Singapore situation speaks volumes. Many of my friends are deeply frustrated with how the country has developed, and how Singapore is portrayed internationally. Some of my family members have emigrated, as well. And those that stay say “Good riddance”. (Scroll up to see earlier comments such as “all dissenters out there, please take your bigotry with you and pack up and leave… with your self-righteous sense of superiority.” HMMMMMM.

Let me ask you…. by your standards, what is “enough time” for an “outsider” to get “beneath the surface”? Eight months? One year? Five? What does “beneath the surface” even mean? How does it invalidate the author’s observed criticisms of the country?

Here’s some truth from life experience. My mother is American and has lived in Singapore since the 70′s. Despite all the time, and despite marrying a Singaporean… she’s not “beneath the surface”. I myself was born there & grew up in Singapore (24 or so years of my life). I’m not “beneath the surface” either, by a long shot – just another “ang mo never do NS”. Singapore is where I am from, it is home, and I miss many things about it terribly. But on the rare occasions that I do return there, I am, without fail, constantly reminded that I am an outsider in my home country.

A harmonious, multicultural society? Truth is, I didn’t know what multiculturalism WAS until I left Singapore behind. But please… let us all know what it is like “beneath the surface” when you get there.

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Adrienne November 13, 2013 at 10:21 pm

Hi – I don’t think there was anything in my brief reply that implied I *know* what’s beneath the surface… ? I don’t know, actually… Nor did my reply assume that anyone “lives there.” I also didn’t say anything about “harmonious multicultural society.” You’ve injected several assumptions into your reply that I didn’t allude to at all. I’m rather confused by the purpose of your response. What kind of reply are you hoping to get from me? What would you like to know?

My point simply was (and continues to be) that living in a place for a matter of months doesn’t give one much (any?) depth into what makes society tick. One’s perceptions can only be on the surface. As for the “how long does it take to get beneath the surface” question which I *think* is what you’re actually trying to ask — my response is that it’s probably different for everyone… I don’t think there is a set expiry date, but I’m fairly certain it’s more than a year. For some, maybe it’s more than 30. This would be a rich topic for discussion.

I’m still exploring, and hope to continue for a good long time. I’ve been here for more than “months” – I am well into year 3 now. But I’m not sure that’s relevant to the question your asking. I’m not sure what question you’re asking at all, really. Happy to clarify further. If you’re looking for personal information about me, it’s all available via the link. I’ve lived a lot of different places… but again, I’m not sure how (if?) that’s relevant.

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Zhang Di November 14, 2013 at 5:15 pm

Hi Adrienne,

Im sorry you had to be subjected to his illogical rants. Here is one person on a warpath with anybody who is unable to sympathise with his tragic predicament. And it’s obvious to all that his personal agenda about NS has negated the value of his numerous posts.

I wish you a wonderful journey filled with surprises in exploring my country. :-)

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GreaterFool November 13, 2013 at 5:01 am

I’ve been living in Singapore for a while now and I very much agree with you. I am also getting out of here and will not come back!

There’s a level of blandness here that’s crushing me. I am paid quite well and my job is easygoing and I don’t have to worry about much. 100% stress free. It drives me crazy! I see no challenges and people I work with are uninspiring at best. People here have no passions. Don’t even bother asking what were they up to over the weekend; “oh I went to see a movie and shopping”. I’ve heard it so many times it isn’t even funny. Granted, this place is tiny but still. Go clubbing and you’ll see a huge crowd of people just *standing* on the dance floor. The weird communication barrier is there. Singaporeans look down at each other; Chinese, Malay, Indians. They have their own racial tensions. Each group hangs out with their own. So many young people speak poor English. Sigh.

Why am I still here? Partially it’s just plain inertia. Weather never changes and every day is the same. Tomorrow is the same as today. Then you blink and months pass.

But that’s only a part of the answer. I’ve found a hobby that’s been occupying all my waking hours. Day after day after day. Week after week. So the time kinda went by, not necessarily unproductively.

But enough is enough. I need to get out before it’s too late! I set myself a deadline. When the time comes I’m gonna go. Not sure where to and what I’m gonna do when I get there but one thing for sure, I can’t stay here.

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Troy November 13, 2013 at 5:19 am

Damn that sounds bad, im a student and im still wondering what im gonna do with my life. But i think im gonna pursue my passion even though its unrealistic and theres army a whole load of crap that would stop me. I hope you would find someplace or something interesting too, maybe the problem lies in you not having a passion? Maybe? cause i know a whole lot of people in singapore that still have passion, hopes and dreams although it really pains me that many dont go for it cause its ”unrealistic”.

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San November 13, 2013 at 5:10 am

Life is what you make of it.

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Troy November 13, 2013 at 5:14 am

Couldnt agree more with artsy students losing out in Singapore :/ i myself am a pianist in singapore and i watched many of my music friends pursue business and other more ”realistic” jobs rather than going for what they love, its actually a pretty sad reality. :( life is fine, its safe and im living happily but im really troubled if i should actually go for whats realistic or what i love.

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LT November 13, 2013 at 7:49 am

You have to determine your what you mean by realistic. I believe what you actually mean is job security. The false image of having a secure job which pays out a regular income monthly. I’m sorry to hear about your music friends who chose to take up a “realistic” job but ultimately its made by their personal choice, and not by circumstances they face (unless its parental objections which is not uncommon).

Just to put things into perspective, my university mate decided to pursue a career music despite graduating with a business degree (totally irrelevant to music, took four years of her life and hell lot of money) which can land her a comfortable job with the big companies. She now teaches in a music school, puts in far less hours then most people in Singapore, earns a pretty good pay (graduate level) has time to work on her own projects and recently started a music program for the underprivileged with her church. Do you deem this as an unrealistic path? In addition, many of friends from arts college in Singapore do are also doing very well in the visual arts field, and the arts market is growing, with plenty of support for new, younger local artist works.

Anyway, this is probably a question that can be made anywhere else in the world. Even artist in Europe, US often struggle at the start to establish themselves, and to many people, it not a risk they are willing to take. The term “starving artist” does not originate from Singapore.

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dover's danny November 13, 2013 at 5:23 am

Thankful another foreigner leaves this city for (Singapore’s) good I might add. You disappoint me as a well-traveled person, but then again, it’s hard to imagine a person of your attribute to be a well-lived person. If you have really spend time and lived in Singapore, I trust your writing would have more depth.

Nonetheless your conceited belief of how a life ought to be led, reminds me to be grateful of the Singaporean spirit for it is what builds me to be where I am and would be. Gratitude.

PS. http://website.informer.com/lifelisted.com

I’m flabbergasted that you even made it to the ranked, I hope your visitors are discernible to recognise your bigotry. Go do something else, do not write and mislead readers. Thank you.

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David November 13, 2013 at 6:28 am

dover’s danny, I have mixed feelings about your response. On the one hand, you’re right that Danny’s post lacks depth, so I agree with your main point. On the other hand, anybody who starts a post with “Thankful another foreigner leaves this city” and then accuses someone else of bigotry should look in the mirror.

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dover's danny November 13, 2013 at 5:24 am

I might add, perhaps it’s the silly contention your writing draws this volume of visitors! =)

Go do something else that earns your healthy attention!

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Le Vi Thanh November 13, 2013 at 5:50 am

Dear Mr Danny,

Although I couldn’t agree more on your point of “spirit stagnates” for major population of Singaporean, I’d say it’s a bit unfair and sad for Singaporeans to say how you wont return to Singapore.

I’m a foreigner living, working and studying in Singapore for more than 5 years. That may not be a long period, but I guess should be sufficient to know and understand about this little island. Some days I woke up, I hate going to work. I hate seeing my boss for all the stresses they gonna dump on me. I stand on MRT staring at people and just wish I could get out of here, maybe to Thailand, Indonesia or wherever.

Yes, I agree, it’s stressful. And although people seem to discuss mainly 2 things: work & food most of the time, it’s not their fault to be like this. I believe you’d have known the major difficulty of Singapore is the lack of natural resources. Because of that, they’d have no other options but to rely on Brown agenda – human resources/economical & finance strategy/r&d etc… and to create such a mass pool of scientist, mathematicians or human widgets as you mentioned.

Everyone yearns for a peaceful life, Mr Danny. But sometime people are just born without it.
I remember there are two simple quote: “One man’s food might be another man’s poison” and “Sometimes you can’t wait for the storm to pass, you just have to dance in the rain”

There are mornings I hate Singapore. But I can’t say I won’t return. And I can’t tell others not to visit Singapore also. Because I believe each countries have their own distinctive characteristics. A change in landscape and culture.
Wouldn’t Singapore deserve a place in your “amazing places in the world”? Even though it’s a bad place to visit. I meant, if everything’s good in this world, how can you really know it’s good when you don’t have a contrary thing to compare to?

I hope you get my points cause my English’s not very good. I’ll give you another example. My country Vietnam is full of dirty food. I feel lucky to be here in Singapore. But should I say “I’ll never return to Vietnam?” (I’m not a patriot, believe me). I’d have to think of my family (staying in Vietnam) who endure the fate they’re given (which they can’t break out) and how they keep living on and on.

I’d be such a bastard to speak I’ll never return to Vietnam, just because I have a better life than other people.

There’s no hard feeling here Mr Danny,
Looking forward to hearing from you soon :D

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starlight November 13, 2013 at 5:58 am

Hi there, I am actually a Singaporean. (though my parents are actually Malaysians and older generations came from China) Well, I actually share similar thoughts with you. To be truthful, I myself is only a fifteen year old, currently still studying in a Singapore Secondary School. It’s really really competitive to study or work in Singapore, and in school, I have seen many cases of fake friendship and betrayals just for the sake of achieving great results. I found it really saddening.

My school holidays have just started about three weeks ago, and I have been returning to school everyday for extra lessons, co-curricular activities, and I still have camp and school trips to go for next week. It’s stressful and makes students mentally tired (physically tired too, of course). This actually only shows how competitive studying in Singapore actually is. I barely have time for my family and friends, and I feel really bad (I have to go back to school on my mother’s birthday too, and I feel really bad for not being able to spend time with her).

Having lived here for fifteen years, I still don’t feel the connection to it, even though I call it my “home”. Maybe some might disagree with me, but I have a lot of same-aged friends who feel the same. Singaporeans here aim to achieve what society actually thinks is the best, but not for themselves. I feel that we have lost our roots, and many of us are losing ourselves in this small city. Yes, I am thankful that Singapore has provided me a good education and living environment, but still, this place doesn’t suit me. The people here are kind of cold and not really welcoming to foreigners (even China workers, when all Chinese were actually from that same country).

There are kind and good people around, but not many. There are people for feel that Singapore is a place they want to stay at forever, but it’s only them. I have asked around and discussed this topic with my classmates and the students from my school before. Many of them feel the same way as I do. Maybe we’re still young. Maybe we are not exposed to the society well enough yet. But that’s just how we feel towards living and studying in Singapore at the moment.

There are students here who were once Malaysians and Chinese that came from China, and they told me that they feel like returning to their home country. I don’t blame them though, because I really feel like this place is not my home and I also want to return to China, my supposed hometown and experience life there one day.

I support your view and thank you for sharing this. Don’t mind those who call you a foreigner and say that you don’t really know much about Singapore. Even someone who came from Singapore and lived here for fifteen years can feel like this, so what more can they say. Plus, I’m pretty much open and accepting of people from other countries. Singapore is mostly made up of Chinese people who anyway, and they are not the original community of people living here right from the start anyway.

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formerMsian November 16, 2013 at 2:16 am

As a former Malaysian myself, I studied as hard if not harder to go to U. Sure there are a few public universities there but any idea how many places available to non-bumi? What opportunities are there for someone from poor socioeconomic status to climb up the social ladder? I’m forever grateful to Singapore for giving me, a poor foreigner, the opportunity which was denied by my own country. As one pointed out earlier, try to live for sometime in China / Malaysia and fully immersed yourself into the system – education, healthcare, transportation, safety etc. I guess one might get inspired and experienced a more spiritual life after that.

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MALE Singaporean ஜனில் புதுச்சேரி, Professionalism Does NOT Equate With Patriotism December 19, 2013 at 7:21 pm

@AUSTRALIAN CITIZEN 張艾美 ‘s/ 张艾美’s BIRTHPLACE (formermsian):

Kuala Lumpur had the HIGHE$T per-capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the Asia-Pacific region since the beginning of the century (in 2001, காசிவிஸ்வநாதன் (“கே”) சண்முகம்’s “CITY, NOT COUNTRY” was ranked SIXTH).

As a former Malaysian YOURSELF, you OUGHT to know better.

No regards,
“MALE Singaporean ஜனில் புதுச்சேரி, Professionalism Does NOT Equate With Patriotism”

——–

“These aliens are [in Singapore] to work and contribute economically. [… and] WHO WOULD WANT TO COME [to Singapore if we compel them to adhere to a passport with nine (9) months of validity with subsequent extensions of the tantamount duration until sixteen (16)-and-half years of age, years of full-time military conscription (‘NSF’), lifelong reservist (‘NSman’) liability and exit permit applications as well as restrictions that we IMPOSE on ALL our local lads, no matter how many MALE children the parents conceive]?

THEY WILL LEAVE!”

– 楊康海 / 杨康海

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“MALE Singaporean DOCTOR ஜனில் புதுச்சேரி, Professionalism Does NOT Equate With Patriotism” December 19, 2013 at 7:25 pm

IN FACT, in the United States of America (USA), the world’s HIGHE$T PAID minister of FOREIGN AFFAIRS and law mentioned that Singapore is ONLY A CITY, NOT A COUNTRY.

I of course, need NOT mention காசிவிஸ்வநாதன் (“கே”) சண்முகம் by name – you may ALWAYS ASK காசிவிஸ்வநாதன் (“கே”) சண்முகம் to INFORM you HIMSELF.

Best,
“MALE Singaporean DOCTOR ஜனில் புதுச்சேரி, Professionalism Does NOT Equate With Patriotism”

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Chris Goh November 13, 2013 at 5:59 am

You should get a mountain bike during your stay in Singapore and join one of the mountain bike groups here. You have no idea what you missed!

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Greg November 13, 2013 at 6:19 am

I’m an American who has lived in Singapore for almost nine years, in two very different jobs, in two very different parts of the city-state. Singapore has a lot of challenges, but the oversimplifications and generalisations in this glib article don’t do Singapore or Singaporeans any favours. (I’ve been here long enough that my spell-check is set to British English).

Let’s take National Service (NS). Dover writes: “after graduating, every citizen is required to do active service in the military.” This is wrong on at least three points, which is impressive for a sentence that short: 1) NS is not required of all citizens, only men; 2) NS is also required of male permanent residents who turn 18 in Singapore, and 3) it’s an age requirement, not a graduation requirement.

He goes on to write that “pride is the result” of the NS requirement, in that part of the article that seems devoted to unqualified praise of Singapore’s success. Really? Pride alone? Yes, male Singaporeans are proud of their service in NS, but plenty — especially younger Singaporeans — also resent it, resent the foreigners and women who don’t have to do it and who they believe get an upper leg in society as a result. I’ve had Singaporean men explain away sexual harassment of women — harassment they witnessed first hand — on the grounds of the hazing they received during NS. If “sense of pride” is the only thing Dover has to say about NS in Singapore, even after months of living here, I’m not surprised he never had deep conversations with any Singaporeans.

Pro tip, Dover: there are better ways to investigate peoples’ heritage than walking around asking people about their heritage. And if you do ask, and the answer you get is “what heritage?” and a laugh? Well, that may not mean what you think it means.

There’s a lot happening in Singapore. It’s an evolving place, with a growing civil society, increasing activism, growing nationalism and anti-foreigner sentiment, brutal competitiveness (the Singlish word is “kiasu”, which is a Hokkien term that translates as “afraid to lose”), a terrible Gini coefficient, complex underlying racial tensions, and some absurd historical hard-edged nanny-state reflexes. There are a lot of things Singapore needs, but the dynamics are complex, not ripe for banal oversimplification.

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girl November 13, 2013 at 8:55 am

heartening to see a foreigner who has put real effort into understanding Singapore(:

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Greg November 13, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Thanks. Obviously, Dover can live where he chooses, and like the places he chooses. I don’t begrudge him his preferences. But the shallow armchair-quarterbacking from someone who has clearly made no serious effort to have a substantive experience of a place? That I could do without.

After I posted my comment, I read his Life List, his about page, and other parts of his site, and realised that Dover’s entire schtick is to promote an utterly self-absorbed worldview, so the lack of perspective is not really about Singapore.

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vidhya November 13, 2013 at 7:36 pm

Greg – spot on. I came to the same conclusion. Yes there are plenty of things not right here … as with any other society – but “It does not offer me much so I’m off” is such a self-absorbed view. This has just intensified my already intense dislike for bucket lists – which are totally narcis
sistic pursuits in my view.

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james "jim" beeland rogers junior (jr.) is as much of a Singaporean CITIZEN as mark mobius November 16, 2013 at 5:52 am

@Greg:

If so inclined, you may like to perform an online query with these terms (KEEP THE INVERTED COMMAS):

“but they won’t take up citizenship unless they have a hole in their head”.

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grace November 13, 2013 at 6:23 am

“In a school system built to produce scientists, bankers and mathematicians, an artsy student was deemed a failure. ” — this hit home. I was excited telling somebody that I’m going to a certain art school here in Singapore and he incredulously said “But that’s for the artsy artsy stuff. Why not get masters in an engineering course instead?”

Too bad we didn’t get to meet and talk–I am also a “list person”. Do you have 43things too? ANYWAY, this article (in some ways) sums up why I’m thinking of moving in a couple of years.

Best of luck to your next journey!

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Daphne November 13, 2013 at 6:53 am

Interesting post.

Like one of the commenters above, I actually found the hefty communication barrier in the US – everyone was outspokenly friendly, yet only at the surface level. People freely shared their views on politics, whatever current affairs they were aware of, and shallow everyday things, but getting them to open up at a personal level was like pulling teeth. Perhaps it’s because I share a common upbringing and identity with Singaporeans, but I find it easier to reach them at a deeper level once I know how to navigate the initial superficial defence barriers.

But yes, for the most part, I see where you’re coming from. I come from the artistic community where interfacing, questioning and deep searching is commonplace, but I agree that, for the most part, a large proportion of Singaporeans don’t seem to want to think too deeply about things, perhaps for fear of appearing ‘ungrateful’ or simply disturbing the facade of comfort.

I may or may not agree with all your points, but I think what you’ve written is something many Singaporeans need to read. Thank you for your personal yet objectively and tactfully put perspectives.

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Sam November 13, 2013 at 6:54 am

Hi Danny,

Thank you for your article. I’m Singaporean and I feel that sometimes it gets boring in Singapore.

But, every now and then I get surprised because of my own ignorance. I realize it’s because I really haven’t truly explored Singapore in it’s entirety. I had the privilege of walking down the streets of Geylang recently and got to understand how everything worked there. Speaking to the people first hand really opens your eyes. Amazing places and experiences are literally just a hop skip and mrt stop away. I must admit that sometimes speaking the local language makes people more approachable and more open about sharing. But i think it’s really the same no matter which country you go.

I have lived in the US for a while and as much as I found NYC exciting and certain places in the US breath-takingly beautiful, nothing really beats home. Simply put, the world is for me to explore and Singapore is the best home base. (plus it’s a really powerful passport, allowing you visaless travels almost anywhere. and even to places like the US, instant approval is almost guaranteed.) I can leave my door open and unlocked at 2am, without any fear that some guy would come in and rob me. I can go out for a run at 1am and it’s not because I’m being chased.

Convenience for me is of utmost importance. I can reach my workplace in 20mins – 30 mins tops. Some people in the US commute 45mins-1hr everyday (just one way) to get to work. and that to them can be normal. some even call it near. I realized then how lucky I was to be in Singapore, where convenience is really understated.

Safety and convenience aside. I think the paucity of natural disasters, discounting the orchard road flash floods, really is something most Singaporeans too take for granted. My heart goes out to all the people in the Philipphines who lost their lives recently in the worst typhoon that reached land. Imaging having to live free of fear from earthquakes and tsunamis. I would personally not opt for such ‘excitement’. no disrespect to victims.

Our healthcare system is by far one of the most efficient healthcare system in the world spending only 4-5% of our GDP and if you cannot afford it, there are safety nets to ensure you will always be cared for. This may not be something you benefit from if you are not a Singapore citizen. I can be assured that if i get a heart attack or stroke here, I would reach the hospital within the window for the therapeutic intervention. For strokes that is 3-4.5hours, after which you can’t give clot dissolving meds. In some countries, it can take that amount of time for the ambulance to arrive.

We love food, and I find that to be a big part of our culture – our diversity and our food. I personally, go to different countries and get excited only when i find interesting food to try. Seal, haggis, chipotle :), ice from the south pole, argentina wine and beef etc. Of everything in my travels, food excites me the most and alot comes from the good food in Singapore. (before people say that my comparison is always to the US, to be fair that’s where I spend most of my time overseas but I have travelled to europe, africa, australia and south america and I don’t think it’s fair to commend as traveller and not someone who lived there)

my house. i live in a hbd flat. to most singaporeans, it is a norm. some may say our flats are expensive, difficult to apply for etc. but did you know, I previously spoke to a secretary who worked for the Mexican government. His team studied our HDB and housing situation in Singapore for years, and they used our country as a casestudy to learn from and emulate. Simple things like coffee shop, kopitiam and void-deck barbers are really quite unique to Singapore, as compared to most western countries. My father got to know all his good friends by chatting them up in the coffee shop. They watch soccer matches together and recently my hbd block neighbours got together to organize a hdb block party cum potluck. times like these, really amazes me as to how warm and friendly Singaporeans can truly be. it taught me that if you make the effort, people more often than not will reciprocate.

ultimately, really where you choose to live really is dependent on the individual, what you value, what you had gone through, what you are looking for. I will find living in a country side really boring and inconvenient. I rather get HL milk from the supermarket rather than waking up every morning to milk my own cows and drink non-pastuerized milk. But I know some people who see that to be their dream life and I respect that. I would love to call NYC my home, it’s exciting and it’s a city of possibilities. It’s really almost like Singapore. But I don’t call it home as I have no family there.

I call Singapore my home. I’m proud to be a Singaporean. Not because of national day or racial harmony day. We, on average, are not as outspoken or outgoing as compared to an average American, for example, but we are equally interesting. We may not sell ourselves as well but I think we are a nation where actions speak louder than words. What we have achieved is a real testament to that.

Discounting the black sheep, I think filial piety is something most of us treasure and it’s something I’m proud to say we uphold and value. That’s one reason why Singapore will always be my home. My family lives here, my memories were built here, My friends and I went to island creamery together, we spent hours in school in CCA together. I have benefited from this system and country since young and I WANT to give back. I think you may not feel the same and it’s understandable as you did not grow up here. I believe (in everything you do) that when you start giving back (to the community etc), instead of merely a one-way exchange of benefiting and receiving from the community and seeing what you tend to gain or what the society can give you, it will change your perspective.

Are there things here that are missing that I wished i had? yes of course!
Are they more important to me that the benefits I currently experience? To me .. No.
I think it really depends on the individual again.

This is when I feel It’s good and an imperative to travel, broad your perspectives and your mind, so that you know what you want and what you do not. That’s important in making an informed decision about where you choose to call home. and at home, it is always as exciting as you allow it to be. :)

lastly, thank you for being very respectful about everybody’s opinions. you don’t get it very often in alot of opinionated blogs. i admire your maturity and took the time to respond with my 2 cents worth. I’m sure most people already know what I have mentioned, but sometimes being reminded of the glaringly obviously allows you to take step back to appreciate the big picture. Singapore is a miracle still happening, I’m sorry you feel like you will never return but I’m sure that in the future curiosity would get the better of you. :) and after travelling world, I’m sure we will change your mind. :)

cheers.

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Dave D'aranjo November 13, 2013 at 8:57 am

“I would love to call NYC my home, it’s exciting and it’s a city of possibilities. It’s really almost like Singapore.”

When your fascist PAP government exiled me from Singapore under threat of jail under their bullshit National Service law, I came to NYC. It became my adopted home. The city accepted me for who I was and the good I could do – acceptance NOT based on some fucked conscription requirement. It was acceptance based on being a good person. Don’t you fucking dare compare NYC to Singapore…. “almost like Singapore” my ass. Singapore doesn’t have an iota of the artistic potential and integrity of New York City. NYC is a real multicultural society; not the fragile facade that the PAP fucking stages for their National Day propaganda parades. New York is a city where grassroots activism, artistry, and individuality can actually flourish and make a difference in the world… it is lightyears beyond the pathetic colonial laws of censorship and corporal punishment Singapore is infamous for. You live in NYC, how can you be blind to that? Unlike the PAP, I would never sue anyone for defamation, but when you liken the two cities in the same breath I almost want to.

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Mike November 14, 2013 at 1:05 am

Dave D’aranjo, I’ve read all of your posts up until this one and I agree with everything you say regarding Singapore and NYC. I’ve been to Singapore 4 or 5 times and feel like I’ve seen enough to draw my own conclusions about the general mood of the place. I feel like it is romanticized by it’s citizens as a result of years of propaganda of which they’re not aware. By the way, you are a great writer and should write more often!

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Mario J November 17, 2013 at 12:30 am

Such an remarkable BS, and NYC has no propaganda? dude.. are you even serious?

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Zhang Di November 13, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Hi Sam,

Kudos to you for telling our story so well! Dick Lee’s “Home” says it best – “This is home, truly”. Glad to have you back! ;-)

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Dave D'aranjo November 13, 2013 at 6:17 pm

There’s a good example. Much of Singapore’s cultural output is tied to nationalism. The arts are so tied to government initiatives and policy over there. It is painfully mediocre and self-congratultory. It just makes me nuts when people compare the two cities. Culturally, what does Singapore have to export? “Stand by Me Singapore”? In the 80′s alone, the entropy and openness of NYC was key in the development of two brand new musical genres: punk & hip hop. And yet Singapore has the balls to make up an award called the “Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize 2012″ and give it to Bloomberg last year. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ch4OYHBYX0A). It’s a fucking joke. It’s the Allegory of the Cave.

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Kim Gouw November 13, 2013 at 7:01 am

I can actually relate to your post. I have spent several of my school years in Singapore before and one day i have decided to just go back to Indonesia.
It’s good to train the student to be competitive. But it went beyond that. My friends became too competitive and i couldn’t really go with that.
Well, i cannot really say i wanna go back and live in singapore. but i do miss Singapore!
I think that every country/city has its own positive and negative sides.

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SG November 13, 2013 at 7:02 am

Just remember to keep your word – don’t come back!

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Colleen Hofmann November 13, 2013 at 7:11 am

With a love of all things travel and a compulsive fascination with the Asia-Pacific region, this post caught my eye on Hacker News today. What I didn’t realize until reading the About section was that this blog is written by you, Danny Dover. The same Danny Dover who wrote the first book I ever read about SEO. The same book I still refer new employees to during training or friends looking to learn more.

Sounds like you are living a life you enjoy – Spain, Singapore and beyond. Glad I discovered your blog. I’m looking forward to reading more. Cheers!

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John November 17, 2013 at 12:36 am

Well in fact life a little tough in Singapore ( I mean, it’s an expensive place to live in you know) and he is possibly trying to make some cash by selling books and blogging to generate some sales interest. Now you have made his day.

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Glad November 13, 2013 at 7:25 am

You need to correct your post again, its every male citizen that need to do military service, not every citizen :)

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Dave D'aranjo November 13, 2013 at 8:33 am

Nobody “needs” to be conscripted. People are coerced into it by the government press-gang.

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qwerty November 13, 2013 at 6:08 pm

like seriously dave, are you an underage rich brat who just got busted by the singapore police for taking drugs or something and got arsepoked during your time in the drc?

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Dave D'aranjo November 13, 2013 at 6:23 pm

Uh, no. Drugs? I was talking about NS.
Also, I’m not hiding in anonymity here “qwerty” (love your brand of keyboards, by the way).
Go fuck yourself.

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Zhang Di November 14, 2013 at 5:31 pm

Hi Qwerty,

Seems like the only good NYC has done for him is to inculcate a predilection for “fuck”.

It’s used so often that for a moment, I mistook it for his surname.

Here in “sterile” Singapore, we prefer more creative vocab choices such as CCB, NNB or combined NNBCCB. Sterile? Hmm. Go figure.

And someone actually thinks he’s a great writer! Wow. Such high standards there in NYC.

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Dave Fuck November 14, 2013 at 7:47 pm

Nice job, man, you can use a thesaurus!

In one breath you criticize me for saying “the F word” a lot. OK.
Then, in the next sentence, you claim to prefer “ni na buey chao chee bye”. I gotta admit…. that IS creative and has always been one of my favorites. I’d never say it, personally….it is too crass for my taste and inauthentic in my voice/accent. But the two plosives are awesome.

You’re right though – perhaps too much impassioned cursing undercuts my credibility. (As if *true* intellectuals never curse!). Or perhaps I could add some variety to my profanity? Some vulgar creativity?
How about: Hey Zhang Di….! Zhang Deeez Nuts, yo!

Dave D'aranjo November 14, 2013 at 7:48 pm

Sparring aside, I think it is a gift that we live in an age where “radical” ideas can so easily be communicated. If my thoughts and the way I express them resonate with someone, that’s great. If my beliefs piss you off, that’s a good thing, too. I have no power to enforce my ideas as law. I can only hope to express myself and persuade. That’s as much power as I’d ever want, actually. And it seems there is clear evidence that at least some people agree with my perspectives. More people are feeling disillusioned with Singapore’s government policies than ever before. That’s undeniable.

Through writing, one can covey all sorts of attitudes – ranging from cold professionalism to low-brow, percussive condemnation. The PAP is obviously aware of how unprecedented and dangerous this spread of ideas is to their hold on power. That’s why they panic: they prosecute bloggers, smash the opposition, and have, since the beginning, aimed to control the minds of Singaporeans from a very, very young age (PAP Community Foundation Kindergarten, anyone?). Do you think the country is so harsh on vandalism simply because of property damage? Of course not. It all boils down to controlling the flow of ideas. In school – how much of your education was focused on lauding the government? It has been all around you since your youth. For that reason, I really don’t blame you for reacting strongly when presented with the idea that there are major cracks in the system.

Standards are indeed high in NYC. If you only knew!

M. Kang November 13, 2013 at 8:02 am

Hi Danny,

I’m sorry to hear you’ve left with a negative impression of Singapore (or should I say a null impression?) I’m third-generation Singaporean and I don’t begrudge you, or any of the other commenters, their views either positive or negative. However, I do feel rather sad when I see people saying their life in Singapore is sterile and boring. Yes, we have a right to demand excitement from our environment. But we also have as much responsibility to pro-actively make our own lives exciting.

Earlier this year I carried a sign at Hong Lim Park (the “official” “licensed” protest area) indirectly calling the Minister for Information, Communication and the Arts an asshole. Nope, the police haven’t come knocking on my door yet, although I did try not to leave the house for the next week because a very recognizable photo of me with the sign went trending on Twitter. A few days ago I was running around a pop culture convention dressed as the main villain from Return of the Condor Heroes and striking martial arts poses for miniature crowds of photographers. Next month I’ll take part in a lightsaber combat performance at a gaming convention. I own a talking parrot. I started my own company this year together with a few like-minded partners. I don’t know if this fits your bill of “exciting”, or the definitions of the other discontented Singaporeans who have commented here, but as far as I’m concerned, my life is interesting enough to keep me here and happy.

My day job? A freelance journalist. A freelance finance and accountancy journalist (you can guess what I studied in university.) I spend half my time hanging around the central business district in office attire, writing about the driest technical topics you can imagine. And I make a pretty decent living, actually.

What I’m trying to get at is, Singapore doesn’t HAVE to be sterile or unexciting. People don’t HAVE to rely on their environment to feed them their thrills – with just a little resourcefulness (isn’t the Internet wonderful for finding interesting activities and like-minded people?) and some courage to leave their comfort zone, they can very well get up to whatever fun and hijinks suit their taste. There are even some hidden subcultures here that most people wouldn’t believe could exist in this country (and might not want to believe.) Yes, I understand that not everyone has the time or resources to play around the way I do. But if we can’t make the time here, if we can’t stand up to peer pressure and societal pressure to conform, if we can’t look inside ourselves to find an inner spark of inspiration, what makes us think we’ll be able to do it elsewhere? It’s not just the place: it’s US.

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mike ornellas November 13, 2013 at 8:55 am

Very interesting read and responses which I have not read all of them because of the shear volume.

I am a US citizen and have lived here all my life. I do enjoy traveling to Singapore and it truly amazing what has transpired there as far as civilization. In some regards it makes the US look poor and unorganized.

What I do fear about SG is the inevitable collapse which often happens to environments that eventually squeeze their population into slavery. The pace of housing costs is staggering and the local as well as PR’s will be hard pressed to survive. Because SG is small and a state nation, I truly fear that one day SG will be a country of one class. That class shall be the rich and rich only. The middle class and poor shall be for the most part gone, but SG will still need general labor workers which shall come from neighboring counties because they can’t afford to live in SG.

This will be the next pressure cooker test for the government and could be a recipe for disaster…

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james "jim" beeland rogers junior (jr.) is as much of a Singaporean CITIZEN as mark mobius November 18, 2013 at 6:29 am

@michael ornellas:

你有閱讀過(公元前第六世紀)老子的《道德經》, 白話解的第六十章 (治大國若烹小鮮)嗎 ?

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markov November 13, 2013 at 9:16 am

Sorry Danny,

I am a Singaporean who doesn’t like the pace of life here, nor the direction of development. Yes, people are struggling, and it’s not easy. That said, I don’t see balanced commentary here. The tendency is often for people in more developed nations to make such commentary about places other than their own. Communication is a very cultural thing. I have difficulty communicating with some other Singaporeans here, because we are a mixed-bag of cultures, not unlike many metropolitan cities in the USA – e.g. SF, NYC. People from your culture may think Asian are so different, not expressive, boring. Yes, that may be true. But they on the other hand may think you to aggressively expressive, but not mention it due to reasons of upbringing. Same happen with people in Central and South America. That’s how people come with terms like Gringo for people unaware of cultural subtlety.

If I understand your POV, it appears that you are leaving because Singapore is a stressful place and not too suitable for living a fulfilling existence. I would actually understand and connect to the article. But when you try to bring in facts and reasons, I would suggest either writing something more comprehensive or not writing at all.

Sorry if this sounds abrasive, but as a reader I would expect more of someone who has been on a TEDT.

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Joe November 13, 2013 at 9:44 am

This article makes me WANT to move to Singapore.

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MALE Singaporean DOCTOR ஜனில் புதுச்சேரி, Professionalism Does NOT Equate With Patriotism November 18, 2013 at 5:46 am

@joe:

The world’s HIGHE$T PAID minister of FOREIGN AFFAIRS and law does NOT even think Singapore is a COUNTRY.

I of course, need NOT mention காசிவிஸ்வநாதன் (“கே”) சண்முகம் by name – you may ALWAYS ASK HIM HIMSELF.

By the way, which country/territory you claim to be from AS WELL AS which country/countries/territory/territories you are CITIZEN(S) OF?

I am aware they may NOT be the same – for example, a hongkonger could possess up to THREE (3) passportS.

I need not have to state (no pun intended) that passports are only awarded to CITIZENS.

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huat88 November 13, 2013 at 10:08 am

pardon my english hor. not very good lah. cos young that time never listen and study hard. regret…

ang mo…you never really see singapore lah. dont know if you got properly walk one round in singapore not… even though singapore is small, if you dont know the road (hokkien), you only see what tourist books tell you to see. go those places… no feel one. but singapore also small, how much you expect? JB also bigger than singapore

those of you that came and say dont like…blah blah blah…why choose to come here in the first place? you probly got money and want to get a better education. learn to speak proper english…if not how to go ang mo countries to study uni? probly your family also dont want you to become si-geenas, take drugs, play and play. so smart dont come singapore to study la. indonesia, malaysian lar..all come singapore to study. never heard of singaporean go indonesia and malaysia to study. chey! now benefit liao..hiam us?

simi no history and no culture. we only how old. how to have long history. who you compare us with? must allow to grow ma. lots of countries got long history, so what…now also chwee. war lar, no jobs, etc etc….whats the point? long history can feed you? maybe become tourist attraction lor…

NS no good? you know…i work with foreigners….even got degree, study many many…but no sense of urgency, no initiative, no EQ… why? becos never go thru NS. in army, we oso make many friends…many lobangs…

you all funny…work and live here…safe and can earn money…want to play then go overseas.

simi percentage increase lar…like that also can. last yr 1 person commit suicide, this year 2…like that whats the percentage increase? more that your 29% right?

ang mo country very good meh? all smart meh? no suakus meh? also got hill billy kind, never see the world kind, think they very smart. just watch tv..eat burger and microwave food…grow fat…i anyhow also go to more countries…

you like stay…not happy go…dont talk so much. kiang tio ho..mia ke kiang.

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Zhang Di November 13, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Lol!!! Brilliant post! Jin ho chio to the max!! :-D

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Kenneth November 13, 2013 at 10:47 pm

This is the funniest commentary! Huat Ah!

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formerMsian November 16, 2013 at 3:02 am

They say we sterile, boring, no depth, no creativity. They lazy, suaku, dunno where to look nia.

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IronBurner November 13, 2013 at 12:39 pm

I like this article particularly describing the everyday struggle of an average Singaporean. I don’t find it boring by any stretch, however, meeting ends meet was a struggle for me personally. I am a Singaporean as well, born and raised in Singapore. I put in 10 years to serve my country and in return I received the golden handshake. Life was a struggle outside the “green” organization so I pack my stuff up and left. 2007 approached and I traded Singapore for Canada in hope that I was making a right choice that it will be something different. Since, I’ve not returned to Singapore other than vacation and visits. I can’t deny that I am still deeply rooted to Singapore, my friends, family are all there. I miss them each and every day, however, I do believe the choice I made was right for me.
Having lived and worked in two countries I can give a fair comparison. Singapore does have its benefits like, taxes are low and balance, the availability of a variety of food is abundance and very affordable and, great sense security (not withstanding to what have been changing constantly in Singapore). However, standard of living is generally getting higher in terms of housing and expenses. In my opinion, generation after generation will slip into deeper struggle to be able to provide for themselves, their parents and future generation.
Government sucks anywhere and everywhere, there is no perfect government, politician or party. No matter how good each politician or party’s intentions were when they first start out, eventually they slip into benefiting themselves eventually (without naming names I believe everyone out there can name a few examples, “$1 heart surgery”, affordable housing while they all live in condos and landed property).
Some may say I am a traitor, perhaps in your perception I am a traitor. However, I do pose a couple of question to them, “If the government is not looking out for me, am I not responsible to look after myself?” Who will pity me and put a roof over my head, feed me?
All I am saying is that, I believe there is always something different outside of Singapore. I was willing to trade what I have for a chance at something different. Even if I didn’t succeed, as least I tried. I think every Singaporean should decide for themselves what they are willing to trade for a change of something different. It worked for me; I sure if you tired it will work for you.

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Jay November 13, 2013 at 1:53 pm

It’s amazing how a lot of people become defensive very quickly. I guess I understand why, since we are criticising the place they call home. However, I do feel that this article points out very important and true aspects of living in Singapore. I was born and raised in Singapore. I left SG when I was 17 to study overseas. Although I have my own personal reasons for never wanting to go back to Singapore, some of the reasons you listed on your article rings true with me as well.
Unless one has stepped out of their comfort zone to experience life as where, you will never understand our point of view. Yes, Singapore is clean, safe, comfortable. I get that some people strive to live a life like that, but there are many others who don’t as well. So instead of saying “if you don’t like this place, you’re free to go”, try thinking, “valid points, however, to each his own”.

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ItsIts November 13, 2013 at 1:58 pm

“it’s spirit stagnates.” -> “its spirit stagnates.”

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Nadia November 13, 2013 at 2:08 pm

It’s interesting that most foreigners residing in Singapore disagree on the fact that Singapore is too mundane as a country, many Singaporeans are in fact agreeing to it. As a Singaporean myself, I do agree that Singapore is becoming one of the countries that makes it’s people work their butt off.

I’ve been travelling around the world quite a bit and I’m currently studying in a university in Australia. I might be heading to UK to continue my studies after this as Singapore is too competitive when it comes down to studies. Honestly, foreigners are given opportunities that we, locals, do not get as they are filling the seats in local universities in an escalating rate. The government would rather offer scholarships to bright foreigners than to allowing more locals to enter the local unis. This is done to boost the education system of Singapore. I realised that it is so much relaxed and care-free here in Australia compared to Singapore. The work schedule and the pay here is much more in favour of the people than in favour to the ambitious outcome of the economy (Singapore).

However, whatever said, I still do regard Singapore as my home. I often look forward to returning home during my holidays and spend time with my family and friends. As a born and bred Singaporean, It’s the sense of security and awesome culture of all races that I miss having when I’m abroad.

Yes, Singapore will always be where my heart is but I don’t think it’s where I would want to settle down at and start a family. However, I do have future commitments in Singapore so I guess maybe after my retirement?? Which by the way, here in Singapore, it’s at the age of 65. Yes, I know.

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NibiruisIson November 13, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Ha! Foolish sentiment…the real outcome from your observations ..is WHERE are YOU from ???? ….and the real struggle in Singapore is that the VERY education system has TRULy freed it’s people. All over the World the quintessential Singaporean rises to the TOP….here in NYC while I watch hardworking Mexicans struggle as practical slaves…well…I think most of them did not under the democracy of the great education that is Singapore…it is much easier to second guess a success than it is to postmortem a failure….so don’t go back…stay far away….Me ! I am returning…after seeing the ravages of the narco-politics, Walls street bankers strip this World naked, Eurotrash piss on everything else with their herpes laden emissions ~ living with no healthcare or housing so expensive to be a debt slave…….I will return to my peaceful kampung environs……Singapore was just LADEN with food food food……and in this World where billions face starvation well…guess it will be to safe Singapore I will travel home to….for everything else the Gift of Educations has freed my mind and my travels have enrich my soul to understand that one only needs to go where home and family live……afterall we are but transient on this Planet….and I would advise you rather that looking at the negative and saying NOT return…. ps sorry Singapore could not provide the colorful beggars, friendly child prostitutes, chained animals, exotic endangered meats….decayed architecture, bullet ridden buddhas, silly & cute uneducated guttersnipes…..grasping at the feet of BuanaBuana Man/Lady….really apologize for a healthy population, clean streets, architecture, world class restaurants, boring safe streets, Clean Air and Water ….well ahasta la vista baby enjoy your travels and PLEASE don’t come back to Sunny Singapore Instant Asia…..where the people are Educated and some of the FREEST in the World.

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BP November 13, 2013 at 3:42 pm

We, Singaporeans, colour within the lines and are constantly boxed in. Criticisms are considered bad and successes are measured in almost a narrow-minded way. We are almost too bland of a society.

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zaherah November 13, 2013 at 4:58 pm

Interesting piece. The last time I visited Singapore was like some 30 yrs ago… I’ve heard about how law-abiding citizen they were. Unfortunately, they were only that in Singapore. When they crossed over to their neighbor Malysia, they became a changed person. They went over speed limit on our highway in their very nice cars and when they can only use the garbage bins for the unwanted waste, they may just dumped or throw garbage out of their cars when they were cruizing our highway. Don’t get me wrong, perhaps not all Singaporean would do this. Unfortunately the few that I saw gave me that impression. :-)

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angela November 13, 2013 at 6:04 pm

I found beauty in chaos, not order. So I believe that I won’t be happy living in Singapore

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Jeyan November 13, 2013 at 6:16 pm

There will be people who love Singapore and some who hate it . I am a Malaysian who spent about 3 months at the Singapore general hospital on a attachment and to me , Singapore is not my cup of tea . They have done well but I totally agree that it is all rather sterile . And it was achieved with ( some may argue necessary ) suppression of freedom and the virtual oppression of any political opposition . Lack of nature is another thing is disliked as well as the famous Singapore kiasuness. My country is far from perfect . We have racist , corrupted politicians and civil service but I find the people more friendlier and feel free. And all the monkey politicians with their moronic statements make our lives more interesting and colorful . At the end of the day no country is perfect and certainly Singapore has a lot if admirable qualities . But for me , living the Singapore life is not for me.

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No-Humour-Singaporean November 15, 2013 at 6:53 am

So glad you found Singapore General Hospital sterile.

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Dave D'aranjo November 15, 2013 at 10:22 am

Now THAT’s funny! :D

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jtlannister November 13, 2013 at 6:23 pm

Oi.

“Its spirit”, not “It’s”.

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KYC November 13, 2013 at 6:30 pm

Hi Danny,

I think you have to be more optimistic in life and face the reality.

Pride: Instead of pride, I would say is more of an assurance and sense of security. You can be assured that you get clean water, medical resources, great climate, gun-free environment. You will feel safe walking down the streets at night not worrying about getting robbed, shot or getting a cab home. Compared to other countries, you don’t have to worry about typhoon destroying homes, or earthquakes burying houses. There is nothing bad about being a developed country, as Singapore attracts multi-national companies, so that it creates more jobs. And because of that you can get the latest iphones and gadgets launched. You know, rich people from Indonesia and Brunei actually flew all the way to Singapore to buy latest iPhones and iPads because they can’t get it there. So we have to be thankful for that. As for transportation, public transport is not that efficient nowadays but it is still not that bad as compared to other countries. In places like Bangkok and Malaysia, traffic jams are worse and you face parking issues and cars getting stolen. And all these assurance comes with a Price. To have clean water, we need to pay for it. To maintain law and order, we pay taxes to the government. To have the latest iPhone, we have to queue and buy it. To be able to pay for that Price, we have to work for it. How hard you work = how much you enjoy the fruits of your labour. No work = no money. Singapore is expensive, and to be able to enjoy that luxury, we have to work hard. Otherwise like you say, there is a better place elsewhere to be. And Singaporeans work hard so that they can afford to travel overseas for leisure or to work at bigger city like London or NYC. The working culture and competition here prepares Singapore workers for bigger stage, and to have the right attitude, expectation and efficiency. Do you know that in Singapore, you can apply almost anything online and get it submitted quickly? Unlike neighbouring countries, people have to make few trips down to offices, queue up for forms and it takes few months or years to get it done.

Education – Singapore’s education is tough and demanding, but on the other hand it is structured. The education system is designed for Cambridge ‘O’ and ‘A’ level standards, so don’t blame Singapore, blame Cambridge (just kidding). The education system is well recognised so if you study well enough, you can make it to good college and international univerisities. Compared to other countries, the subjects are taught in English and it prepares students for international education. The schools here are well-equipped with IT and science equipment and is safe without any shooting. Again these are assurance.

Suicides – As for the suicide rates, I think Singapore’s suicides is nothing compared to other countries. Singapore has small population, so low suicide rate. Bigger population = higher suicide rates. And suicides is their personal choice, nothing to do with the country.

Heritage – I think you just didn’t meet the right people. Do you know that Queenstown estate is the first estate with HDB (high rise flats)? By living in that area, you are living in a piece of heritage. Maybe you need to join more local tours to explore Singapore deeper.

There are many amazing places in the world, yes I agree. Having lived many years from young to an adult, I would like to experience the world too. However in order to do that, I need to have money. And I need a job to earn money. And Singapore can provide me jobs. Of course there are other places like NYC where I can work too, but I will be in a competition with 2.3 million job seekers in US. In comparison to that, it is easier to get a job here and earn a living.

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British Citizen brian dalby does NOT want to be a Singaporean CITIZEN for personal convenience. BOO! November 19, 2013 at 5:22 am

@kyc:
Are you a Singaporean CITIZEN?

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Vidhya November 13, 2013 at 6:44 pm

Hi Danny

Like all countries Singapore has both good and bad points. I totally agree with you that its a country in flux – and as you rightly pointed out – as a young nation that has achieved much, it has to take a breather to evaluate its future direction. I choose to take the view that I want to contribute positively to this country that has given me a safe location to raise my children, has given me material comforts – and I want to help it navigate this crucial period by doing something for it. Asking what it can do for me, and then leaving after taking the monetary benefit it offers me … seems like a childish reaction.

As for the Lysher Loh suicide you have pointed to. Lysher was my colleague’s daughter. Yes, it was devastating and pressure in the school system is tremendous. Not every child responds my committing suicide – she had particularly high standards for herself that sadly led to tragic results. How about the many suicides that are reported in US and UK and other western nations as bright kids are bullied for being nerds, or not being ‘popular’ and sometimes resort to ending their lives. It would seem to me that too much emphasis is placed on looks and external attributes in Western societies – but I keep myself from drawing the conclusion that all Westerners are shallow people who are only interested in appearances.

Every society has its good and bad points – its in our hands to seek out the good and ignore or try and influence the latter to change.

All the best in your new country. Keep your mind open, else you may be jaded there too……………

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ST November 13, 2013 at 7:01 pm

“In a school system built to produce scientists, bankers and mathematicians, an artsy student was deemed a failure.”

This is so funny, that I almost choked myself when I read it the first time. It is a school system to breed PAP supporters, nothing more, nothing less. Engineers are considered high-end blue collar job here. Engineering faculties in NUS and NTU are dumping grounds for people who didn’t get into Medicine, Law and Business. Plus, their top engineering students are mostly foreigners anyway, from China, India, Malaysia, Vietnam,…

For all the achievements the education system achieved in international rankings, they have yet to produce any worthy individuals or discovery or much innovation at all in the areas stated above. Even if one were trying to measure the Math and Science test-taking abilities of the students, Singapore still don’t really stand high. If you ever look at the Math and Science problems in various ‘A’-Level examinations, and compare them to equivalent university entrance exams in Japan, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, you will realize the problems in Singapore ‘A’-Level Math and Science examinations are of lower difficulty, if not much lower. Foreign students usually trumps over local students in Math and Science. The only reason their education system is getting so much recognition was because it’s language of instruction is English, and it is a more vigorous version than the current British system. Honestly, other than wide-spread misguided recognition, I don’t see much strength in their education system.

Hence, a more accurate version of this sentence will be:
“In a school system built to produce woefully-mislead, narrow-minded PAP supporter, any student who is capable of thinking independently and a heart for compassion and courage was deemed a misfit.”

Note however, if you have a working brain, you will still likely to ‘succeed’ on paper in Singapore due to meritocracy, but you will be a mindless cog in a system built to run for the good of the political leaders’ portfolio. And you should be contented being that mindless cog.

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Zhang Di November 14, 2013 at 7:13 pm

Hi ST,

I’m not sure if you are aware, but Singaporeans usually come out tops in Maths and Science Olympiads, not just at A-levels.

If our system is so screwed up, it is strange why Singapore is always studied as a model by so many other countires and even the UN.

And contrary to your argument, no Singapore is not populated by a bunch of robots.

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ST November 15, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Granted, Singapore does sometimes do well in International Olympiads in Maths and Science. But those elite participants probably benefited much more from their individualized competition training more than anything else. They probably spend more time in intensive training camps prepping for competitions than sitting in school. The only thing such results prove, is that there exist a few people with Singaporean passport, who are capable of doing competition Math and Science. And that the national team’s training is very good. Which no doubt, is something to be proud of.

But using these exceptional individuals as evidences to prove how good the overall system is, is fundamentally flawed. It will be equivalent to saying all Singapore schools have world-class good table tennis program, because Singaporeans won table tennis medals in Olympics. Not too valid an argument, isn’t it? The only thing this says, is that Singapore national table tennis team has a decent training program, and has world class players.

If you were following Math and Science Olympiad news, China, Russia, United States, Korea constantly beats Singapore. By this logic, countries should be modelling Chinese, Russian, American and Korean systems before emulating Singaporean ones. Which is funny, because US have quite a few ode-singer of the Singaporean system.

And, it is not strange at all that others might be misguided to think Singaporean’s model is superior. As I have articulated earlier, Singapore is one of the few country in Asia which has English-medium education system. This made Singapore’s model an easy one to study. It allows emulators to understand all those so-called rationales and objectives behind the system much better, since they are all written in English. It also has the legacy of the British education system, which was very widely regarded in the Commonwealth countries.

Singaporean system is also one with little cultural depth, which made it even easier to study. Look at Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Taiwanese, Russian, their education system is intimately related to their culture and language, which makes it really hard for any outsider to grasp the intricacies of their system. And hence hard to emulate or study or advertise.

These traits of Singaporean system, of course, also appeal to most organizations which does all these international rankings and studies, because it is easy to study, and the so-called test study results show that. And hence Singaporean system is well-studied, and there are much literature on it, and thus such misguided studies spreads. I can elaborate on how those so-called test study results are misleading if you wish, but I am lazy today.

Unless of course, you wish to quote those result to circularly-prove that Singaporean system is superior to the rest of the world’s in the first place, then there is no point trying to argue anymore.

I wonder how UN models Singapore’s model, because I am pretty sure it is not a country.

No doubt many of my friends are not robots, but education system do intend to force Singaporeans to fit into that mold.

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Lee Woon Kwang November 13, 2013 at 7:11 pm

Only those who live through the history of Singapore or study its recent history in detail can fully understand Singapore. It is easy for those who just come by as visitors to make comment about Singapore but their comments are nothing but superficial

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shree November 13, 2013 at 7:12 pm

Good article but i felt you could have explored the subject a lil more:) it’s kinda sad that when any slight criticism is hurled at singapore , the first reaction of many (from singapore) is to hit back without thinking..the flaws mentioned were never at them, but at the surroundings and artificial “culture” created by the ones in power..

i am a singaporean born and bred but being an online marketer i have also stayed months on end in various places like thailand , india and malaysia..are there places in these countries where safety might be of issue? yes for sure..but having been to the blue beaches of phuket (while learning muaythai professionally) , lived in the beautiful mountaineous areas of Himachal Pradesh (while learning meditation) and experienced the culture of the people there, the perceived risk is more than worth it..

Widen your perspective and go see the world before forming opinions guys:)

I am always reminded of this quote from The Lord Of The Rings

What do you fear, my lady?” [Aragorn] asked.
“A cage,” [Éowyn] said. “To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.”

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Thammanoon November 13, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Been staying there for about 8 years, Singapore is a great place to travel, but not for long stays

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Respectfully, November 13, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Dear Danny,

Your piece reminds me of an article I read some months back: http://voices.yahoo.com/five-reasons-not-travel-singapore-south-6691622.html?com=2&cat=16
To be fair, compared to Ms James, the opinions you express are more thoughtful and careful; and while you honestly seem like a very gracious person, Ms James comes across as a bit of a misinformed bigot. But I really do think the core of both your sentiments are the same. Key themes I picked out from each piece were Singapore’s “sterile” environment (especially for the arts), automaton citizens, a lack of heritage to call our own, fatalistic conformist thinking, etc.

I was planning to respond patiently to each of the points you make, but enough comments have done that. (I mean, the argument practically ends with huat88, who has won the internet for the day) But perhaps I could try to parse out the kinds of people who express these opinions, and let you know what I think too.

At the risk of generalising, there are a few types of people who express opinions about Singapore. The first are those who are born and bred, and who agree with everything you say. Singapore has indeed suffocated them. Like you, they are dying to leave. However, unlike you, these people have never had the choice to choose their country, and are locked by circumstance. They have lived the life, found it lacking, and I respect their opinion. I sympathise with them.

The second kind of Singaporean might resound with my own experience. I was born and bred in Singapore, was remarkably blessed with the opportunity to live abroad, and, having seen the ‘other side of the world’, now have the choice to stay or leave. Throughout my interactions with overseas Singaporeans, I have been endlessly surprised by an overwhelming sentiment of homesickness (though of course there are always anomalies). I have friends who have been offered double their salaries by American bosses in a bid to keep them in America, who have assimilated into American society like perfect chameleons, but who still itch to go home. Whether or not an overseas Singaporean decides that Singapore is worth returning to, they are deeply aware that they are making a choice from a privileged position. It just so happens that Singapore is also our home, so there will always be a bias and tie towards family, friends, and culture, no matter how we try to resist it.

Which brings me to the third type of person—yourself. As a non-Singaporean, I would say that you are virtually released from any shackles, and are the most ‘privileged’ of these three kinds of people. As a foreigner you can choose to stay or go, with absolutely no ties that bind. You cast an impartial eye over the next stop on your flight, and you have the power to deliver the verdict of your opinions. And who can stop you, since your opinions are your entitled right, and the internet a free space? Who cares if anyone disagrees with you (but get ready to call the freedom police lest someone tries to correct you)?

But Danny, you sound like the kind of fair, reasonable, and culturally sensitive person to hear me out—and all my tedious Asian pleas and unrealistic Confucian-ish expectations that I have for those around me. Danny, how do you think writing an article about a country that you’re visiting, and condemning it on its ‘demerits’ of being the place where “everything goes right,” would sound to a citizen? Would you, at the very least, recognise that it possibly verges on the insensitive? Do you realise the position of (unintended) superiority and privilege that you are speaking from when you deliver these words? No wonder you have our citizens divided and up in arms.

I hope you understand what I’m saying; I am not finding fault with your observations, which I believe are very true and real, especially to the Singaporeans who live closest to these issues. I am merely asking that you frame your opinions responsibly (something that Americans rarely consider for all their talk of free expression). I am asking that you recognise that, as a foreigner, you are throwing a judgement on a country that is not your own, and that your words will have no consequences for you once you buckle your seatbelt. In fact, this is not even my peeve yet (I too “lovingly abuse” America from time to time). What I find most unfair is that you do not offer Singapore constructive criticism in this piece; you do not give it a chance. Instead you write it off in absolute terms: “I will NEVER return” i.e. “nothing about this country is a saving grace”; “I see no hope in this nation and its citizens” etc. etc. Sure, as a foreigner you have the right to pack your bags and go. And you have. But to mention that Singapore doesn’t work for your individual experience AS IF it also couldn’t work for everyone else in the past, present, or future, whether foreigner or citizen (you don’t say this explicitly, but you definitely insinuate it)—this I think is very unfair. Citing an unrepresentative suicide statistic as if it were the single scientific trump-all card that proves the coldness of our country hints at this to me. At the very least, you could have explained why Singapore didn’t work for you without bringing in the life of a little girl you never knew, or simply said, “Yeah, I personally didn’t care for Singapore at all” instead of attempting to stand on impartial ground by ‘gathering data’ and talking to random Singaporeans on the street who laugh—and this laughter, I assume, most certainly means that they must be expressing the very same nation-wide ennui that you, a foreigner, have experienced?

Keep your opinions, but keep our citizens out of it if you’re only interested in painting us in black and whites. This sentence sounds terrible, but I am saying this in the most understanding way I can. If you want to speak the truth about Singapore, which I sincerely believe was your intention, I would encourage you to get to know Singaporeans further, pick their brains, engage in deep conversations, challenge their assumptions face to face (and not after you have already made your decision), and don’t be scared off by Singlish (which is virtually God’s gift and the language of the angels)!! In an ironic side note, I find American conversations to be even more opaque; obscured by routine niceties. It always feels like I’m speaking to an American through a glass window that I can never break open. As global citizens we will always be blindsided by cultural differences, and it is an individual choice to either denounce it or try to swerve around it (don’t break it, though).

I am a female Singaporean in my early twenties, I have had the humbling experience of attending college in America, and I am now living in NYC (a city I DO hold on equal footing with Singapore, Dave D’aranjo; in fact NYC comes in at a very close SECOND place!!!). I am an artist in every sense of the word, and left Singapore to expand my mind (although I knew from the get-go that I would return home). That plan hasn’t changed, and I ache for home and my people (and the FOOD, oh glory). I love the vibrant art scene in America, and every part of my learning fuels my excitement to return so that I can apply it to my country and break the very same stagnancy you have noted. Singaporeans are not the automatons the world would have you believe. We have aspirations, dreams, hopes, and desires like every other human. Just because the West hyperfocuses on our ‘dictatorial’ aspects, and just because it takes a little coaxing and rerouting of attitudes to convince Singaporeans themselves that they have promise, doesn’t mean that what we see on the surface is what we get, and completely unchangeable. Your experience in travel alone should show you this. Travel isn’t about a country or a place. It is about a mindset of choice, of both citizens and the traveller. I would encourage you, Danny, to return to Singapore perhaps 20, 10, or even 1 year down the road, (get better guides,) and hopefully we will have prepared a pleasant surprise. The surprises are already there if you look hard enough.

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Iman Fahim Hameed November 13, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Well said!!!!!!

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Dave D'aranjo November 13, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Hey, saw that you used my full name so I thought I’d “say hello”.

Well, you are certainly entitled to feel that NYC is 2nd place to Singapore. It isn’t even remotely correct, but OK – that’s your opinion. I made another comment somewhere about comparative cultural output and the birth of two new revolutionary music genres in the early 80’s. Point is, as great as NYC is – and no matter how objectively more NYC has contributed to the world’s culture – ultimately everyone shapes their own opinion of a place based on experience only, even if short or second-hand. You certainly have your opinions on NYC based on “only” a few years there. Who am I to negate your opinion by saying you haven’t lived in NYC long enough or given it a chance? Likewise, who are YOU to say that the author is incorrect based on “only” a few months’ in Singapore?

For me, NYC become my new home at age 18 when Singapore’s people and government basically told me to choose army, jail, or exile – NOT a choice at all; basically a giant “fuck you”. While my peers were excitedly headed to their own college, travel, or work opportunities – building their adult lives – I was being given an unnecessary and traumatic ultimatum by automatons in uniform. I met with them at the CMPB, ICA, etc. Surely you remember the process? OH WAIT.

This had a debilitating effect on how I wanted to establish myself in my own early 20’s. That sort of treatment is COMPLETELY unacceptable in the 21st century and counter to the open spirit of NYC that you so glowingly write about. Eighteen years old, in my new home of New York, I slowly discovered a cultural heritage, history, and rebelliousness that gave me hope and acceptance. I also came to see that it holds a creative standard that Singapore cannot ever hope to match with the current mindset. FOR ME, growing up in Singapore was emotionally repressive and marked by periods of very real fear and loathing. I can totally see how FOR YOU, as a young female Singaporean, it’s a paradise.

You write, “I am an artist in every sense of the word”. What do you do? To me it seems shallow for you to phrase it that way. I am reminded every day how much I need to work, work, work and work some more before I could ever call myself a “musician in every sense of the word”. I am pursuing this career 1000% but I don’t think I’d ever come to a point where I’d ever say that, actually. Once I saw, heard and understood the incredibly inspiring artistic standard that exists outside of Singapore’s self-congratulatory sphere, I was blown away. Humbled, demoralized, inspired, and determined all at once. Can you relate?

To quote the Wiki synopsis of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”,
“Wouldn’t he remember his first home, what passed for wisdom there, and his fellow prisoners, and consider himself happy and them pitiable? And wouldn’t he disdain whatever honors, praises, and prizes were awarded there to the ones who guessed best which shadows followed which?”

I feel this so deeply that I refuse to hide my opinions behind a veil of internet anonymity.

I’m guessing you are perhaps in visual art because for you to say that Singlish is “the language of angels” reveals much about your aesthetic sense.
That aside, I just can’t square how an intelligent, artistic-minded person can sit back and justify so much about a society that would condone caning Banksy, executing The Beatles for drug use, and incarcerating Freddy Mercury for his sexuality.

So many of the defensive comments I’ve read end with, “Come back someday, you’ll be surprised!”. Oh yeah?
Remember, I’m half-Singaporean by birth, but renounced the paperwork in my early 20’s (your age) due to NS. If I return to Singapore someday, will people say to me, “Welcome back, brother.”? Will they have the awareness to say “We disagree with your opinion, but still respect your rights as a citizen. Welcome home.”?

I’m sorry to be more bitter about this than you can understand, anonymous poster. But the above scenario ain’t gonna happen.

…. I could be wrong. I very much hope to be, actually. You’ve made a promise, of sorts. I’m not one to rule out visiting a country. I’ll return to Singapore someday. Put your money where your mouth is. Surprise me. Show me what “world-class” truly is.

In the meantime, I encourage you to get as much as you can out of your time in New York – the more you see there, the more your preconceptions will be challenged and mind blown.

Do you mean what you say? That you wish to “return so that I can apply [my learning] to my country and break the very same stagnancy you have noted”? If that were really the case, I think you’d be a bit more critical of the powers that be. And, you’d perhaps display much more compassion for those who are skeptical of, or burnt out by, the Singapore utopia myth.

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Respectfully, November 14, 2013 at 7:39 am

Dear Dave,

I’m going to try to reply your comment as fairly as I can without making any assumptions about your background, as you have made about mine. So instead of talking about you (which I see a commenter below already has), I’m going to talk about me.
You have taken my (personal) ranking of NYC as “second place” to mean that I am disappointed with the city. Just like Danny’s opinion, your assumptions are formed through the lens of a Western concept of absolutes. If I’m not for something, that means I’m against it, right? If something is not first, that would mean it is the worst? As if no greys, and certainly not even multiple colours, could exist in a spectrum between black and whites…
Contrary to what you believe, I am utterly in love with NYC. I have lived in the heart of Brooklyn, and travelled to the Bronx for a nice big plate of Soca food. I have been to countless concerts, street fairs, art shows, jazz bars, off broadways, comedy shows, and poetry readings; I have spoken to editors, students, artists, elevator men, bankers, and buskers. I have walked along the streets just for the sake of it; I have popped into hipster bakeries, Asian hole-in-the-walls, Michelin starred restaurants, and food carts. Just because I love something second-best doesn’t mean I don’t love it at all; and of course, how can I try to justify my bias to you of putting Singapore first, since it is my home? I’m sorry you no longer treat it as yours; but other people do, and we accept every success and combat every flaw to the best of our abilities.
As for my being an “artist”, you would know what I mean when I say this: I am indeed not a full-time artist, but every bit of my character, ideals, and worldview is coloured by an artistic sensibility. It’s not something I’m trying to become, but something I involuntarily am (as I’m sure is the same for you). I studied poetry writing in school, and am trying to build a nonprofit lit magazine for Singaporeans. Once in the distant past I also believed I could have become an illustrator, or a jazz bass guitarist, or a filmmaker, or a graphic designer, or a dancer, or an art gallery owner (all previous aspirations and hobbies of mine, but now put on a back burner so that I can pursue opening a local independent press).
The challenges in Singapore’s art scene actually ENCOURAGE me. They show me that there is something to work towards and fight for, in comparison to the more stable scene in NYC that, though nourishing and inspiring, is too saturated for my tastes. As an artist I want to encounter difficulties. I want to work with fellow Singaporeans to defeat the odds, challenge assumptions, and be successful. In my field there are already successes; Books Actually comes to mind. It is such an exciting time, Dave, complete with crazy PAP laws and crazier people who climb parapets to hug huge raindrops. As many comments have mentioned, only YOU can decide what you make and take out of a certain environment. I won’t comment on NS here because I have no authority, having never experienced it (and by the way, neither have you), but I would suggest you speak to some local boys about their thoughts on the subject! I wouldn’t be surprised if Singaporeans would have indeed welcomed you home and called you “brother” HAD you actually been through NS, which, according to my male friends and relatives, is a kind of fraternal machine that fosters the friendships, ties, and national pride that you say you have been denied. Anyway, I know nothing about NS, nor your traumatic experience with it, so perhaps my words cannot hold any weight for you.
By all means remain in NYC if that is the best environment for you, and I am glad; you are in safe hands. However, NYC is a stepping stone for me.

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Zhang Di November 14, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Hi,

Best read by far! Thanks for your thoughtful post and for framing the experience of Singaporeans more accurately. It’s ridiculous so many of the posts presumptuously assume that all Singaporeans are devoid of a personal voice.

Apart from Books Actually, let’s have Dave know that Anthony Chen’s “Ilo Ilo” won the Camera d’or at Cannes this year. Self-congratulatory? I don’t think so.

If NYC is indeed so great, his “bitterness” should have dissipated by now, replaced with something more rewarding and positive within.

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Dave D'aranjo November 14, 2013 at 8:49 pm

Zhang, I’m sincerely glad that movie won the Camera d’Or. I haven’t seen it yet, but I understand it is a Singaporean director / production with international cast. It is a great representation of Singapore’s potential. Best of luck to them at the upcoming Academy Awards. One movie I loved as a teen was “Forever Fever”, directed by Glen Goei. Have you seen it? Do you remember the subplot regarding Hock’s brother, “Leslie”? I thought that was an incredibly progressive and touching story for a 1998 film from ANYWHERE. That movie made me proud to be from Singapore. And yet still, in 2013, “Leslie” would be considered a criminal with a mental health issue by your government and military. (See Section 377A of the Penal Code; Category 302 and 30-B in the SAF, etc). Why would I ever want to support organizations with such opinions?

Not that it needs to, but, does Anthony Chen’s film contain any overt criticism of the government? Could such a film be made in Singapore without significant pressure? Go ask documentarian Martyn See.

Please understand: at no point did I claim “all Singaporeans are devoid of a personal voice”. What I have been saying is that the government and people have a knack for demanding conformity through strict laws and rigid mindsets. My pet issue is NS, but it applies to many other aspects of the society. This is why people like Danny Dover leave uninspired…. and why countless others feel a nagging emptiness despite the remarkable infrastructure.

If you choose international awards as a barometer of success, you are going to lose count on what NYC has achieved over the past 50 years. Comparing achievements in this way verges on the ridiculous. Just, please, have the humility to accept the notion that perhaps Singapore could be more open. By being less conservative under the false term “Asian values”, Singapore might learn from cities like New York in order to achieve even greater heights in the future:

Professor Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, in the article “New York City gets Lee Kuan Yew prize”:
“So [for Singapore] to become the iconic city of the Asian century, we must learn to be more open, accept diversity and take full advantage of it – the way New York City did.” – (TodayOnline.com, March 22, 2012)

(“Respectfully,” has made some great points and I will address her directly).

This goal, unfortunately, means that the official response to people like The Sticker Lady should be less histrionic. As I wrote to “Respectfully,”, if Singapore want to come close to NYC’s artistic greatness, then it needs to not be “a society that would condone caning Banksy, executing The Beatles for drug use, and incarcerating Freddy Mercury for his sexuality.”

What good does it do Singapore to look at people like Melvyn Tan, the great classical pianist, and say their contributions are null to Singapore because they disagreed with and avoided National Service? I seriously can empathize with that guy. What would you, Zhang Di, say to Melvyn? Please check out one of his performances on YouTube before you consider your answer.

I’m allowed to feel anger when reminded of my history with Singapore, while still enjoying a fulfilling, exciting, and rewarding positive experience where I am now. How is that mutually exclusive? I am better off over here, but I will always be half-Singaporean. I think you’d just rather I shut up so you don’t have to think through these sort of issues.

While I will soon tire of writing on this particular forum, I assure that’s not going to happen while I’m alive.

Dave D'aranjo November 14, 2013 at 11:07 pm

Dear “Respectfully,”,

Thank you for your reply – I learned a lot more about where you are coming from, and you wrote in a way that lives up to your nickname.
My apologies for my defensiveness to you. Please understand that this comes from countless experiences in the past of being unfairly labelled and criticized by other Singaporeans such as Zhang Di here.
“Ang mo”, “traitor”, “CCB”, etc.

I can totally get how, in your experience with Singapore, you cannot help but consider it home and it to be your number-one city. I suppose a part of me is frankly jealous of this luxury you have. Genetic lottery, right? You never were told that you must complete some 2-year obligation to prove yourself. I’m mixed race, so there’s that aspect too – the constant feeling of not quite belonging. I’ve written volumes already on how Singapore could *ahem* “improve” on matters of diversity acceptance.

Believe it or not, I love Singapore too. Even though for me, “it’s complicated”, as they say. I don’t think it is fair to generalize my thoughts as “Western absolutism”. I mean, it is awfully absolutist to declare that all “Westerners” are absolutist. Er…. what I mean is, I too inhabit areas of grey and color in my feelings for Singapore, not just B&W. If I simply hated the place entirely, I would wish for its demise and not waste my time philosophizing on the nuances and potential of its society. The government and its politics infuriate me; these attitudes trickle-down to the mindset of many citizens I’ve encountered. Sometimes I admit that I wish the system would just implode. But I also must admit that I’ve met many progressive-minded Singaporeans as well – you likely fall into that category.

Let me flip and return your own phrase: don’t assume that if I’m against something, that means I’m not for it.

You did win me over on your paragraphs about NYC and your own artistic journey. I also love New York: unreservedly and irrationally. I get defensive over it because it became my home when it felt that Singapore cast me out. Your description of the concerts, street fairs, jazz bars, dirt, graffiti, sights, tastes, and ‘vibes’ of the city reminded me of my own mind-bending experience: the culture-shock challenged everything I had been taught in my previous life. I HAD to make it home and evolve quickly on many issues. Luckily, it is an awesome place to call an adopted home.

If Singapore had been more accepting in the first place – by offering an alternative to NS, or removing the antiquated requirement entirely – I think I couldn’t help but share your exact current mindset. Most friends from my high school (those who never were conscripted, or actually yearned for it) also view their time in the US as temporary and are extremely nostalgic for Singapore. I saw a darker side of their policies, and was told that if I set foot in Singapore again, I would be jailed. From this, I learned to mistrust nostalgia.

What if that happened to you? Try and envision a scenario where, due to your birth gender and other circumstances out of your control, you were told that you’d never return? That you MUST spend two-years in an inherently violent political organization that runs counter to all of your ideals? And if you didn’t, you deserved to go to jail, you fucking traitor?

Your description of your own artistic journey hit home for me too. I am glad to hear it. I am a musician, and this is not an easy field to try and make a career out of. But I continue because, in truth, it was music that chose me. All “artsy” types these days have to be diverse in their skills: I also write and work in video, and do graphic design as well. I remember having to vigorously defend these aspects of my personality when I was a teen. “Music will get you nowhere. You should study something useful.”

The trouble with NS as a “fraternal machine” is that it is exclusionary by nature. For you, it was never an issue and so you proceeded to NYC happily and drank it in. For me, this requirement was a major roadblock in my own development as an artist and compassionate human. The truth is, in Singapore you are a ‘sister’ simply because you are you. I argue that it should be no different for the men of Singapore – regardless of race, language, religion, sexual preference, or political ideas. In NYC, I found friends in an environment that welcomed me as a ‘brother’. Since practically everyone in NYC is a transplant, I would also imagine that you are welcomed as a sister, or sorts, among your friends and peers. If you have something to offer NYC, you are welcome and can work toward staying forever. It was this attitude that made me fall in love with the city.

I have no doubt that military training can be a positive experience if one chooses to do it. Once upon a time, I too was gung-ho and wanted to follow in my Dad’s footsteps in the military.
But something about the conservatism of Singapore, and the compulsory “universal” nature of NS, and the threats against me when I disagreed, made me lose much faith in Singapore.
Why pledge allegiance and fight for a government that outrages so many aspects of basic human rights? Why become a tool for their annual propaganda?
By the way, all this was happening to me during the W. Bush presidency and so my allegiance to the US was also seriously destabilized. Today, I generally believe that citizenship and nationalism are closely related to racist tribalism. It is holding humanity back.

From afar, I definitely see how being in Singapore these days can feel groundbreaking and exciting. There is a rumbling of new art borne from adversity. That’s powerful. I know lots of local musicians who actually make a great living playing every night. I love your phrase about those who “climb parapets to hug huge raindrops” – risk takers. Musician friends in Singapore (who for their benefit will go unnamed in this screed) are making amazing original music, no doubt. Writers and filmmakers are also growing vocal and bolder. Having been called “sterile” for so long, I think the scene has that extra motivation – that chip on their shoulder – to prove something to the world. But still… true “world-class” artistry can only come as Singapore opens up more.

I too use my experience in as extra motivation to help me excel here in the US. I sometimes think whether I should return to Singapore someday and give it another shot. But when I compare my personal growth in Singapore with the past six years here, I realize that I would be crazy to abandon so much potential just to return to a comfortable country that doesn’t want me anyway. “Go where you are celebrated,” they say, “not merely tolerated”.

“Respectfully,”, thank you for a legitimately thought-provoking and humane response. I have spent way too much time writing here these past few days, so, this will be my last post.
From one Singapore-hailing, NYC-loving bassist to another: all the best.

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Billy Jones November 13, 2013 at 8:12 pm

In summary, I can only say most Asians have a hard working life. They worked long hours, stiff competition in both work and studies and most wanted to earn as much as they can in order to have a “good” life. This value is different from the Western countries where most of them having enjoyed their prosperity days few hundreds years ago, understand that a good life is not just money but having a good balance of work and life, having a good clean environment to live in etc…

If you think Singapore is tough to live in, in terms of pace of life, long working hours, stiff competition in work place and study, crowded in almost everywhere, expensive housing, food, transport, take a look at China and Hongkong, its worse than Singapore.

Westerners are used to living a good life as what I have mentioned above, hence they will not be used to worked in places like Singapore or most parts of Asia. The exception are those who are working in high density cities and fast paced ones like NYC, London etc. But even those living there is nothing compared to the big cities in Asia where quality of life is poor, fast paced, competitive, expensive, crowded place to live in.

I guess Asians don’t know how to enjoy life whereas the Westerners do and that’s the reason why Asians are getting richer and Westerners are getting poorer because of this attitude. In another few years to come, there will be more Westerners working for Asians soon especially for Mainland Chinese.

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hongkies hongkeys three (3) passports Australian British Canadian United States America BN(O) November 16, 2013 at 6:04 am

billy jones:

Be cautious about mentioning Hong Kong being “WORSE” – a hongkie/hongkey may possess up to THREE (3) passports.

Singaporean ADULTS CANNOT even have two (2).

That mentioned, you may like to find out what a British National (Overseas) status is as opposed to OUTRIGHT BRITISH CITIZENSHIP (which is SIGNIFICANTLY MORE SUPERIOR).

Best,
“hongkies hongkeys three (3) passports Australian British Canadian United States America BN(O)”

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Iman Fahim Hameed November 13, 2013 at 8:19 pm

Hi Danny,

The points you brought up are extremely valid with the Singapore society of today, however, I must argue that perhaps it is unfair to perceive an opinion of a country in so short a visit. I am a Singaporean now, but was from Sri Lanka. So I come from a developing country with all the problems Shaad mentioned. But having lived in Singapore for the past 9yrs, I totally get the feeling of stagnant spirit. However, this is not the government’s fault. It is unfortunately a side-effect of their very practical approach to sustaining a city of people with absolutely zero natural reserves, no drinking water of their own and that too at a time when they were entirely at the mercy of their neighboring, larger counterparts.

As you said in your article, they have achieved stability in terms of governance, infrastructure, etc etc in a short span of 50 years, but perhaps at the cost of artistic freedom and spirit. I hear you. I feel it with a lot of my born-and-bred Singaporean friends and I tell them exactly what Shaad says. The government has realized this and they are trying to inculcate those values, passion and spirit in the new generations. After all, the country is a young nation and it needs to evolve, as much as all other nations have over centuries.

Shaad, it is true in a sense what Danny says about the lack of true spirit in today’s Singaporean youth, while in Sri Lanka, even with all the injustice, all the absence of facilities etc, if you spoke to the youngsters there (for I have that very same passion and it came from growing up in a troubled nation) they still have a crazy spirit and loyalty to their mother nation, a burning desire for change. I agree with Danny that that sort of passion and drive comes with imperfect living conditions. I know its ironic, but true. This is because, to a youngster growing up in such real conditions, their views and perceptions of what life is is drastically different to those of youngsters growing up in a very safe environment.

I remember during my Singapore Citizenship Journey, I had to visit the museum where I saw those old clips of post-war Singapore and the people at rallies- I could see that spirit. Those were the people who built Singapore. Danny, had you asked them about the culture and heritage, they would have given you a better answer. Today’s Singaporean youngsters complain about NS, complain about foreigners, complain about the little things. Yet they do not see past their own minute discomforts. They do not realize that Singapore has a growing population living in poverty. They do not realize that there are hundreds of people who live in hunger here even though they may have housing. These very real problems that are the basis of human emotion and empathy usually go unnoticed and I believe that Singaporeans need to rekindle that feeling of empathy and oneness that they had when they shared the vision of building a successful nation state.

Also Danny, while I do agree that your photograph of gardens by the bay is quite apt in symbolizing Singapore’s ‘synthetic’ side, it is only fair to also praise a mere dot on the map for investing in the brilliant science of it all. While the whole world is trying to build sustainable green cities, Singapore has achieved an admirable feat of creating a modern-day botanical Noah’s Ark of sorts. It is not meant to replace Nature. Cities all over the world elsewhere have less than half the greenery integrated into this tiny city and having such little land, for them to come up with these solutions is admirable.

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One of the Serangoon Road (“Little India”) Rioters was a Permanent Resident (PR) December 14, 2013 at 7:37 am

Hi Iman Fahim Hameed,

It is important to note that, since you mentioned “HUNGER”, I am sure you are as aware as the world’s HIGHE$T PAID minister of FOREIGN AFFAIRS and law that Singapore is NOT even a COUNTRY.

I of course, need NOT mention காசிவிஸ்வநாதன் (“கே”) சண்முகம் by name – you may ALWAYS ASK HIM HIMSELF.

However, I think you know what that means – poor people CANNOT grow food (in their crowded PUBLIC housing estates) and MUST purchase every iota of NEEDED NOURISHMENT.

By the way, since you mentioned the abbreviation “NS”, I am pleased to inform you that MALE Singaporean DOCTOR ஜனில் புதுச்சேரி does NOT need to know what “NSF” and “NSman/men” stand for.

HOW ABOUT YOU, SINGAPOREAN CITIZEN?

Best,
‘One of the Serangoon Road (“Little India”) Rioters was a Permanent Resident (PR)’

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Florence Tan November 13, 2013 at 8:39 pm

It has been an interesting read.

I toggle between different countries including Africa. One country I would like to highlight is Uganda. I have visited there and it is a sad story – a country, colonised a few years earlier than Singapore, resting on the same latitude as Singapore – but otherwise different – things have stopped – literally – its buildings are reminiscent of Singapore back in 1950s. The income disparity is eye popping. No wonder, the youth whom I got into contact have begged me to consider getting them a job, any job in Asia.

No country is without its critics – it is good to have them because it makes us aware of our blind spots.

After my bout of illness which strapped me to rest, I have realised that indeed family and friends are more important than where you live and what you do.

Let’s realise that in part, our dissatisfaction is that :
• we didn’t possess what others have viz their intelligence, easy access to wealth due to inheritance or simply being “there at the right time”. What we can change is to accept ourselves – to be content and value the people we are with, and being a true friend, parent, child.

It becomes sterile when you have no real friends.

It becomes sterile when work is just “work” not a company of colleagues you can rely on.

It becomes sterile when your family deserts you when you need them most…

….or when festive gatherings are just perfunctory to fill the void of time.

I wish Danny well and the rest who have decided to leave Singapore to experience life in other places.
May you find your true self and make this world a better place.

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jfq November 13, 2013 at 10:58 pm

Hi, I’ve chanced upon your post from a friend. I used to be like this. I studied overseas while my parents are my no means my mom who was the main breadwinner worked hard and saved so that I could get a better opportunity. While I will not go into details I spent my entire primary and secondary life in Singapore and the stress for me was being one of the lowest ranking students in a top school. My relatives and people around me expected me to have straight As just because of the association of my school, but in reality the only one time I passed every subject was the O levels because my school papers were so much harder. I do not know if that was a good or bad thing because I spent most of my student life thinking I was lacking in study smarts and stupid. Other factors in school and home also made me very depressed. I am also one of those students who was much better at humanities but would also not get great marks for English, etc just because my answers did not match the model answer, even if it were close or I wrote it in a different way. So when I finally went overseas, it was a huge eye-opening experience, I was able to major in what I was good in and got good marks for once. It made me optimistic, perhaps a bit too much, because reality hit when I actually had to find work overseas and visa complications and other issues sent me into another slump. I was barely earning enough to survive. Now I am back in Singapore and working and while it is not perfect it is something stable, and maybe much later in the future I may look overseas again. That said I am also glad to be back in a way because the country I left is now not doing so well and many of my friends there are having a hard time finding jobs and they are locals of that country. Also their political scene isn’t really great the moment. Yes I would have stayed if I found a job there but there were also many things about that country which weren’t that great. Public transport for one was much more expensive and more unreliable than in Singapore, yet here in Singapore everyone complains at every slightest thing – one of the aspects I don’t really like about Singaporeans.

Another thing is that the increasing complaints about our government and bashing foreigners for every little incident. I do agree that our government has lots more to work on and has many faults, and that some people should learn to control their behavior, but honestly many are going to the point of just blaming regardless of whether it makes sense or not, just because someone wrote an article or comment online, everyone hops in to bash along… It kind of makes me sad and also scared of staying in Singapore… Many Singaporeans are lacking in social manners as well – I work in the customer service industry and see ugly behavior in both locals and non-locals. Frankly it is hard to say which side is worse.

Going back to the education system, yes I suffered from the emphasis on maths and science though my time was more than 10 years ago and I do see some things have changed and now there is a bit more encouragement for arts and creative areas, so kudos to them on that, but I have to agree with an article I read in the news earlier this year that it is the parents of students that are still caught up in the rat race to ace maths and sciences and do not think much of creative subjects. I have to pitch in that this is also the case for many Asian parents in western countries as well. Many of may overseas Asian friends also struggle to convince their parents that is it indeed possible to make a decent living going into art and design. I saw a show on Koreans in America where there was a successful chef and also an artist whose relatives refused to acknowledge they were doing what they deemed a ‘proper’ job. At this point I think the problem lies largely with family and societal beliefs/expectations rather than the education system itself and that is going to be very hard to change. None of my teachers stressed me to get straight As in school and on the whole were encouraging to the ‘weaker students’. While yes, the Singapore education system is stressful in it’s own way, there are other Asian countries where it is much much worse, like Japan for instance (a country I also love but many things about it make me go ‘urk, no…’ as well).

Lastly, what you said about life being sterile and ‘Nothing particularly bad happened but it wasn’t particularly good either.’… Honestly to me that is daily life for many people everywhere. I could say the same about my own, but the reason why I continue is because of those few good moments and the hope for more to come. Life is largely mundane but it is what we make of it, so if you are able to grasp an opportunity for a better one, go for it. I wish you well in whichever country you end up in.

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One of the Serangoon Road (“Little India”) Rioters was a Permanent Resident (PR) December 14, 2013 at 7:58 am

Hi jfq:

Which overseas country did you do your tertiary studies in?

Regards,
‘One of the Serangoon Road (“Little India”) Rioters was a Permanent Resident (PR)’

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jfq November 13, 2013 at 10:59 pm

*sorry typo in the first part, I meant by no means rich

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Mike P November 13, 2013 at 11:11 pm

It would take some times to read all the comments. Singapore is no doubt one of the most efficient countries in the world regardless of its size and population. Singaporean may have been trained with high IQ but on EQ, I believe there’s something they should work on. Many years ago when Singapore was just established and the country was boomed, people’s lives were too enriched and somehow were left to forget the morality that our ancestors used to teach us. (Like I’ve always heard that many adults were too busy and competing in work and have neglected the family and the elders.) Such conundrum was immediately realised and identified and hence, the education was being embellished to instill more morale subjects and teachings among the Singaporean children.

I have a friend studying in National University of Singapore. He was a top scorer in high school and he always achieved his results with flying colours. However, his confidence was immediately dragged down after he has joined NUS and faced the pressure. Not only he could not focus on his study and score the expected good results like he used to, he also could hardly make friends. Everyone was just being too competitive to focus on the academic results where he was told by his coursemates to face the reality of the competition there. He was very stressful and although he managed to pass the degree, his results weren’t the best and even till now, he was still struggling with his life in Singapore.

Danny, as for your description of “sterile”, it could probably lead to another meaning as I have heard from many Singaporean friends that life was very stressful in Singapore and because of this, many men were facing ED (thought it’s better to say in abbreviation). :)

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One of the Serangoon Road (“Little India”) Rioters was a Permanent Resident (PR) December 14, 2013 at 7:51 am

@Mike P:

The world’s HIGHE$T PAID minister of FOREIGN AFFAIRS and law does NOT even think Singapore is a COUNTRY.

I of course, need NOT mention காசிவிஸ்வநாதன் (“கே”) சண்முகம் by name – you may ALWAYS ASK HIM HIMSELF.

Regards,
‘One of the Serangoon Road (“Little India”) Rioters was a Permanent Resident (PR)’

P.S. By the way, considering the conscription and lifelong reservist obligations and regulations, do NOT start me going what happens if a stinkaporean couple has a disproportionately HIGH number of MALE children all born with solely the nationality of a “city, not country” amid the PLUMMETING birth rates.

I am also sure that you are just as AWARE as MALE Singaporean DOCTOR ஜனில் புதுச்சேரி that PROFESSIONALISM DOES NOT EQUATE WITH PATRIOTISM.

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Tirupati November 14, 2013 at 12:00 am

I don’t agree with the author at all. I have worked and stayed in Singapore for 5 years and this is the best country to live in in the world. I have also worked and stayed in NE Asia and Middle east and travelled to many parts of the world for me Singapore is the ultimate. Every country should follow the model of Singapore in development, which country in the world has provided public housing to 90% of its population.

Crime is low, fantastic business environment and corruption free, very clean place to stay.

I did try to become PR of this great country unfortunately I did not succeed, even now I am always trying for jobs in Singapore so that I can fulfill my dream. Many of my friends got PR but left citing the reasons you have given and I totally cannot understand them

Only problem is Young Singaporeans do not realize how much blessed they are to be born in Singapore.

Political leaders in Singapore should be role model to politicians of the world and the man who created this 9th wonder of the world Respected Mr Lee Kuan Yew is the greatest nation builder in the worls hats off to this great leader.

I am still chasing my Singapore dream and will do so till I succeed.

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One of the Serangoon Road (“Little India”) Rioters was a Permanent Resident (PR) December 14, 2013 at 8:01 am

@tirupati: So what if they are born in Singapore?

Does Singapore allow citizenship SOLELY by jus soli?

Do NOT start me going about the Arabian Gulf states vis-à-vis what you stated about being born in Singapore.

‘One of the Serangoon Road (“Little India”) Rioters was a Permanent Resident (PR)’

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lance November 14, 2013 at 12:55 am

“Unfortunately her case is not an isolated case. The suicide rate in Singapore is rising at an unprecedented rate of 29% a year. With people between the age of 20-29, the increase is a horrifying 80%. ”

these stats sound like made-up numbers. do you mean that 29% of the population commits suicide every year? and 52.2% of people aged 20-29 commit suicide each year? that is an exceedingly high number and cannot be true. throwing statistics without context is just plain wrong. the link you provided offered me better insight and you should have quoted more closely from that source.

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Danyal jeff November 14, 2013 at 1:43 am

I believe if read properly it it mean the percentage of increase of suicide, not percentage of population.

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Mike November 14, 2013 at 1:17 am

Come on, lance, pay attention. The RATE is rising at 29% per year. There’s a big difference between that and what you quoted from the article.

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Mike November 14, 2013 at 1:20 am

Correction of my last comment: *There’s a big difference between what you misinterpreted and what you quoted from the article.

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Danyal jeff November 14, 2013 at 1:37 am

Thanks Danny. I was in Singapore few years back, exploring the arts scene over there. Everything looks superb. At the end of my stay, I have this feeling of ‘huh’?….. something is missing, i couldn’t really pin my finger on anything but the gut feeling of emptiness is there. Then I found your article and know that I am not the only one.

MJ

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John November 14, 2013 at 3:57 am

As a student living in the current times of this city state. I have always felt that our people were merely empty vessels with no particular purpose in life. Though many may argue that they have various aspirations and goals in life, many soon give up their dreams and live the normal 8am to 5pm life. I feel that we Singaporeans are generally afraid to take risks. We prefer safety.

Having said this, most of us generally follow this standard guideline to living life, We’re born. We go to school. We go to the army. We work, take the weekends off. Go for holidays. Work till we’re about 60. Then wait for our time to come. I know that many of my countrymen would disagree. But that’s only because they’re blind to the truth and living in denial of this fact.

I can’t say I’ll be any different.

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Flashman November 14, 2013 at 5:35 am

Ahh…I see our good friend Dave D’Aranjo has once again pop his head out to throw his own barbs and jibes about Singapore. Well, for those unlearned in the facts of Dave D’Aranjo, here’s a little background on him and his family.

Dave’s father is Wesley D’Aranjo, formerly a Brigadier General and the Deputy Secretary for Defense in the Republic of Singapore Air Force. He was also one of the architects, after Singapore’s independence in 1965, of Singapore’s military conscription program. Why is this background relevant?

It means that Dave has been hiding behind his father’s skirts, studying in the Singapore American School, and evading his obligation to fulfill his military conscription. In the meantime, thousands of Singaporeans have gone through the conscription, willingly or grudgingly, but nevertheless fulfilling their national obligations.

Dave has no moral ground to comment as a Singaporean, as I have no moral ground to comment on the American way of life and issues.

So Dave, if you want to point out about the failings of national military conscription in Singapore, perhaps you should look at your own father, who was one of those responsible for the illogical and psychological control of every male Singapore who has to serve their compulsory national service.

You tried to pull this argument years ago in Facebook in the Singapore group, and all your facts and lies were exposed. I see that time has not really made you any wiser to this. Your father’s hands are still as dirty, and you were lucky to have him as a shield for you to run your little hide away to the US for your own “musical talents”.

Sometimes, it pays to look at your own family’s skeletons first before trying to open any other cupboards…

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Dave D'aranjo November 14, 2013 at 9:17 am

Flashman, make no mistake…. you and I are not friends. And you know nothing – I repeat nothing – about me, or my family, or my history.

You did get the base details correct – yes, that’s my Dad. I’m not hiding behind his reputation or career and have never hid that. But here’s something you Singaporeans don’t get…. I AM NOT HIM. The idea that I owe something to you because of another person’s career is crazy… it’s this maddeningly paternalistic concept of original sin, so common in the Singaporean mindset. I can never subscribe to that mode of thinking.

You say my father was “one of the architects … of Singapore’s military conscription program”. This reveals how little you know about your own country’s history, and certainly how little you know about my father’s role in the military. He was fourteen years old when conscription was adopted after independence. He himself was a conscripted. And his official title was Deputy Secretary (Technology) which is a part of MINDEF, but not responsible for setting policy on conscription. You can thank CMPB and your elected officials for that. His field was more on the side of acquiring hardware – and anyway, he left the military almost 20 years ago.

Yes, I went to SAS. My mother taught there for decades and the tuition was free under her contract. My parents had the foresight to know that this educational system was better in the long run, in terms of fostering happiness, breadth of knowledge, and creativity. Plus, you know… free.

You insultingly say I hid, or was given special privilege. Those years of my life – from the age of 17 to 22, when I was finally granted a renunciation – those five years were the hardest, most rage-inducing years and shaped my anger toward’s Singapore’s mind-bogglingly short-sighted bureaucracy. After being EXILED to NYC for 3 years, facing the pain of thinking I’d never come home – and then finally managing to return – can you possibly imagine the psychological effect of being a kid and going through that? Being told to report here, meet with so-and-so, hire an immigration lawyer – these were wasted years of bureaucratic abuse over a bullshit manpower program. Is that special privilege? If anything they made it even harder for me to release the yoke of Singaporean citizenship I was unfortunate enough to inherit due to their scrutiny of my family.

You, Flashman, as a human being living on planet earth, have every right to morally comment on the “American way of life and issues” – especially if you feel that it effects you directly. Likewise, me being born in Singapore, and being fucked over trying to free myself from their oppressive and restrictive system of conscription – my experience gives me ample “right” to comment on this issue. Stop setting up such limiting and arbitrary rules.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. I love my Dad but I AM NOT HIM. There should not be any racial or military “test” to determine whether any citizen, male or female, is “Singaporean enough”. The life path of my father – and the decisions of Singapore’s forefathers – these are the things that have NO MORAL BEARING on whether a person can be forced to serve. See Article 20 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To call NS a “national obligation” insults the potential of Singaporeans, and it is a primary reason why I and countless others have done everything in our power to get the fuck out of Singapore…. to ensure that the lives of our children and filled with color, possibility and freedom. So that my father’s grandchildren can enjoy their youth without carrying an unnecessary burden based on fallacious rationale.

Unlike you, I’m not hiding behind internet anonymity, Flashman. You think you’re very clever “exposing skeletons”. There are none. I am not my father, but I am thankful I inherited his drive and moral conditions. Actually, none of this is any of your goddamn business anyway.

This is my life, and it has improved so much since leaving Singapore. But at the moment I am missing out on a beautiful winter’s day and the errands I need to run.
Let me close by saying: fuck you, you fucking fuck – and all who think like you do – for trying to judge me.

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Ann November 14, 2013 at 7:54 am

I am a college student now in the States and I lived in Singapore for 15 years after moving there at the age of 4, and you have put into words what I was searching for. Granted, I think that the country is doing amazing in terms of its performance indicators: standard of living, education, healthcare etc, but those do not constitute a ‘life’.

I do disagree on one point though: having been a product of the infamously oppressive education system, I think that it is largely dependent on the child’s parents and own convictions on what success means. My parents and I didn’t subscribe to the mentality that the only way to be successful was to be a science student (ok, maybe my mum did a little), but I was lucky enough to end up an engineering/pre-med student anyway. I have seen my peers growing up either stand up under the pressure and fight for their interests like fashion design or literature, or crumble under the pressure of society to fit into its mould.

To conclude, I think your article has articulated what so many Singaporeans, especially the young ones, feel about the country. Don’t misunderstand me, I think it is a highly successful system and the results are extremely impressive, but I’m not sure I would like to go through that again, or subject my future children to it.

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Kim November 14, 2013 at 8:29 am

Danny Carter, I think you should leave Singapore and never return too, as you have such low opinion of this extremely successful small country. I am pretty sure they won’t miss you much. Good luck.

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Rofleritis November 14, 2013 at 9:53 am

I’m sure a whole dose of death, disease, corruption and crime will do any country some good distraction from the angst of not finding meaning in life. There are lots of Singaporeans who do maintain a cheerful perspective on life there, engaged in artistic, academic, sporting, family or spiritual pursuits, and making the ever-powerful Singapore dollars and getting the best that money can buy the world over while they are at it.

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Mario J November 14, 2013 at 2:30 pm

It is disturbing to read articles when someone attempts to proclaim the ‘ I have been there, done that and ready to move on’ fleeting rhetoric, which often lacks perspective and maturity. It’s kinda like going to a really amazing VS party and you subsequently think all other parties are boring, only that at some point it becomes stale nontheless. To the writer of the article, who attempts to demonstrate a degree of depth in his / her analysis, it has only revealed your rudimentary understanding of a society or system. Not that it matters to you of course, because you are a fleeting traveller or maybe a tourist, like many of us, who are trying to clock that extra ‘cool’ global mileage and explore the world that adds meat to your daily conversation with people. Singapore has had an amazing track record of turnaround success whose achievements are undeniably remarkable. But bear in mind one simple fact, that she is still young, and ever growing in mesmerizing ways that you will unfortunately not be in a position to experience but only to marvel at a distance in the foreseeable future. It is already happening, and it’s real. The development plan of a society or system is often complex and challenging and issues such as national identity, cultural heritage and future direction are common for any countries. I have lived in many overseas countries too, and the grass always seems greener at first glance; and you get more clarity when you look at it from the outside. I will choose to live in Singapore for a long list of reasons anytime and it takes more than intelligence and intellect to identify value in any asset. Your article suggested neither. For someone like you, there are possibly only a few parties that will keep you engaged or ‘non-sterile’ in your attempted philosophical semantic. What are you going to do when the music stops ? I expect yet another intellectually deep article from you, and it better be on the New York Times for that matter. Singapore may be a relatively small nation, but she is one hell of a tough nut.

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Tong November 14, 2013 at 2:40 pm

It is also a free port for Money Laundering Activist to set up office.

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Mark Lim November 14, 2013 at 3:24 pm

I agree with you to a limited extent; I had been born and bred in this country for 19 years. I can tell you that not everything has to be hustled and bustled to be done. You can take life here in Singapore, at your own pace. That’s what I’ve been doing. I’m a non-conformist by nature, hence I live thinking that I am different from everyone, (and that is so true, you can visit my blog). I never liked anything mainstream, with few exceptions (songs).

I concur that life here has a fast and on-going pace. That is the only part with which I agree with your post. If you want to appreciate Singapore, you have first got to be grateful for it. This is my home country, it has a history, a time of hardships. I am 19 years old , I didn’t face the Japanese occupation. You didn’t face it either. My grandparents did, they’ve told of how cruel the Japanese were at the time. I’ve the priviledge of hearing that from someone close to me who has experienced it. Only when you know what this country has gone through, would you be grateful and thus appreciate it. “This is Singapore! We’re one strong tough nut, that’s small in size, that the Japanese couldn’t crack!” This is what I think, the impression I get is: if you want to make us, break us, we’re a strong country. This is what keeps all of us bonded so strongly together. It’s not just one event, we’ve had the Maria Hertogh riots (1960s I believe) as well! Secret Societies? I believe I’ve made my point.

Other than that, great website! Great article! I’ve just read this article, and I believe that this article sets the bar for other posts. Good day to you, cheerios!

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Sean November 14, 2013 at 3:57 pm

“In a school system built to produce scientists, bankers and mathematicians, an artsy student was deemed a failure. The school system is one of the world’s most efficient but it is only able to produce a limited type of human widgets.”

I find this to be a sweeping and false generalization. I don’t think you truly understand the nuances of the education system if you have not personally been in it. The arts are actively encouraged and in no ways deemed inferior to the maths and sciences in today’s system. Many programmes such as the Humanities scholarship programme in fact encourage students to study humanities at a higher level.

Above all, I find this sentiment to be highly ignorant. Who says that arts and sciences are mutually exclusive? Many historical figures have defied this urban myth.

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Vivian K November 14, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Hi There, I am Singaporean myself.
Honestly, I can’t giggling after reading this :)

I guess you are writing this article from a Foreigner’s (“Westerner’s”) perspective of our society and structure. The truth is, at least from my personal point of view, Singapore is still an Asian country and well-rooted in its Asian origins and upbringings.

As much as my fellow countrymen are crying foul over stresses over our education system. The level of competition in the regime cannot be even compared to that encountered by our North Asian and South Asian counterparts. Academically in Maths and Science, these counterparts have hands down, outdone us.

Our education system, I feel, is well-moulded and balanced between that of the West and the East. The “pressure” in the education system is very much inflicted by the parents themselves…. termed “Kiasu” (being scared to lose)… like all Asian parents do. So that is very much the traits of an Asian culture. The case of the girl’s suicide mentioned in your article was a very unfortunate incident. But definitely not reflective of the situation in my country.

In terms of openess in conversations, well… work takes up 8-10 hrs a week day. Sleep takes up 6-8 hrs for some. And remaining couple of hours for family and friends. People talk about what they spend most of their time on. Small talk are meant for the acquaintances. Heart-to-hearts ones are for close friends and family. Wouldn’t it be strange to open up yourself to someone you are not (emotionally or comfortably) close to…?? I can’t figure that one out.

Singapore being a small island nation, the majority of us are fortunate enough to travel abroad for vacation(s). So the world is the playground and Singapore is home where one feels safe and secure.

I definitely respect your thoughts on the matter. The truth is, each one of us are nurtured and moulded by the environment we grow up in. So that becomes the basis of comparison.

I have done a considerable amount of travelling myself. And now, as I grow older, I have come to appreciate my home and country, Singapore, even more. The level of convenience and ease of living is well above what I have encountered in many developed or developing countries. True, it is not 100% perfect… there is always room for improvement. People will always complain and it’s not possible to accommodate to everyone’s request. (So suck it up and work hard for what you want. This is no free handouts in life… everything comes with a price :p )

I have faith that Singapore will continue strive and be a shining gem (as long as the right people are in the government).

Hope you will come back to Singapore again. And probably take a stroll in our heartlands, hear the chatters (understanding the local slangs definitely will make fun… we laugh alot as a nation) and probably look at us from a more Asian perspective.

Cheers..!

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ANTI-MUNAFIK/MUNAFIQ November 16, 2013 at 2:08 am

@vivian k:

Now that you mentioned the Housing and Development Board (HDB) “HEARTLANDS” where around 80% of Singapore’s population lives, you may like to do an online query for these terms:

” jacqueline wong hdb wedding amy cheong “.

I am sure eve tan would be just as PROUD.

JUMPA LAGI!

Anti-munafik/muanfiq

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SMH November 14, 2013 at 5:23 pm

Great article. Even though to me, after 3 years of living in the UK, Singapore is definitely a much lively and vibrant city despite all the long working hours and strict deadlines have to meet at work. But I still couldn’t agree more with the reasons why you won’t be returning. I am totally with you. I feel like something is holding me back from moving forward in my life.. probably is the too-fast pace of living and people just can’t be bothered to slow down and appreciate things.. probably is me missing the eye contacts and small chats people would make back in the UK… So, it is 3 years now of me living in Singapore and it won’t be counting to 4. Let’s move on and cheers to that! xxxoo

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Marchino November 14, 2013 at 6:04 pm

I agree that Singapore is boring and lifeless.

But why selectively quote statistics to support that claim?

The Singapore suicide rates year-by-year are reported here:
http://www.samaritans.org.sg/National-Statistics.pdf

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Marchino November 14, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Sorry…pressed enter by mistake.

Yes, the suicide rate increased by 29% from 2011 to 2012. But it over the 20 year period given by the Samaritans, the rate has hardly budged. It has always been around 8-10 per 100,000 people. And the rate in 1998 (per capita) was higher than in 2012:

1998 – 10.37
2012 – 10.27

(I presume the population was smaller in 1998).

The suicide rate is lower than in either the UK or USA.

As for the 80% increase (from 2011 to 2012) among 20-29 year olds, remember this is a comparison of two small numbers, which will naturally be subject to stochastic fluctuations from year to year. Here are the numbers from 2007 to 2012 in order: 62, 52, 72, 64, 46, 83. See how 2011 gave the lowest figure? So hardly surprising that there was a rise in 2012.

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lionel November 14, 2013 at 8:17 pm

I am so annoyed at the comments claiming that singapore is all science and maths but no art. As a mathematician, let me tell you that this distinction between mathematics and the arts is wrong. Any mathematician will tell you that maths is beautiful. To me, it’s more beautiful than any of beethovan’s symphonies. An elegant maths proof is in itself a work of art. Just because you can’t understand it doesn’t make it ‘sterile’.

The same goes for the sciences. I’ve met physicists and geneticists who have all spoke about their discoveries the same way I do about my maths proof: with love. You don’t have that passion if it’s ‘just science’.

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Dave D'aranjo November 14, 2013 at 9:06 pm

I agree with your attitude on this – however I would never say “one is more beautiful than the other” (not least because I can’t comprehend written equations in the same way you can). That’s subjective, I guess. To me, listening to Beethoven is awe-inspiring and moving. In my harmony and counterpoint classes, we had the chance to analyze some of his scores. Many Bach inventions as well. Extremely mathematical and inspiring.

Music is an art comprised of ratios, frequencies, intervals, and much more math than people generally realize. I am learning every day and am amazed at how much I don’t know. It may sound idealistic, but there should be no segregation when it comes to learning.

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June November 15, 2013 at 2:48 am

Most of the boredom and limitations in Singapore arose due to it’s size. In almost everything else that are not limited by land constraints, this country has achieved much more than most others that developed for over 200 years, in just 40 years. It is a country still “work-in-progress”.

Actually, the problem of “not growing” could be YOU, and it may not matter where you go as long as the regressive mindset remains.

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Jay November 15, 2013 at 2:50 am

I think Singapore lacks soul. It has become a city where money matters, just like any other city. The spirit of Singapore, once distinct and transcending racial and religious lines, is diminishing fast. This is happening at the expense of us true-blue Singaporeans. It is time for us to leave if we can afford to do so. We should not be blamed for “quitting” the country since our forefathers from abroad came to Singapore in search of opportunities. Likewise, since we are being deprived of opportunities here, no blame should befall us if we find them elsewhere.

I read your insightful piece and some comments from a few of my fellow Singaporeans. I do not appreciate this West/Asian dichotomy. Asia in itself is diverse, so to me trying to amalgamate distinctly “Asian” perspectives and superimposing Asia as the “other” to the West isn’t going to help this debate. One need only look at Inoue Tatsuo’s work on this issue. Asia in itself is diverse, and if one wanted to investigate further, many similarities in culture can be drawn with the so-called “West”. To me “unity in diversity” is nothing but rhetoric.

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Rich Chinese Indo November 15, 2013 at 5:34 am

Fuck U Dave D’aranjo.

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Dave D'aranjo November 15, 2013 at 10:25 am

I agree!

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kh Loo November 15, 2013 at 6:13 am

All my tertiary education were in Singapore NUS. I had been a student here and later set up my company in Singapore, now traveling between Singapore and Malaysia. After living, studying, working and doing business in Spore for 28 years, I think I can claim to understand this state nation slightly better. I fully understood the situation Singapore is in. The whole “country” having land area smaller than Kuala Lumpur, with no natural resources, and yet need to compete with the surrounding neighbour, some are not that friendly, Singapore have to excel and move many steps ahead of others in order to survive. If Malaysia is as progressive as Singapore, then Singapore no longer has any competitive edge!. That is why the whole nation is “psycho” into a competitive tension and “must” excel in life. I believe that is no good or bad, it is a survival game for Singapore and she needs to excel. A lot of young dynamic people still flocks to Singapore to make their fortune, including all my nieces and nephews, they look at Singapore as a role model. But for people like me over 50 years young, I am now prefer to stay in Malaysia but travel to Singapore a few times a month for business. I want a slower pace life style, with internet, there is no limitations. I compete in the Singapore business environment, and relax myself among the waterfall and natural landscape of Malaysia. So my conclusion is, use Singapore as a base to enjoy Asia and design a life that you want. Do I want to go back to stay in Singapore for retirement? may be not. But I like Singapore!

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formerMsian November 16, 2013 at 5:31 am

Uncle Loo, one can retire in Singapore and have a slower pace of life. It’s an individual and personal choice. There are a lot of activities and programs for senior citizens. Maybe not in the league of Endau Rompin or Mount Kinabalu but there are still nature to enjoy – Sg Buloh, McRitchie, Bt. Timah etc.

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吳展銘 (吴展铭) November 16, 2013 at 7:21 am

As a COMPATRIOT, I am SURE 李美玲 would appreciate her name repeated on this forum as often as HER HOLE on the internet.

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Charissa November 15, 2013 at 6:21 am

Hi, as a Singaporean born and bred, I do agree to some points made but I think you were clearly hanging out with the wrong people while here. I’m sure this long thread has made up for some of lack of interesting conversation. Good luck wherever you end up.

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Zack November 15, 2013 at 7:27 am

Do you know where Singapore fails? Well.. Singapore lacks of love. Singapore lacks of art. Singapore lacks of emotions. Basically people are just following the trends because they’re afraid that they’ll get left behind and finally they seems to get used to it. It is becoming a part of their lives. They have consumed too much. In fact, they are in a crisis of cultural diversion.

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anti-Drama November 15, 2013 at 11:45 am

I was at a Lady Gaga concert in Singapore and while dancing my butt off accidentally hit the head of this bespectacled young Singaporean man in front of me. I was ready to apologise profusely for my clumsy dance moves – it was quite a hard knock – only to find him staring straight ahead as if nothing happened. Okayyyy…

Anywhere else it would have been resolved with a smile and a ‘sorry’, maybe even a little chat. I think half (only half mind you) of all Singaporeans have some form of social anxiety. How not to, when it’s so obsessed with image and impressing the rest of the world. Must be quite damaging for the psyche.

Disclaimer – I know a lot of cool, normal Singaporeans with a great sense of humour whom I admire a lot for their work ethic. Try getting this Malaysian to work on a Sunday. Not gonna happen. Maybe that explains why they go on fancy vacays to France and Italy while I can only afford trips to India on Air Asia deals. I’m not complaining. Bengali music and food is the bomb.

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Ken November 15, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Hi Danny, I am a Singaporean and what you wrote strike a chord with my sentiment. I am in my 40s and I always feel life is so much meaningful in 70s and 80s when I was in school. In 90s, things picked up at astronomical pace and basically people have no time for family and friends. Kids do not play or I should say they don’t even know how to play. My nieces and nephews can’t go to the beach because they are packed with tuition from morning till evening on weekends. The whole society is measured by monetary achievement. New comers may find it exciting with the modern touch but underneath the glittering structures there lies empty souls.

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Ridd November 15, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Listen people,

The reason you don’t feel there is any fucking progress is because you are hanging around with the wrong bloody people. Simple. When I live in singapore, I am CONSTANTLY inspired. I am inspired to get an amazing job, to make a change, to stand up for what I believe in, I am inspired to help people around south east asia, I am inspired to stand on my own two feet financially and give back to my parents what they have given me. I go to awesome places, eat at awesome restaurants, have an awesome crew of friends, the weather is constantly awesome, I can go to the inner city to the beach in 20 mins. I go to awesome parties, I come home to a great home, a family, friends, I wake up happy, I go to work happy, I go to sleep happy. What more could I ask for.

I see my parents, who have lived in singapore 30+ years and still until this day, they too, are inspired. They are happy, they come home from work happy, they have raised a happy family. They have built a house together from the ground up, and housed all our family under one roof. They have raised grandkids, gone through struggles, but always come out happier than before. What an accomplishment.

I think wherever in the world you are, nothing will be great and every city will seem dull unless you are HAPPY. Happiness is the root of all success. We often think being more successful will make us happier, but its the reverse; being happier makes you more and more successful. Perhaps you should stop shitting on a country and blaming the way it works, for your disappointments, and instead, learn to be happy. I cannot even express how lucky I am to have been raised in a place where at 10 years old, I could wonder the streets myself and talk to strangers, without fear from my parents that their child would be in danger. What a fucking great relief, for any parent out there. Such a rarity in big cities. In Singapore, 80% of the daily stresses seen in cities like NYC are not even an issue.

Honestly, try visiting Singapore again when you are happy. I get the impression you are a mundane, miserable being. You will begin to see something special; when someone is truly, indefinitely happy, they will LOVE wherever they are, no matter what. It really is all within you, your perceptions, and what you do to make your experiences amazing.

All in all, you should not be blaming Singapore here, but rather, yourself.

P.S – Bringing in USELESS arguments like Singapore’s suicide rate is so very very very silly – suicide is an issue in EVERY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD. So if you are comparing Singapore to a “greater” place, well buddy, that “greater” place will have people killing themselves too. And rape. And murder. And divorce. And poverty. And homelessness. And unemployment. Prejudice. Discrimination. News flash, this shit happens all over the world.

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Youtube user/jemdude22 (jeremy lin) is a MALE singaporean who, like fellow MALE compatriot larry medina, will be subjected to as much conscription and lifelong reservist liability as MALE compatriot robert viswanathan chandran November 18, 2013 at 6:43 am

@ridd:

i) There are around as many people in and around New York City (NYC) as WHOLE of Australia and only SIX (6) States out of FIFTY (50) SANS NEW YORK STATE have more people.

ii) Eight (8) States of FIFTY (50) have around HALF (1/2) of around 310 MILLION PEOPLE in the world’s FOURTH (4TH) BIGGEST COUNTRY BY AREA.

iii) Yet you compare ALL THAT with Singapore, which is SEVENTEENTH (17TH) from the BOTTOM of the world’s SMALLEST COUNTRIES by AREA?

你倒底有閱讀過(公元前第六世紀)老子的《道德經》, 白話解的第六十章 (治大國若烹小鮮)嗎 ?!

No regards,
“Youtube user/jemdude22 (jeremy lin) is a MALE singaporean who, like fellow MALE compatriot larry medina, will be subjected to as much conscription and lifelong reservist liability as MALE compatriot robert viswanathan chandran”

P.S. IN FACT, in the United States of America (USA), the world’s HIGHE$T PAID minister of FOREIGN AFFAIRS and law mentioned that Singapore is ONLY A CITY, NOT A COUNTRY.

I of course, need NOT mention காசிவிஸ்வநாதன் (“கே”) சண்முகம் by name – you may ALWAYS ASK காசிவிஸ்வநாதன் (“கே”) சண்முகம் to INFORM you HIMSELF.

You may like to check this video out – – and DO NOT start me going about HIS COLLEAGUE MALE Singaporean DOCTOR ஜனில் புதுச்சேரி.

––––––––

“Some time ago, on a rare trip to Paris, so a well-placed friend told me, Lee [Kuan Yew] was granted a meeting with François Mitterrand. Lee began lecturing the premier of France on governance. After Lee had left the room, Mitterrand said, ‘Who is this ridiculous man who wastes my time? Running Singapore is like running Marseilles. I am running a whole country!’”

– Theroux, Paul (2008), “Ghost train to the Eastern star : 28,000 miles in search of the railway bazaar”, page 329.

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Alicia November 15, 2013 at 4:13 pm

I’m sorry to hear that you’re so unhappy about Singapore… but I hope that when you’ve spent enough time overseas, you would be willing to return to Singapore, and develop its “artsy” side. I mean no disrespect in suggesting this. I have a great deal of respect for Singaporeans who are incredibly talented in the arts, chose to go overseas to train, and return here so that they can inject some life in this apparently “spirit” or “soul”-less land.

My humble observation is that Singaporeans often say they leave because there are “too many foreigners” and this doesn’t feel like their own country anymore. And I admit that whenever I’m pressed against the MRT door, I feel like leaving too. But it may very well be a chicken-egg problem – it may have started with Singaporeans leaving first.

I hope you find happiness overseas, and I admit I am envious that you have international mobility. But if those who fit in here are deemed zombies, then it’ll be nice if the remaining humans will stay and fight the apocalypse.

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Joseph Goh November 15, 2013 at 8:25 pm

So many places to choose for those who are able to make a choice. You are the small privileged group. But such poor taste to criticize and lambast the nation after you are tired of it.

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ShuQi November 15, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Hi Danny! Your article represents a common stereotyped perspective of Singapore. As you said “In my experience, people were polite but conversations rarely moved past surface-level niceties.” Similarly, your mere 2 months in Singapore translates to your surface-level understanding of the city. Because you have not been able to fully participate in the lives of Singaporeans, your understanding of the city would be as an outsider – missing the flipside to life.

Anyone can tell that we work hard, but we play hard too. As a born and bred Singaporean, I know that foreigners rarely assimilate well with locals because a language barrier does exist. Even though we are able to speak perfect English, it remains a formal way of communication. In our daily lives, amongst Singaporeans, we speak with Singlish – a mix of local languages, dialects and slang. Thus, it is unlikely for a conversation to move pass superficial levels if it is carried out fully in formal English, because we would be in our ‘professional’ mode. It is when we converse in Singlish that we let our hair down and are able to talk freely.

Our education system is also not solely around Math and Science. We do not produce only scientist, bankers and mathematicians. Personally, I study Arts and Social Sciences at the National University of Singapore and I can tell you that school life is vibrant and never centered solely around studies. Our faculty is the largest in the national university, does this mean that we are all ‘doomed to be failures’? Our standard national examinations are also equally weighted between Humanities, Languages, Arts, Math and Science. Pick any student and they will tell you that their life isn’t solely about education or Math/Science, countless have talents in music, art and sports. The examples of suicide that you highlight are also anomalies and not representative of the population in Singapore. Teen suicide is also prevalent everywhere else in the world and similarly rising, does that mean that their country is dull and lifeless too?

Singapore is a beautiful place. What you have experienced is only one façade of Singaporean life. It’s a pity that you simply write off the city after a surface-level experience. Your post, albeit well-written, it is rather myopic and simply another superficial, stereotype perspective of Singapore. Culture and heritage are inherent in the city, it takes more than just 2 months and superficial interaction to grasp even the basics of a culture, I’m sure you know that.

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Zekky November 15, 2013 at 9:38 pm

Hi Danny ,

In respond to your observation , i would say it may be partially true. I’m a Singaporean and if i have the means to migrate anywhere i will not do so. Although it like ” The field looks greener on the other side ” doesn’t mean it always is.

Happiness always start from you not the place you are at (or anywhere i might add).
Be positive and optimistic for a change, its good for you ;)

cheers bro and good luck

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Lim November 15, 2013 at 11:04 pm

I respect your decision for not coming back to Singapore. As a Singaporean myself, this article and the comments below gave me a new perspective of Singapore, a perspective that I would never have, a perspective by a foreigner. It is not your fault for deciding not to return to Singapore because during your stay, you probably met people who were more mundane and work-oriented, or took minimal initiative in trying to discover the unique culture of Singapore. I believe you just left recently, so you probably went through the lunar Seventh month a.k.a. Ghost month, which means that you had the chance to be exposed to one of the most culture oriented event in Singapore in the whole year, getai, or ‘small scale concerts’. You would probably see people burning incense paper a lot more during this month, you would probably notice a lot of auctions going on. I don’t know what you are looking for in heritage. Buildings of more than 100 years? Majority of people still leading the 18th century way of life? I have no idea. However, if you did make an effort in trying to discover the culture, there is no way you would have missed out the activities locals did during the Lunar Seventh month, or Muslims during the Ramadan period etc. These are part of Singapore’s culture. Did you also notice how churches, temples and mosques are placed in close proximity in Singapore? A church can be built just beside a temple without any controversy at all. To be frank, I never saw anything like this in any of the countries I visited. Isn’t this a part of heritage/culture as well? Singapore has a lot to offer, but if you are not willing to put in the effort to discover more than the surface, you will have the idea of Singapore being a mundane and sterile country. The reason why Singapore is still thriving is not just because of Singaporeans work for long hours to drive the economy, but more about why Singaporeans are willing to do so much for the economy. Many will say because they need to survive, hence they need to work very hard. Going deeper into that, you will realize that this is all because Singaporeans are still willing to call Singapore their home. They aren’t moving to other countries anytime soon despite the high stress environment they are in. Why? Because this is their home. In order for them to call Singapore their home, there must be something which makes Singapore different from other countries in the world. Hence, Singapore does have a unique culture, and not as sterile as it seems.

I’m not asking you to return to Singapore because you probably have a place you called home in your heart. But I just want to say, you will be missing out of one of the most unique culture you will ever see in any part of the world. Thank you for your article. It is definitely a refreshing read. Have a nice day and all the best for your future endeavors.

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Youtube user/jemdude22 (jeremy lin) is a MALE singaporean who, like fellow MALE compatriot larry medina, will be subjected to as much conscription and lifelong reservist liability as MALE compatriot robert viswanathan chandran November 18, 2013 at 2:31 am

@lim:

You may like to peruse these comments made by jeremy lin (Youtube user/jemdude22) and scintillate them for 種族和諧日 / 种族和谐日 – NOTE THE CONTRADICTIONS):

“Tell you something, i will leave Singapore one day if the chinese population in Singapore becomes smaller than that of other races. I will not live in a muslim dominated country after seeing the plight of malaysian chinese. Be glad that we are still the dominant race on this tiny temasek island where the national language is Malay.”

“东北人再野蛮, 再厉害打架又怎样? 以前还不是被小小矮矮的日本人欺负, 被日本人当畜牲一样宰杀, 还被一批一批的关在731里面做实验! 那时为什么不对日本人叫劲儿啊? 打自己的女同胞就来劲了。

有些中国人就是这德行,就知道窝里斗,欺软怕硬!”

Best,
“Youtube user/jemdude22 (jeremy lin) is a MALE singaporean who, like fellow MALE compatriot larry medina, will be subjected to as much conscription and lifelong reservist liability as MALE compatriot robert viswanathan chandran”

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benjamin November 15, 2013 at 11:07 pm

Dear Danny,
It is very sad indeed to read your story, not because your story itself is sad, but rather that it depicts an unfortunate picture of you as a person. I would assume that no one frog-marched you to singapore. I assume that no one held a member of your family as hostage to force you to go to singapore. I will assume that you probably had very good perks and a juicy salary to work in singapore. I assume that you are used to the numerous pleasures of life. It is obvious that you do not like the environment in singapore. Many people do not. But to write something like what you wrote is unfair. You have managed to parasitize whilst you were in singapore and after sucking the blood out of whatever you set your fangs into, you complain that the blood is not sweet enough for you.
Everywhere you go, in any country you can think of, there will always be individuals that are unhappy. no problem with that. But to go on and on and paint this gloomy picture about a country that has given you more than you have contributed to- is most unfortunate and regretable.
I could say to you: go on, fuck off back to where you came from, but this will not contribute anything to the discussion. You need to learn to appreciate what you have, what you had, and understand that it cannot always be about ‘me, me, me, me” all the time.
Be grateful for what you have. Do not bitch!

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One of the Serangoon Road (“Little India”) Rioters was a Permanent Resident (PR) December 16, 2013 at 6:28 am

@benjamin:

Neither did Dr. Shane T. Todd, I am sure.

‘One of the Serangoon Road (“Little India”) Rioters was a Permanent Resident (PR)’

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Concerned Father November 16, 2013 at 1:09 am

10 years or so ago I would have responded strongly in support of Singapore. What a difference a decade makes! Now, you are absolutely spot-on!

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Billie November 16, 2013 at 3:50 am

I am a 22 year old Singaporean. And I am agreeing with this post. I am in the Animation Industry and what I have achieve so far doesn’t make my father or my relatives proud of me. It is frustrating to be seen as a failure because I do not work in an office. To me Singapore move so fast and they don’t know when to slow down, i interned in Indonesia for almost a year and it’s different. I have to say I am happier there than Singapore. People would say that I’m not appreciating what Singapore had gave me. But to be honest why would I appreciate something that doesn’t make me happy and dubbed me as a failure just because I have no interest in working at 9 – 5 job. So to Danny Dover I do understand what you are saying. Cheers! :)

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Joseph November 16, 2013 at 5:48 am

Dear Danny,
As a Singaporean who was born and live here for 62 years, I try to understand how and why you saw Singapore from your perspective.
I looked up your blog and was amazed at your zest for life.
In effect, you have made it your mission to fulfill more than fifty wishes in your comprehensive wish list of things to accomplish within a certain time-frame in your life.
So far, you have been able to achieve many feats that you have set yourself to achieve. For example, you have travelled to many countries in the world, skydived, bungee-jumped, flew an aeroplane, gave a talk to a university audience, etc.
To fulfil your grand mission within a compressed time and space, you invariably do not usually spend more than two months in a particular locale without exceeding your budget.
Hence, you could only spent two months living and experiencing the sights, sounds and culture in Singapore.
Is it fair and objective, then, for you to conclude that life in Singapore is sterile and boring?
I myself have travelled to many countries in the world, having trained and lived in USA for more than a year and toured Europe for three weeks, to name a few. I have never thought of migrating to these wonderful countries as I find that I can lead fulfilling lives for myself and my family here in tiny Singapore.
You, as I see it, are a classic example of an adventurous nomadic traveller who aims to experience the transient wonders of the world within a limited timespan. I salute your adventurous spirit and wish you all the best. But I hope that you can also acknowlegde, from the many feedback in your blog on your anecdotes that, ‘one swallow does not make a summer’.

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noName November 16, 2013 at 6:53 am

You are not one of us…you can leave SG for good. I hate ppl demoralizing my fellow bros and sis.

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Joy November 16, 2013 at 6:55 am

Having been raised in Singapore my whole life, I never saw Singapore in the way that you put it. Like any moment in life, you make your own experience from the circumstances around you. I have made life long friends with great Singaporean people and made my time there wonderful. You are entitled to your own opinions but I think that the title just shocked me (which is probably your intention). All I can say is give Singapore another chance but find your experiences in different places.

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HarlemGuy November 16, 2013 at 11:59 pm

I wonder why the readers here are so gracious to leave patient and amicable comments on such retarded gibberish. Singapore people are always soooo tolerant and being overtly nice towards trashy mannerism everywhere I see them. I am certain that you are thrilled to see how a few of these people who commented don’t even hold themselves well against your bitterness. I mean at the end of the day, who gives a shit about what you think Dannie Dove, and who are you to judge? And you don’t want people to judge you. The fact is, you are nobody, and yet wanting to be heard soooo very bad. And you have no idea what’s ‘bare minimum of living’ in some other developed countries. One thing you are right though, life is short, and it’s time for you to start living one and stop being a muppet.

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hongkies hongkeys three (3) passports Australian British Canadian United States America BN(O) November 17, 2013 at 5:23 am

@harlemguy:

Are you a Singaporean CITIZEN?

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SingaporeanX November 16, 2013 at 8:43 pm

As a Singaporean, I agree with what you say completely. There is a lot of wayang in Singaporeans. Many Singaporeans today are struggling and in denial at the same time. The leaders have overspent leading and under managed these past 15 years. We brag of top education scores but produce zero Nobel Prize winners. The irony…even my Japanese friends say Singaporeans work more than the Japanese and they thought they were overworked. Singaporeans are really not protected in any way by the deceptive policies, one where being too busy all the time. Singaporeans don’t take the time to study. Today, the PAP’s policies are condemned and for good reason. ..we are the most unhappiest on the planet and the locals say it is better to die than to fall sick in Singapore. Many Singaporeans today are in denial. Many of my friends don’t even want to defend the country when there is a war as it is too tiny. It’s sad but Singaporeans males are dragging their feet to NS and reservist as they know they are not defending the island but protecting the assets of the rich people here. Singapore can’t speak of any real culture. It’s not a nation. The people here are disunited. 48 years and it has now come to be a soulless place. I’m too am trying my best to leave this place where citizens are treated like horses and machines to be faster and cheaper all the time. Even 2 of my professors have left Singapore citing the horrendous work culture here. Many Singaporeans take medical certificates as they needed more time to rest given the punishing work culture here. We don’t treat as humans but machines here a d I say that as anative born Singaporean local who lived here for 37 years. It’s time to go before it gets worse as now the country can’t lie that it needs to resort to the vices to survive .. . the 2 casinos a case in point.

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HarlemGuy November 17, 2013 at 12:08 am

” Ask not what a country can do for you, but what you can do for the country.”
~John F.Kennedy

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M November 17, 2013 at 7:35 am

@SingaporeanX
Excuse me? Can you not generalise the negative opinions and assume that everyone in Singapore think like you? “The people here are disunited” “soulless place” “citizens are treated like horses” where are your evidence? Maybe by the of my post, you will think “here’s another Singaporean in denial” and still remain blinded by your hatred for the very country that subsidised your education.

The “disunited people” you are describing are working together even at this very moment to help victims of Typhoon Haiyan. Words are spreading regarding aid and how people can donate on Facebook, Twitter and amongst friends.

I do agree that our culture and education breeds law abiding citizens that may be “mindless clones” as compared to other countries that advocates individuality. That is our flaw. For an adventurer or someone who longs to be different, this place may not be the right place for you. But for someone who wants peace, this place offers you peace, security and provides for your basic needs.

As our government subsidises almost every aspect of our basic needs, from affordable education (our school fees are almost negligible up to secondary level) to public housing. We should be thankful, I am thankful in fact, having had many opportunities despite coming from a low income family, but people like @Singaporeanx criticise every aspect of this country and wants to leave after receiving so much from the country. Perhaps, this is a flaw in our education? To fail to instill thankfulness and gratefulness in our citizen?

As an 18 year old, I am deeply ashamed by the comment of this 37 year old. Call me a Singaporean in denial but I thank God for making me a Singaporean. For my country had provided me with food, lodging and education, something that I may not have gotten should I have been born into a low income family in another country. I do not have to worry about university school fees or my future because I know that opportunities are right in front of me. Life may be stressful, studying may be tough (in fact, my GCE A levels econs exam is tomorrow) but stress will strengthen us and we will be prepared for any challenges that may come.

I sincerely hope that international readers visiting this site will not be misled by Mr SingaporeanX. Our sunny island welcome any international visitors! Not all Singaporeans are as mean like this guy! Many of us are pretty sociable and nice too!

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Helen November 18, 2013 at 8:33 am

I’m proud to hear one Sporean youth stands up for his/her country. Bitterness can only get yourself a sorrowful n complaining attitude. While you are at it, enjoy and appreciate what u have.

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காசிவிஸ்வநாதன் (“கே”) சண்முகம் January 5, 2014 at 2:56 am

hellen,

Which country are you talking about?

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ChrisM November 17, 2013 at 12:56 am

It seems there are views both for and against the way of life in Singapore. This leads me to the age old conclusion that one man’s meat is another man’s durian. I hope everyone understands that there’s no right answer, some will look at Singapore and say it’s a paradise. Others will yearn for more excitement and the attendant risks. But let’s be clear on one thing, Singapore is an economic and social miracle. A small island with no natural resources which now lends money to the IMF to help out failing economies in Europe. Where multiple races and religions live together in relative peace and where there’s been no racial violence since the 60s. The price of this is indeed a stressed population that has to always work harder and be smarter than everyone else just to stay ahead. Some may identify with this sort of semi-militaristic, disciplinarian society. Others will want unemployment benefits and the right to take a year off work, funded by other people who go to work and pay taxes (or by loans from countries like ours who have money to spare). Each to his own and there’s nothing wrong with either point of view. Singapore will hopefully always attract people who want a safe environment to work and raise a family in and are willing to work hard to have it. It will always repulse those who think they are entitled to more than an exchange of hard work for a comfortable life. This is how the country is evolving. People leaving and never coming back is just part of that evolution, as is people arriving and never leaving. We shouldn’t be too upset by it, for every one person who finds this place not right for them, there’ll be several others who think it is.

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Nichole George November 17, 2013 at 8:02 am

To Mr Danny Dover,

You have just put into a very nice composition what I have in mind for the last few years. I hope the locals will not be radical on this, but yes I am a foreigner who lives here for more than 4 years. I have seen what you have seen, though you have seen it so fast for about 2 months, compared to me that I only realized what you have observed just recently. But fortunately, you have the means and the guts to leave the country and say “I will never be back”. Seriously, knowing the locals for years, they will hate you and generally will give you a blast. And with their reactions, you point is justified ^_^ lol. With what Mr Shaad had stated, there’s no argument, period. When I first stepped in to this country (of course comparing to my own), I have been delighted how this “small country with less agricultural, natural resources” became one of the powerful nation in the world. It’s amazing that being in another big, industrialized country like UAE for 2 years, I can’t compare the security, stability and progress of this country (let’s not include US/Europe, since I have not been there). And I have been dreaming those what if’s on my mind..what if the president of my own country has patterned their administration to Singapore, would our country face the same phenomena during earthquakes, storm surge and all these? Well though, in the 1960′s our president is a close friend of the highly respected Minister of Singapore.

And that maybe the difference of why I have been delighted to be here during those years. Definitely, incomparable to my own country. It’s really like living in the Western Country but can go back to my own country in less than 3 hours, amazing! But as the years passed by, I have seen the bigger picture. Not that I’m ungrateful for staying here, but just wondered what really happened to “them” why they have become like “this”. I have read most of the blogs above and I smiled. Those locals in violent reactions are the same kind od people I have been encountering for the past 4 years. They have become like “this”. In my opinion, they always have that thought that FTs (foreign talents) are taking away their “rice bowls”. They thought that we are just abusing their country and take away whatever we can take (but honestly, we can’t take anything here). In my opinion, with that power that this nation has right now, they are scared that one day they may lose their control and be one of those neighboring countries who are suffering from poverty and chaos. But as mentioned over and over, there will always be pros and cons. And the people is the cons. Maybe only a little in number of locals would understand what you are trying to imply with your blog. That this country despite of their progress, undeniably powerful stability hides the struggle for their people to be more affectionate, to be more warm-hearted.

But I believe it’s because the generation who are living now in this country has been fed with a silver or maybe golden spoon. This generation is not the generation who struggled during those years where every where have war and poverty. Needless to say, when they opened their eyes, they have seen that they are the “owner” of a progressive, competitive and one of the first world country.

May not be all, of course. I guarantee, rather..because I have been married to a local and he is not as bothered as the rest to compete, to survive and succeed compared to most. And so I am overwhelmed with your blog that I found out, yes..it is not only me who has this kind of thoughts about this country. Yes, I agree..living here will not give that kind of misery compared to other neighboring country but there’s no other fulfillment as well that you can expect (except maybe winning the lottery). If there is, I also asks my partner, how come those degree holder locals still leave your country and go oversea (when in fact, this country is already considered 1st world country)?

I guess, no place is perfect. But if we will just to look at it in depth, if they will be aware about what your intentions are, if they will just really be opened about showing the flaws and weaknesses of this country, they can improve..if they are willing. And if that happens, I bet you will one day come back here and make another blog; “A Perfect Place To Live A Life”. I will pray for that to happen. (Thanks for reading!)

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MALE Singaporean DOCTOR ஜனில் புதுச்சேரி, Professionalism Does NOT Equate With Patriotism November 19, 2013 at 11:20 pm

@nichole george:

I refer to your comment: “When I first stepped in to this country (of course comparing to my own)[...].”

May I query which country/territory you claim to be from AS WELL AS which country/countries/territory/territories you are CITIZEN(S) OF?

I am aware they may NOT be the same – for example, a hongkonger (“hongkie/hongkey”) could possess up to THREE (3) passportS.

I need not have to state (no pun intended) that passports are only awarded to CITIZENS.

In addition, I would also like to state (no pun intended) the world’s HIGHE$T PAID minister of FOREIGN AFFAIRS and law does NOT even think Singapore is a COUNTRY.

I of course, need NOT mention காசிவிஸ்வநாதன் (“கே”) சண்முகம் by name – you may ALWAYS ASK HIM HIMSELF considering the fact that you married a MALE local.

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Amie November 17, 2013 at 9:16 am

This is an understandable etic perspective. As a Singaporean, I have to agree with most of the points you made in our article except for the part about culture and heritage. I think Singapore’s culture and heritage does not stem from a long history, given how young our nation-state is, but from the common experiences that we have had as fellow citizens living on this land. It’s something to be felt and very intangible; it’s not showy nor something to be flaunted and sold as a tourist attraction, but it’s something that belongs to us.

Competition is inevitable in every country that wants to strive ahead in the economy. You may say that I’ve been brainwashed by the survival ideology that the government has imposed, but you have to admit as well there is a convincing rationale in there. Singapore is small and will not even be recognizable on the world map if not for the hard work and competitive nature of our people. Sure, we could have chosen to lead relaxed and less prosperous lives, but what makes you think that’s better than what we have now? It’s a path that the government has chosen to lead us. We will never know if another alternative path would be better, but we can see that the reality now is that we are successful. Nothing comes without drawbacks, and every country has a different history and initial conditions.

In any case, I can understand why you do not want to return to Singapore. Only people who are born and bred here will truly appreciate the reason to protect this land (although whether they will or will not may differ due to other reasons).

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ibs natural therapy November 17, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Howdy just wanted to guve you a brief heads up and let you know a
few of the images aren’t loading properly. I’m
not sure why but I thinnk its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different web
browsers and both show the same outcome.

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Haas - Blog.CripperZ.SG November 17, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Plenty of people i knew, like you, when they leave Singapore, they decided they are not coming back. For my case, i had my ex-schoolmate left the country for Japan then the U.S, my NS camp mate for U.S, a few others 2nd tier friends for Australia, etc. In all, i dare to say its more than 10 people i knew who left Singapore and NOT COMING back – they settled down and/or going for their dreams.

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Joseph November 17, 2013 at 8:47 pm

I am glad that I am able to live, work and play in Singapore but not young and desperate for work in Europe! I have got great connectivity on the internet, telecommunications and transportation. If I want to:
– I can go scuba-diving in the Southern Islands
– play golf on the many golf courses here
– fish inshore and offshore
– have a host of fun-filled activities on Sentosa
– spend a day chilling out at RWS Universal Studios
– chill out at Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort
– watch a musical at the Esplanade
– enjoy snow activities at Snow City
– ice-skate and roller- blade at Jurong prescinct
– bar hop from clubs to clubs at Clarke Quay
– fly for fun at Seletar Flying Club
– enjoy the world’s only Formula 1 night race with breathtaking view of MBS and city skylights
– do the nature trail in Botanic Gardens, Gardens By the Bay, Bukit Timah Forest Reserve …..
– and many other fun-filled activities in my Little Red Dot
These are just work in progress for all of us who call Singapore our Home and Nation.

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Ena November 17, 2013 at 9:48 pm

I’m a Chinese prc citizen of Korean heritage(@<@ I know) who studied 12 years in Singapore and left for Korea, mainly cos I had lousy A level grades(not saying all people who go to Korea were like me, but that was my case), you can believe the level of stress here in Korea, sex offenders who gets a tap on the wrist and if I weren't dating a Korean, plus with Visa issues, I really want to go back to SG , people are just kinder, in the sense they follow rules,( that make them stiff and inflexible and maybe yes, uninspired), back where they live a more balanced(albeit boring ) life.

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tk looi November 17, 2013 at 10:51 pm

I am not a Singaporean. I do not agree
with yr article.
if you r rob, raped, murdered etc then
some external forces are in place.
however suicide is purely an internal
decision. It is what u decide to do and
u take responsibility for yr decision. Period.
Don’t blame d govt.

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Suntec city Singaporean BASHER robert james springall is a British Citizen like david sandison of pricewaterhousecoopers (pwc) who thinks Singapore is HEAVEN sans the fact that it is easy to get a TAXI November 18, 2013 at 7:23 am

@tk looi:

Kindly do something about YOUR spelling and grammar.

Physician, heal thyself.

No regards,
“Suntec city Singaporean BASHER robert james springall is a British Citizen like david sandison of pricewaterhousecoopers (pwc) who thinks Singapore is HEAVEN sans the fact that it is easy to get a TAXI”

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Karen November 18, 2013 at 12:48 am

Kudos Danny for a nice article. It is good to see a different opinion once in a while. I am a young traveler and I’m not rich. A lot of my friends work in Singapore and a lot are aiming to go there. I visited Singapore two weeks ago for four days. I am amazed at how this country’s economy has rocketed. I was amazed with the people’s discipline, infrastructure and public transportation. I know that my friend whom I visited is getting paid really good. I understood at that point why they want to go there: to earn more. This country offer us white collar job which entices us more. That would mean that even if we go back to our country, a decent career could still be taken. But one thing is common too: almost all of my friends in Singapore will not settle there. I hear most of the time that they will just save up, and go back to our country. And I had the same sentiment. I used to think of working in Singapore, but after my visit, I don’t think my personality fits with their culture. If SG will be described as a photo, it would probably a black and white. It is very straight forward, no shades of gray or other color for that matter. Singapore is liveable to those who have very straight forward lifestyle. I am more into the artsy-crafty-cultural side so I know this is not for me. I’m not saying SG lifestyle/environment is bad. It is just that I felt that there was homogeneity in its society.

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ANTI-منافق December 21, 2013 at 2:50 am

@karen:

If so inclined, you may like to perform an internet search for these terms:

‘ “matland” “play sand together” slavery ‘

–– KEEP the DOUBLE inverted commas.

Best,
ANTI-منافق

P.S. May I ask which country/territory you claim to be from AS WELL AS which country/countries/territory/territories you are CITIZEN(S) OF?

I am aware they may NOT be the same – for example, a hongkie/hongkey could possess up to THREE (3) passportS.

I need not have to state (no pun intended) that passports are only awarded to CITIZENS.

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Joseph November 18, 2013 at 1:28 am

You are still young. Keep your options open. Explore the wonders of the world for all its gifts and imperfections. Having a life list of things to accomplish within a certain timeframe is certainly appealling.
Remember that we grow and modify our outlook as we traverse through the highway of life. The journey of our life will only end when we stop living metaphorically or otherwise.

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eugene nirvan anthony ("nirvan44") TALKS UP Singapore but TELLS OFF A SINGAPOREAN CITIZEN January 5, 2014 at 3:34 pm

@Joseph:

Hello, my username is “eugene nirvan anthony (‘nirvan44′) TALKS UP Singapore but TELLS OFF A SINGAPOREAN CITIZEN”

By the way, you may like to note this excerpt:

‘Interesting topic this one and it would be interesting to see which nationalities after 10 years in SG are a) Citizens or b) PR’s. You will probably find that the latter are from US, UK, Europe or other countries with “easy passports” to travel on and they’re not really closing the door to their previous abode (so they have a bolt hole if things go pear-shaped here, their country will evacuate them despite their not having contributed to their own country’s economy etc).’

[ forum . singaporeexpats . com /sutra468215 . html&sid=bb0011d6d6693e9b6b86a2558a74dac9#468215 ]

By the way, “PR” is an abbreviation for “Permanent Resident”.

All best,
eugene nirvan anthony (“nirvan44″)
Applecross Western Australia (WA) 6153
Australian Passport #: N2157646

P.S. As you may be aware, I LIVE in Metropolitan Perth — does that EVOKE Singapore’s Former NTUC (“National Trades Union Congress”) membership director?

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Nalin November 18, 2013 at 4:34 am

I don’t quite agree with everything in the article. I am surprised at the comment about heritage. Coming from Sri Lanka which is a country of heritage of more than 2500 years I know 50 years don’t count much. But Singapore does have ways of life that have been preserved by the immigrant groups who migrated from China, India etc. Some of those rituals are not even practiced in their original places anymore. But Singaporeans preserve it.

It’s not easy and reasonable to judge and pass comments about a place in a matter of weeks or months. To understand the pulse of the society it is important to mingle with the locals. I am a foreigner but with a large group of local friends and I do frequently join them in their weddings, funerals, baby showers, new year celebrations, house warming parties or simply to play cards. Asians in general are slow to open up to foreigners and that should not be taken as the society as being boring. I think you were too quick to judge.

On certain issues such as Education and Democracy I have my own views and Singapore can definitely improve. But it’s not for me to comment because I am not a local. But in terms of the experience one can have in Singapore I think Singapore does a pretty good job for a small nation with no natural resources. You simply missed it.

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Joseph November 18, 2013 at 4:42 am

Wow, so far, this blog on Singapore has garnered 288 comments, by far the highest number of postings to date in Danny’s Blog, presumably. Probably, at least half of them are from Singaporeans and non-Singaporeans living in Singapore. Talk about apathy and stagnating spirit in Singapore.

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Singapore's Former NTUC membership director AUSTRALIAN CITIZEN 張艾美 / 张艾美 MAY be there as well November 18, 2013 at 5:19 am

@joseph: Who knows?

By the way, do you know what a “void deck” is?

Reply

Joseph November 18, 2013 at 6:19 am

@Former NTUC , I used to live above one in Toa Payoh, next to a mosque. It was built by HDB which stands for Housing and Development Board.

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Suntec city Singaporean BASHER robert james springall is a British Citizen like david sandison of pricewaterhousecoopers (pwc) who thinks Singapore is HEAVEN sans the fact that it is easy to get a TAXI November 18, 2013 at 7:11 am

@joseph:

All right –– noted.

By the way, you may have noticed that Singaporean Citizens tend to be extremely CIRCUMSPECT of Malaysian-Chinese working in Singapore –– especially the WHITE-COLLAR MALES.

You may like to perform an internet search for these terms:

” Cherry foreign jiang huayi chin tan lui IPPT audacity Everest passports “.

Regards,
“Suntec city Singaporean BASHER robert james springall is a British Citizen like david sandison of pricewaterhousecoopers (pwc) who thinks Singapore is HEAVEN sans the fact that it is easy to get a TAXI ”

P.S. In addition, now that I mentioned Westerners, you may also like to read this:
–– note how matlanders feature here!

I do not have to mention that “matland” is a slang for “malaysia”.

Reply

Suntec city Singaporean BASHER robert james springall is a British Citizen like david sandison of pricewaterhousecoopers (pwc) who thinks Singapore is HEAVEN sans the fact that it is easy to get a TAXI November 18, 2013 at 7:13 am

@joseph: This was the website the moderators may have omitted:

[ talkingcock . com / html / article . php?sid=548 ]

As I mentioned, note how matlanders feature here!

Charlatans/Impostors!

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Su November 18, 2013 at 5:22 am

i don’t usually read blogs but this caught my attention! i agree to you in most of the points and perhaps, there’s deeper stories than these surface ones. I kinda pity the locals to be trapped, despite how hard they may try to get out from this country. some of them just.. innocently didnt realize what situation they are placed in since birth.

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AUSTRALIAN CITIZEN 張艾美 / 张艾美 was born in a Muslim Country with the globe's TALLEST TWIN TOWERS to date and which permits PIG/HOG rearing November 18, 2013 at 5:22 am

By the way, the abbreviation “NTUC” stands for “National Trades Union Congress”.

Once more: “National Trades Union Congress”.

Reply

ToDo-Today November 18, 2013 at 5:41 am

I’m a Singapore techno-preneur who has lived in US for 9 years and now back home again.
While I agree with some of the facts stated and of course you certainly have the freedom to choose where to live your life, I do also feel strongly about this quote: Ask not what the country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.

Having been successfully raised in this country which has made you who you are today, it’s only natural to want to give back to the country, especially during this time when it needs capable people like you most. If you feel that Singapore can’t give you that incredible learning experience that you so desire, an alternative is to create that experience for yourself and others. It is much easier to start a venture and create something ground breaking in Singapore compared to other parts of the world. Besides, we have some of the best companies in Singapore which can certainly offer a great experience to those who are capable of getting in.

All in all, I guess my point is instead of leaving the country which has nurtured you so successfully, is there anything you can do to change this country so that both you and the country can be better off?

PS: ToDo-Today is a mobile application and an advanced store directory that features more than 24,000 stores in Singapore, each categorized by malls and hawker centres. Use ToDo-Today to find store information, promotions and discover new stores that everyone is talking about.

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Helen November 18, 2013 at 8:21 am

I appreciate your view and it has some good points based on just two months of observation.
Having lived here for 12 years and experienced the major changes from early 2000 where it first opened its door for foreigners until its current state of over abundant foreigner. One thing I feel strongly, although it might not resonates to most Sporean’s feeling, is that the political leaders always want to make this country a successful one in every aspects. Like a parents to a child, they had their children’s best interest at heart. But of course, it can be misinterpreted as over-protective or controlling.

For me, having born and spent my first 20 years of my life in Indonesia in a corrupted and compromising culture, I prefer a morally upright by- the-book Spore. I didnt think this way in my first 5 years in Spore as I have the same sentiment with you. But now that I have became a parent and rooted here, it makes more sense to have a security and working infrastructure, and occasionally get my creative inspiration mix overseas.
No country is perfect, just which one works for you in a long term. Then you spice it up your way.

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MALE Singaporean larry medina's WIFE November 20, 2013 at 12:18 am

@hellen lie:

I refer to your comment: “One thing I feel strongly, although it might not resonates to most Sporean’s feeling, is that the political leaders always want to make this country a successful one in every aspects.”

Considering what you stated about the importance of NATIONAL SECURITY in a PATERNALISTIC WAY, I am pleased to inform you, considering where I WAS BORN, my husband/hubby, a MALE Singaporean named larry medina, will DEFINITELY be will be subjected to:

i) a nine(9)-month-long consistent passport extensions and a lifetime of exit permits
ii) full-time military conscription
iii) lifelong reservist liability

as much as HIS MALE compatriot robert viswanathan (v.) chandran.

I am sure MALE Singaporean robert viswanathan (v.) chandran would be SO proud to be a MALE Singaporean CITIZEN.

Anyway, if anybody wants to contact hellen LIE, they may always do so at .

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Gregg November 18, 2013 at 8:46 pm

I’m sad the suicide rate is up and certainly there might be something that can be done but …. San Francisco has a higher suicide rate than Singapore. 1 in 10000 people in SF vs 1 in 17000 people in SG. San Francisco has all the things you seem to think Singapore is missing and yet more people are committing suicide in SF than SG. So maybe the things you think are contributing to the rise in suicides in SG are not really the cause? I don’t know. Just pointing out the apparent contradiction.

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Joseph November 18, 2013 at 10:06 pm

Comparing apples to apples, suicide rates per 100,000 people in 2012 among some DEVELOPED COUNTRIES sourced from Wikipedia are:
1. Greenland – 108.1
2. South Korea – 31.7
10. Japan – 21.7
13. Russia – 20.2
18. Belgium – 17
26. France – 14.7
33. USA – 12
37. UK – 11.8
45. Switzerland – 11.1
48. SINGAPORE – 10.3
50. Australia – 9.7
65. Italy – 6.3
68. Israel – 5.8

There you have it, suicide rate in Singapore is relatively lower than countries like South Korea, USA, and Switzerland but higher than Australia, Italy and Israel. Statistics don’t lie, isn’t it?

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Martin November 19, 2013 at 2:22 am

I don’t really know you. But reading the little bit you wrote, I feel that (just maybe) the issue is with you? If you think things are sterile, it’s cos probably you are. You sound boring.

But that’s just me. Singapore rocks!

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One of the Serangoon Road (“Little India”) Partiers was a Permanent Resident (PR) December 14, 2013 at 7:17 am

Hi Martin,

I reckon your life must have been a laugh RIOT!

RIOT!

Best,
‘One of the Serangoon Road (“Little India”) Partiers was a Permanent Resident (PR)’

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Daniel Gullo November 23, 2013 at 10:23 am

If I just read the “So why won’t you be returning?” paragraph, I can easily apply that to life in the US… Or Paris… Or pretty much anywhere. If your expectations aren’t being met in terms of interpersonal dynamics, perhaps your expectations are the issue. What went well? What did you do to make it better?

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ANTI-منافق December 21, 2013 at 2:47 am

@daniel james gullo:

If so inclined, you may like to perform an internet search for these terms:

‘ “matland” “play-sand-together” slavery ‘

–– KEEP the DOUBLE inverted commas.

BREAK A LEG,
ANTI-منافق

Reply

Sinta November 24, 2013 at 8:18 pm

So well written. Just discovered your blog and really want to say that i love what you do! So keep doing it (no doubt that you wouldn’t but anyway :) Wishing you all the best! /A swede soon leaving Singapore for Indonesia

Reply

Concepcion November 26, 2013 at 1:50 am

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Reply

ANTI-منافق December 21, 2013 at 2:40 am

@74-فهد-الشقيران :

If so inclined, you may like to perform an internet search for these terms:

‘ “matland” “play-sand-together” slavery ‘
–– KEEP the DOUBLE inverted commas.

السلام عليكم,
ANTI-منافق

Reply

Jack November 28, 2013 at 4:53 pm

Easy to say when you’re from a rich country and you go to Singapore, and when your an adrenaline junkie. But for 3 billion Asians whose life is utter chaos who little hope of change, Singapore seems like heaven.

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hongkies hongkeys three (3) passports Australian British Canadian United States America BN(O) December 2, 2013 at 8:09 pm

@jack:

Singapore has the HIGHEST RICH-POOR gap of all the developed economies after Hong Kong.

I wonder what your definition of “heaven” is – Hong Kong is a city(-state) like Singapore but NOT a nation(-state).

However, I am sure the world’s HIGHE$T PAID minister of FOREIGN AFFAIRS and law who does NOT even think Singapore is a COUNTRY is MORE DEFINITIVE.

I of course, need NOT mention காசிவிஸ்வநாதன் (“கே”) சண்முகம் by name – you may ALWAYS ASK HIM HIMSELF.

All best,
“hongkies hongkeys three (3) passports Australian British Canadian United States America BN(O)”

P.S. By the way, do NOT start me going what happens if a stinkaporean couple has a disproportionately HIGH number of MALE children all born with solely the nationality of a “city, not country” amid the PLUMMETING birth rates.

I am also sure that you are just as AWARE as MALE Singaporean DOCTOR ஜனில் புதுச்சேரி that PROFESSIONALISM DOES NOT EQUATE WITH PATRIOTISM.

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SilentMalay November 29, 2013 at 10:15 am

I was born in 1962. I have gone to the best school such as De La Salle, St Michaels and SJI.
I am a Malay and left Singapore in 1982. I wanted to leave Singapore so bad because I know I could not have survive and have a good career as a Malay boy. Only the best will survive and live comfortably. I am living overseas now for more than half of my life and love the slow life style which I enjoy most. I do visit Singapore during weddings and if I miss the Indian Rojak which I crave living overseas. Believe it or NOT,
When I visit Singapore for two weeks I get so bored and want to leave as soon as possible. Now I visit Singapore for a day and rather travel to Indonesia or Malaysia. It is too crowded for the most part. Everyone work so hard just to survive. I always tell my brother if there is war, everyone may have to eat rats because there is no agriculture to feed the people. I know it sounds bad but life goes in cycles and it will not stay the same way always.
I am still a Singaporean and wish the Malay Kampong will come back some day when all the tall buildings go away. I only hope. We were happy when the Kampong lands like Kaki bukit and Kampong melayu we given to the Malays. I belive we were force off our homes and move into flats. Our Islands and property also were confiscated by the native malay.

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Youtube user/jemdude22 (jeremy lin) is a MALE singaporean who, like fellow MALE compatriot larry medina, will be subjected to as much conscription and lifelong reservist liability as MALE compatriot robert viswanathan chandran December 12, 2013 at 2:02 am

@silentmalay:

You may like to peruse these comments made by jeremy lin (Youtube user/jemdude22) and scintillate them for 種族和諧日 / 种族和谐日 – NOTE THE CONTRADICTIONS):

“Tell you something, i will leave Singapore one day if the chinese population in Singapore becomes smaller than that of other races. I will not live in a muslim dominated country after seeing the plight of malaysian chinese. Be glad that we are still the dominant race on this tiny temasek island where the national language is Malay.”

“东北人再野蛮, 再厉害打架又怎样? 以前还不是被小小矮矮的日本人欺负, 被日本人当畜牲一样宰杀, 还被一批一批的关在731里面做实验! 那时为什么不对日本人叫劲儿啊? 打自己的女同胞就来劲了。

有些中国人就是这德行,就知道窝里斗,欺软怕硬!”

Best,
“Youtube user/jemdude22 (jeremy lin) is a MALE singaporean who, like fellow MALE compatriot larry medina, will be subjected to as much conscription and lifelong reservist liability as MALE compatriot robert viswanathan chandran”

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Sandy December 4, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Hi Danny,

Found this blog via Moz. Really great perspective. I probably should stop striving for perfection. There is still beauty when things don’t always turn out right (obviously depends on how you handle the situation).

On another note, I think something wasn’t right with your last sentence. I’m sure it’s just a petty oversight.

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Danny Dover December 6, 2013 at 12:07 am

Good catch thank you!

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james westberry, like (captain) richard howe, is a منافق and NOT a Singaporean Citizen December 12, 2013 at 2:11 am

@sandy albaytar:

That mentioned about what “goes right”, you may like to perform an internet search for this phrase:

” games collapse South-East Asia 600 million Kazakhstan “.

By the way, I am sure you are as aware as I am (and MALE Singaporean DOCTOR ஜனில் புதுச்சேரி that PROFESSIONALISM DOES NOT EQUATE WITH PATRIOTISM.

Best,
james westberry, like (captain) richard howe, is a منافق and NOT a Singaporean Citizen

P.S. The world’s HIGHE$T PAID minister of FOREIGN AFFAIRS and law does NOT even think Singapore is a COUNTRY.

I of course, need NOT mention காசிவிஸ்வநாதன் (“கே”) சண்முகம் by name.

Reply

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Reply

Joy December 18, 2013 at 12:46 am

Thanks for this insightful post, I too agree with your points. Work-life balance is hard to come by here in Singapore – one of the reasons my husband and I try our best to make full use of our weekends to explore less known places on this little island. I also blog about these places and it makes for a nice little online memory book :)

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Jay B December 30, 2013 at 6:40 pm

Reading some of the comments here are just truly ironic. The ones that are pro Singapore and beating their chests hard, saying Singapore is the best place to be and contradicting the author are just in denial.

The fact I was born there and was so happy to leave that stale country when I was 21 was the best decision I ever made in my life. Life there is so mechanical, from the day you step in school, work and even in NS. There is no freedom in speech nor is there any given for thoughts. God forbid, if you accidentally break a law unknowingly, you might get a hefty fine.

This same individuals who are proud of their heritage are completely clueless on their history. If only if they knew the early settlers stealing the poor Malay fishermen lands. Anyone who is a non-Chinese is treated as a 2nd class citizen there. Indirect racism flows from the top of bottom. Singapore as a country might have accomplished a lot for its size but the majority in are just empty shells.

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Joany January 10, 2014 at 9:27 am

Thanks ‘revoltec light board gaming keyboard’ for that insightful comment. I’m sure the use of that keyword in your name will really help with your SEO – that’s exactly what Search Engines are looking for these days.

Refreshing read. You could have easily have wrote about all the good points, instead gave an honest opinion. Enjoyed!

Reply

hongkies hongkeys three 3 passports BN(O) British United States Canadian Australian MULTIPLE CITIZENS January 11, 2014 at 2:27 am

Hi Joany:

You may like to perform an internet search for these terms:

” sewage madhupati singhania relaxes $435,000 yacht citizen “.

All best for 2014,
“hongkies hongkeys three 3 passports BN(O) British United States Canadian Australian MULTIPLE CITIZENS”

P.S. Once more, the online query is:

” sewage madhupati singhania relaxes $435,000 yacht citizen “.

Reply

Brandy February 11, 2014 at 3:08 am

When I first saw the title of this article, I thought it was written by a Singaporean and it would have been interesting to read why he/she would not return to their home country.
But having found out that it is written by a non-Singaporean then what’s the point. I have travelled to many countries in the world and I would say most of them I don’t think I will be returning to because as a visitor once you’ve been there, seen it, done it, you move on to your next destination. Singapore being a small country is easily experienced in a short space of time.
Without any family or connections in Singapore, I don’t see why Mr Dover would choose to return unless his job requires it. To criticise the country about it being sterile etc seems like an attempt to stir up controversy. There are many countries that fall into this category, Dubai for example so Singapore is not unique in this area. I rather a sterile, safe country than one where you could get kidnapped, blown-up, raped or murdered. But hey if that floats your boat, then fine, I agree Singapore is sterile.

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kz April 15, 2014 at 4:25 am

Very well said!

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Mark G February 27, 2014 at 11:26 am

Thanks to everyone who has posted in this column. It’s always good to have different points of view heard.

I am currently a Singaporean Citizen living abroad in a Western, industrialized country. I was educated abroad and I am now living overseas. I have spent about 8-9 years abroad now. I’m planning to possibly return to Singapore some time in the future.

I can understand why certain Singaporeans feel that way. And there are many things about Singapore that’s not great or perfect. But then again, no country is. And I think Singaporeans really need to appreciate the country more and see Singapore for what it is and what it has accomplished, despite its limitations and obstacles, because the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side.

Here in the country where I’m living now – it is tough as well. I work for a multi-national professional services firm – and the hours are long and you don’t necessarily have a ‘life’ as well. It can be ‘sterile’ as some commentators have mentioned. The weather can be harsh at times as well, and you definitely do not have the variety of activities, food and what not you can engage in in Singapore.

What I’m trying to say above is not necessarily that Singapore is better than some Western nations or that some of these countries are better than Singapore, but to make a very important point to people who criticize Singapore: life is not easy anywhere if you want to live the best and get to the top. You need to put in long hours, you need dedication, you need focus, you need sacrifice – and that’s all part of life. Life is a struggle and that’s part of it. We work hard. But the best thing about hard work is that in Singapore, if you work hard and you strive and you really put in the effort, you will rise to the top; whereas in the country I live in right now, a lot of things are not meritocratic and you need ‘connections’ or ‘referrals’ to a much more extent compared to Singapore. In the country where I live and even in America, if you’re born dirt poor, it’s extremely hard to rise to the top. Singapore’s inter-generational social mobility index is lower than that of both the UK and USA (which means that if you’re born poor in Singapore, you still have a pretty good chance of getting to the top). And the PM of Singapore has repeatedly stated his commitment to making sure Singapore remains a fair and meritocratic country. In the country I live in right now, there’s all this talk about democracy and freedom, but really, what we need is meritocracy and fairness.

I hear so many Singaporeans complain of a lot of foreign workers, cramped conditions, high property prices etc. but let me tell you this. It’s the same everywhere where opportunities are. From New York to LA to Toronto to London, house prices are high, conditions can be cramped (yes I live in one of these cities), and yes you have a lot of foreigners/immigrants. It is just a natural part of globalization and let’s just say that we really need to learn to live with people of different cultures and mindsets. Everyone’s competing to live in a city where attractions are plentiful and job opportunities are many. But when competition is high, we just need to work harder, not necessarily keep the competition out. When you’re applying to university and realize there are so many other applicants vying for the same place as you are, you don’t write a letter to the president of the university to tell him/her to implement a quota on the number of applications – you just work harder to prove yourself.

There are so many great things that we take for granted in Singapore – little crime, low corruption and a very very competent government. Not everywhere’s like this and we need to be grateful and appreciative for it. People are generally friendly. There’s racial harmony despite the diversity. Children’s education is fair and affordable. And the list goes on.

These accomplishments are even more so outstanding given the short span of 50 years, and with almost no resources to start off with. It has been accomplished through the sacrifice, vision, and hard work of the country’s earlier generations and leaders. To throw that all off and say that Singapore is sterile and boring is to not have gained an understanding of the country’s history.

People who criticize this may say I am comparing Singapore’s success to less developed countries. True. But even where I live, which is a rich OECD G20 country, we pay so many taxes every year (the upper bracket can expect something close to 45%), the transportation system is nothing compared to Singapore, the medical services (while free) are clogged and slow. Drug use is rampant (some estimates put up to 50% of the population have tried marijuana at least once). Students graduating high school (JC in Singapore) here cannot necessarily do fractions or write well – fundamental skills in life, for their career and future aspirations.

To put everything in perspective, no country is perfect and every country has its issues. At the end of the day, we judge people by what they have overcome in life. It is the same for countries, we need to judge countries by how much they have overcame and succeeded against all odds. And I think, by this measure, Singapore, a country which does not even have enough freshwater for its population, is oustanding and has done incredibly well, and is definitely a model of growth, society, and government for countries around the world.

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hongkies hongkeys three (3) passports Australian British Canadian United States America BN(O) MULTIPLE CITIZENSHIP February 28, 2014 at 11:52 pm

@mark g:

“治大國,若烹小鮮。”

– 老子(公元前6世紀)《道德經》的白話解 (第六十章)

When Singapore became independent in August 1965, it ALREADY had the second (2nd)-HIGHEST standard of living in the Asia-Pacific region (after Japan).

Now, Singapore has the HIGHEST RICH-POOR gap of all the developed economies after Hong Kong.

However, I am sure the world’s HIGHE$T PAID minister of FOREIGN AFFAIRS and law who does NOT even think Singapore is a COUNTRY is MORE DEFINITIVE.

I of course, need NOT mention காசிவிஸ்வநாதன் (“கே”) சண்முகம் by name – you may ALWAYS ASK HIM HIMSELF.

All best,
“hongkies hongkeys three (3) passports Australian British Canadian United States America BN(O)”

P.S. By the way, do NOT start me going what happens if a stinkaporean couple has a disproportionately HIGH number of MALE children all born with solely the nationality of a “city, not country” amid the PLUMMETING birth rates.

I am also sure that you are just as AWARE as MALE Singaporean DOCTOR ஜனில் புதுச்சேரி that PROFESSIONALISM DOES NOT EQUATE WITH PATRIOTISM.

“Some time ago, on a rare trip to Paris, so a well-placed friend told me, Lee [Kuan Yew] was granted a meeting with François Mitterrand. Lee began lecturing the premier of France on governance. After Lee had left the room, Mitterrand said, ‘Who is this ridiculous man who wastes my time? Running Singapore is like running Marseilles. I am running a whole country!’”

– Theroux, Paul (2008), “Ghost train to the Eastern star : 28,000 miles in search of the railway bazaar”, page 329.

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Jiaxuan March 15, 2014 at 2:34 am

True I am a Singaporean and I feel thar way too.

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eugene nirvan anthony ("nirvan44") TALKS UP Singapore but TELLS OFF A MALE SINGAPOREAN CITIZEN February 28, 2014 at 11:56 pm

By the way, India, like Indonesia, is a member of the “G20″.

It is sure interesting on the train of thoughts that drives one to comment.

Indeed, it is sure interesting on the train of thoughts that drives one to comment.

‘eugene nirvan anthony (“nirvan44″) TALKS UP Singapore but TELLS OFF A MALE SINGAPOREAN CITIZEN’

P.S. Here are the details of that person:

eugene nirvan anthony (“nirvan44″ on “The Economist”)
Applecross Western Australia (WA) 6153
Australian Passport #: N2157646

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Leon March 4, 2014 at 2:22 am

Hi Danny,

A well written article. I have a few questions, if you could spare the time.

1. Were you born in Singapore?
2. How long was your stay here.
3. Where are you residing now?

Reply

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Reply

Dilesh March 8, 2014 at 1:40 am

You can have your perspective, but every country and place has unique things and unique culture. All fingers are not same, so just enjoy the good part and ignore which you dont like.

http://www.dileshkhadake.com

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Dilesh March 8, 2014 at 1:42 am

So do what you like

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Reply

Jiaxuan March 15, 2014 at 2:32 am

I seriously agree with what you said. I am a Singaporean student and I am not really proud to be one. Reason being that there is too much homework, the taxes are very high, flats cost a lot of money and my family is not very well off. The transport system breaks down now and then. The public transport fees are always increasing and they are always very crowded especially the one I always take to school. There is always upgrading and I always cannot concentrate on my homework. Most of my textbooks are used by my brother. Singapore claims to be the cleanest and greenest country in the whole world and I do not agree with that. There are many litterbugs around and it is clean because there are many Bangaladeshi cleaners to pick up our trash. Now, there is even haze and a dry spell, the haze can trigger my asthma attack and all the plants are drying up. I want to migrate to another country when I grow up. The politicans, currently PAP, has been ruling Singapore for about 50 years and everyone in Singapore votes for them as they want to “keng”.

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eduardo luiz p. saverin, who has a BENTLEY, was born in the same country as MALE Singaporean egmar gonçalves March 23, 2014 at 11:44 pm

Hello Jiaxuan,

If you are a MALE Singaporean citizen, I am pleased to inform you that a hongkie/hongkey could possess up to THREE (3) passportS.

I need NOT have to state (no pun intended) that passports are only awarded to CITIZENS.

All best,
“eduardo luiz p. saverin, who has a BENTLEY, was born in the same country as MALE Singaporean egmar gonçalves”

P.S. By the way, do NOT start me going what happens if a stinkaporean couple has a disproportionately HIGH number of MALE children all born with solely the nationality of a “city, not country (think the world’s HIGHE$T-PAID Minister of FOREIGN AFFAIRS and law காசிவிஸ்வநாதன் [‘கே’] சண்முகம்)” amid the PLUMMETING birth rates.

That mentioned, I hope COLLEAGUE MALE Singaporean DOCTOR ஜனில் புதுச்சேரி knows professionalism does NOT equate with patriotism.

Reply

Sani March 18, 2014 at 4:13 pm

Raised (not born) there since age 10, now living in ny since 2011. Singaporeans are like “lemmings” (the game not the animal) with little goals and dreams or character. Opinions are mostly political and rarely humanitarian or related. materialism is one of the few ways to make ppl feel like they have become better ppl. Social courtesy is not common and conversational skills are weak. As an adult with my own mind, I just couldn’t take it living there anymore and if i could help it i will never go back too. The food is awesome though.

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Trish March 28, 2014 at 10:04 am

I am Vietnamese,I’ve been there many times,I love it since it is a nice country,pole are polite,educated…much better than others around.Your place must be an extremely good country due to everything u from your writing I guess otherwise you won’t say that ever.And I suggest that do not come to VN if you think Singapore is bad.

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Humblegig April 15, 2014 at 10:57 pm

Can’t agree with you more. . From what I see, Sgporean are trained to be kiasu and kiasi in their whole life. They acted and claimed that they are the friendliest, most humble, best person in the world but in fact they are a lifeless creatures with a mask in a small island comparing to their neighbours. They fight for living every day and when they have run out of strength to fight, they will be left to starve to death. Those who can’t take the suffering will commit suicide (jump from HDB/river/pond or high rise condo (more face)). In Singapore, you enjoy life first and suffer later. In other countries, suffer first and enjoy later.

Singaporeans are full of egos, prides and arrogant. They can’t differentiate self love and ego. They want the best in everything (self image, social status..etc) in fact they are living like an empty shell. Therefore so many FT overtaking their jobs. Living such a life is not really living, no matter how many years it may go on . They should learn to leave their ego otherwise everyone will leave them..

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