We are always curious about what makes people happy. The Singaporeans we came in contact with are not the super rich or successful people depicted in the book and movie, “Crazy Rich Asians.” Taxi drivers are often good candidates to talk to.
One of our opening questions, “What do you like and dislike about living in Singapore?” Beyond the standard response of the city is very clean and safe, we get some interesting insights.
For example: you have to work long hours in order to afford extras in life. Most people live in government housings (high rises) which one applies for by showing a marriage certificate and proof of citizenship. This is an upward mobility society and accumulation of wealth is a big part of their success image. With two incomes and jobs in tech or financial sectors, many younger people can afford to have a live-in maid from less affluent neighboring countries to take care of their young children. For those who are single, one of the fathers we spoke to lamented that his 39 years old son still lives at home to save money.
Up to high school, education is compulsory. A small tuition is required to attend government run schools. For those students who are scholars, they are given scholarships and maybe a chance to study at one of the elite private universities.
As with many Southeast Asian counties, Singapore promotes medical tourism. However, we were told that only the rich could afford world class medical care. Others go to subsidized government clinics..
While government requires everyone to save towards retirement, now 65 years, many continue to work into their 70’s and 80’s because their pension is small.
75% of Singaporeans are ethnic Chinese. 13% are Malay, 9% Indian and the remainder in the “others” category. Each ethnic group has their own social support system including early learning centers, language schools and religion.
Singapore is a well-run money making machine. It has replaced Hong Kong as the top financial center in Asia. Singaporeans smugly tell us that if you want to do business in Asia, Central East, Middle East, Australia or Europe, you need to have a base in Singapore.
Individualism is set aside and citizens live within strict guidelines set by the government. One man told us that Singapore is a poor country. She has no natural resources. Singapore even purchases water from Malaysia.
To my comment that Singaporeans are not simpático (kind), J.J. added that they are stoic. Most would not freely give smiles to strangers unless one gets something back in return. So do we like Singapore? Yes, this is a very clean and safe city. The buildings are modern high rises. The food is varied and delicious. What seems lacking is the ability to enjoy life.
Aloha -- Cathi