Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Not-So First-World Side of Singapore

I have been in and out of Singapore every month for the last ten years, usually a week or two each stay. Everything appears to work efficiently in Singapore; there is no question about it. And you feel totally safe.

Is there anything to complain? Yes, there are a couple of things that are not quite befitting of its first world status. And they seem to have escaped the attention of the leaders of this city state; which is really unusual.
Its parks are very well kept; I usually take a morning walk along the stretch of Geylang River besides Nicoll Highway. I used to try to give a friendly wave to fellow walkers. But now I have stopped doing it. 90% of those I encountered were totally oblivious to my gesture. Some even gave me strange stares!

I used to rent an apartment at the Bukit Timah precinct. I ran into familiar faces all the time in the lifts. Sad fact is: I was totally invisible to many of them!
These people are not young; many are in fact of my age group. In Melbourne and Sydney, where I also lived for a couple of years, I would say three-quarters of the adults – old and young – would initiate or return pleasantries; in Malaysia and Indonesia, 50% would do the same, but Singapore. I reckon it is less than 10%.

The corner seats near the doors of its MRT are prioritised for the old and weak. I am old and bald; many would spring up to offer theirs to me. But believe me; those who did it for me are not the young and able people. You can see that they are non-Singaporean. The former are too engrossed with their smartphones or iPads or the likes to care!
More discerning visitors might also have noticed the sliminess of the food trays one sees in food courts in many parts of Singapore, including those in the squeak and clean, upmarket Suntec City. The picture below was taken in one of the food courts there. I remember I wrote to The Straits Times about this some years ago. There was no response. I even chided some food stalls about it. “Oh, that’s the cleaners’ business!” appears to be the standard answer.

Yak, so slimy!
I am sure many Singaporeans would say that I am being too sweeping in drawing conclusions. The people, like me, may not be Singaporeans at all. They might be right; but is there any harm in "educating" these visitors and new PRs or citizens some ABCs of good habits and behaviours?

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