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Reflections: Singapore

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This is the first part of two part of “Reflections” series, a live blog during my travels to Singapore and Indonesia.

Singapore was a familiar country for me growing up. It was the second country I visited (first being Australia) and the most frequent country I visited when I still lived in Indonesia.

I had always thought that Singapore was the model country: clean, civilised, and punctual. Everything good was in Singapore, others were less civilised. I remember the frustrating feeling every time I returned to Jakarta, I kept thinking “Fuck, why is everything so jumbled up in this country? I wanna go back to Singapore, when everything is regulated!”

However, my perspective shifted drastically when I visited Singapore after I move to the Netherlands. The word “regulated” has an extra word to it: OVER.

For me, Singapore now is just an over-regulated country with an obsession of being super clean and extra controlling. I cannot put it into words, but after two times I visit this country after living in the Netherlands, I get the feeling that I am not free in this country.

Everywhere I go, they always have posters of what people should do and what not to do. For example, I feel like in Singapore, giving up your seat to people in need is not a common sense because the government has to do a campaign to raise the awareness. They even have some stickers in the MRT and posters about the importance of giving up your seat or moving to the centre of the train. In the Netherlands, this is something very common. You don’t need to be reminded to give up your seat to the elders or to squeeze to the centre of the train/tram/bus if it’s super crowded.

Another weird experience that I encounter is that there’s no greeting culture. I was the one who always greeted people when I ordered food, asking for information, etc. I am also very used to end the conversation with “Have a nice day” and being replied with “Same to you”. Here? Nada, niks! The only time I had a proper conversation was with the people in hostels, then again they are already trained with hospitality, so that’s why they were super friendly. When I greet the shop cashier with “good morning/afternoon/evening” and “have a good day” and they don’t reply, I always felt like I was talking to a wall.

Another thing that bugs me is that you are not allowed to drink something from outside if you’re dining somewhere. Like… ugh, you won’t even go bankrupt if people don’t order your drinks, man. With Singapore being a warm country, I always had the urge to drink water everywhere I go.

Overall, Singapore has left me feeling weird like I was the only one who greeted people or who found “no shit Sherlock” signs everywhere. However, I love this country and would love to visit this over-regulated country again someday.

Off to the mythical country I call Indonesia!

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2 thoughts on “Reflections: Singapore

  1. I think that’s the problem when people are instructed what to do, for example no littering, rather than learning the benefits of a clean environment and internalising the consequences of litter from a moral perspective, hence choosing not to litter out of their own sense of responsibility.

    It’s also funny how we Southeast-Asians are supposedly known to be one of the more “friendly” and “hospitable” regions, but at the same time, we’re also cold and rude as f***. I often find the same problem when I go shopping in Bali and Jakarta, with people just not greeting you or even saying a basic “thank you”.

    1. I feel so freaked out when I see “no this” “no that” sign everywhere, mbak. This country is so obsessed on regulating what people should do and avoid. Heck, they have “no eating and drinking” sign all over the place!

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