All about home…

The article below has been contributed by Xin Hui.

If “the world is a book and those who do not travel only read one page”, I’m now waist-deep in Chapter ‘WEDDINGS’ – (read: other people’s destination weddings). Oh yes, wedding visits have taken me from Singapore to Bangkok, Bali, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Shanghai, Sydney, New York, Chicago, Mauritius, Cape Town, London, Athens, Paris, Rome, Barcelona… (believe me, I have ridiculous friends) and hopefully, the list goes on.

From immigration officer, to taxi driver, to old lady on the plane, to random guy at the bar, I’ve engaged in countless cross-cultural interactions where, like speed-dating, both sides have the length of an elevator ride to exchange “where-do-you-come-from” facts and opinions.

And in talking about Singapore, here’s what  I have come to realise about Singapore:

 

1.     We are not the only country obsessed with success

In Singapore I get asked, “Do you drive?”, “How much is your rent?”, and even the rudely direct “How much are you paid?”. In other countries, I get “what do you do?” “where have you travelled?”, and “do you live with your parents?”.

I used to be embarrassed, thinking Singaporeans only talk money, and I used to get offended, thinking all these kaypoh people just wanna pigeon-hole me. But now I see it as a fellow social being’s friendly way of evaluating my level of happiness. After all, in life so far, money is still an indication of success and success a benchmark of happiness.

 

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2.     Most people dislike their governments

In France it’s cos of the taxes, in Italy it’s the economy, in Thailand, it’s the traffic, in Hong Kong it’s the pollution… Disdain for the government seems like the mainstream hobby, like we are all staff members of a company, standing around the water-cooler, complaining about the board of directors – It’s how we bond!

So, if I may say something to Singapore’s leaders, I say, forget about being likeable – It’s just not part of a government’s job. You are like the loud-mouthed uncle we love and respect but don’t like; the uncle who pinches our cheeks, laughs loudly, tells us how to live our life, points out our Dad’s poor taste in fashion, has a better job, drives a better car, comes over for dinner often and eats for free. Do we hug him? No. Do we want to be his Facebook friend? No. But do we want this uncle dead and outta our lives? Also No! Especially since he brings gifts and gives the biggest red packet at CNY.

 

3.     Singapore, we’re very interesting

I like to tell people I meet that in Singapore:

  1. It’s summer all-year-round
  2. You really can eat off the streets, it’s that clean, although,
  3. You can have a full meal for under $5 and
  4. I never need an umbrella for my place to the train station to my office is totally sheltered.

Then, I give them a verbal roundhouse kick and say but…

  1. Cars start at $50,000
  2. Chewing gum is illegal
  3. Drugs are a no-no-no-no-no and
  4. Just for getting caught littering you are shamed and have to sweep the streets

And all this is delivered fluently in English and peppered with Mandarin – my mother tongue – to which I explain, yes, English is our first language and most of us speak 2 languages fluently.

And, as a positive confirmation of this interest, I have had a total of 7 friends from foreign countries ask me for job openings in Singapore.

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4.     Our economy rocks

Cost of living is getting world class, yes. But hey, admit it, our currency keeps getting stronger too. This is also why we have been known to insensitively exclaim “OMG! Things here are sooooo cheap compared to Singapore!!!” – staff members of factory outlets in America and the vendors of Thailand can attest to that.

Therefore, I do believe our pay packets are actually getting higher. How else do you explain the coffeeshop to Starbucks paradigm shift that I have observed? And look, we have the luxury of time and money to queue for Hello Kitties at MacDonald’s?!?! That speaks volumes of our bullish economy (albeit bullshit taste in toys).

 

5.     Our taxi drivers got soul

I once paid SGD190 for a single taxi ride in a city that begins with L and rhymes with ondon – and I had to endure the incredibly racist driver and his all-negative views about his country and people for 45 minutes. Then another time, I took a taxi in Thailand and the driver told us all about his dying family and ridiculous bills and debt. I am sure it’s luck of the draw but when I think about it, most of our taxi drivers are relatively happy people. They speak candidly about themselves and their country; some are haters and some are lovers, but generally, they get paid decently, have a good family, good work-life balance.

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6.     We may not be millionaires, but we have the lifestyle of one

And isn’t that the point?! That, by the way, is also the creative direction I have adopted for my Facebook posts. And my other mantra: “Collect experiences, not possessions.” – which has made me immensely richer as a person. Material must-haves aside, the truth is we are well-educated, well-travelled, well-nourished, and, based on my Facebook observations, well-liked – quite possibly the same qualities a millionaire asks for in life.

 

7.     There’s a lot to show!

These days, when people visit Singapore, I especially like to take them to some new architectural achievement like the Marina Bay Sands sky bar, because they will tell me how spectacular the view is and what a beautiful city I have and congratulate me on the progress of Singapore, and I can just beam with pride and nod gravely and say a graceful thank you as if I had everything to do with it.

Most of us are and will likely become home-owners, taxes are actually affordable, taxi-rides are adorable, jobs are available, the authorities are approachable, facebook is connectable, the landscape is unbeatable, the respect for each other is admirable, the transport network is commendable, the world is accessible, and the economy is better than stable. (although I must say, the weather is becoming unpredictable.)

We have become, and hopefully continue to be, a great place to be educated, to work, to fall in love, to get married, to raise children, to travel from, to come home to, and to retire in… and I am proud of that.

 

Must reads

        »  Socialising businesses in Singapore
        »  What is Cheaper, Better and Faster?
        »  From rags to riches: Singapore’s success stories
        »  The Devan Nair Institute
        »  7 ways to win – and keep – government contracts

 

 

About the author

Xin Hui

Xin Hui is a professional copywriter, radio specialist as well as a socio-political and cultural commentator for several digital and print channels including MediaCorp Radio, MediaCorp Publishing, and Singapore Press Holdings. Xin Hui was born and raised (and now based) in Singapore where she grew up on a steady diet of soya bean milk and fried carrot cake – just two of the many things that keep her here.After getting a B.A. in political science, she began her career in radio copywriting and was a nominee at the New York Festivals for a radio commercial she wrote and produced for The SPCA.Her writing style is passionate, progressive, and explorative, often with a humorous and creative flair for going against the grain.

On FSAAM, she contributes wide-ranging content and editorials, some light-hearted, some tongue-in-cheek and some so combative that it stirs the defenses of social ideals and calls for an examination of the underlying dynamics of the written and unwritten laws that govern society.

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28 Comments

  • Please lah. You write as if Singapore is so nothing wrong. Can you see that people are starving. Our press ranking is one of the lowest in the world. Our freedom of speech is practically zero. What do your foreign friends have to say about that? We have as much democracy as North Korea. Maybe the Lee and the Kim are buddy buddy haha.

    • (you want freedom of speech based on your level of writing?!) not saying we’re perfect – we’re still learning and growing – but I believe we’ll get there, shit-stirrer, tho not with your help. x

  • Hi Xin Hui. You left out freedom of speech, crushing of individual rights, forgotten debts to honorable opposition politicians, the lack of minimum wage and the blind direction to raise this country’s population to 6.9m people. Why not write about those?

  • I like this: “I once paid SGD190 for a single taxi ride in a city that begins with L and rhymes with ondon.”

    People think that our transport is expensive and unreliable, but wait till you go overseas and seen the world. Seriously, I think it is not so bad here.

  • Nice. In view of trolls, you should wrap up with:
    “singapore: LOVERS, stay; HATERS, take a HOLIDAY.”

  • Well, I would be the first to say our country is not perfect. There are just too many things that this silly and idiotic G is not doing well enough E.g.
    (1) Population White Paper – well thought, well planned but alas poorly packaged – just like buying a fantastic looking toy wrapped up in old newspapers.
    (2) Haze – responded well but frankly given the lessons learned in the past, could it have been done better? Can our Ms communicate better? Yes maybe a stop work order is no good. But EXPLAIN LAH. Open the mouth – gold will drop out isit?
    (3) AIM issue – Somehow, our M and M are really like good at working but not talking. AIM on paper looked OK. Intention – fantastic. It really meant well for the people. But emotionally, ask around and see how many people can understand the whole picture.

    Having said this, I must also say that our G, M and M have done well overall. BUT our expectations have become higher. The PAP G has brought this onto itself. It has done too well in a short 50 years and people expect it to do even better.

    Yes, our G done well. But well is not good enough. It is not GREAT. We expect our G to do GREAT!.

    This being said, I will still vote for this G in the next GE, because I know I am voting for a doer and not a talker.

  • Failed to see the ugly side of your world doesn’t make the world you see a perfect world.

    Reality is a mirrored window, you can see projection while looking at the window yet reality is beyond one sided. The willingness to see into the window will then see what is inside the mirror and only then, makes the world truly a complete one.

    Your story are nice to read but it isn’t the truth as it is what you want to see and what you want to believe yet it isn’t reality because it is your one side story.

    Light and darkness co-exist, that is nature we must not denied. The more you desire to chase the light, the more you felt deep into darkness. When you reach the light in its fullest bright, is where you surrounded by total dark. Only when you accept both light and darkness, shall you find balance and wake up to see the truth that is known as reality.

  • Hi Xinhui,

    I fully agree with the points you have raised. As seen by the numerous replies both on TRS and by vhanna23, there is currently a ridiculous sense of entitlement, as well as anti-wealth sentiments from the (other 99%), as they like to call themselves.

    I am an ardent WP supporter, and I believe in the freedom of press and speech, which unfortunately the ruling party does not. What saddens me however, is to see the current mindset of the “typical” Singaporean. He/she complains that the pay is too low, the standard of living too high, the roads too congested, the trains too unreliable, and the list goes on. Whilst it is easy to brush them off as being a “typical” Singaporean who loves to complain, it gets tiresome after a while.

    I believe it all boils down to substance, and I would say that we, as Singaporeans, have little of that. We blindly chase after material possessions, we travel for the sake of traveling. By that I mean that we travel to GET OUT of this place, not to experience new cultures and environments.

    When I am overseas, I am always delighted to pick up a Singaporean accent from the crowd, only to cringe in embarrassment when the whole tirade of “Singaporean-ness” pours out. They complain incessantly, about EVERYTHING, with the “why here lidat, Singapore better lor” rant irking me the most.

    If you paid good money to get your ass over here, just try, for once, to take it all in and learn to stop complaining a little, will you?

    I fully believe in enriching the mind and soul through traveling, and unlike many of my colleagues who chose to continue to slog at their jobs, I spend my paychecks on air tickets to foreign destinations at least once a month. I am in my late twenties, and not tied down by material possessions, I do not own a car, a house, a branded-bag etc, but I believe I am living a happier life than most Singaporeans are.

    A thought for you to consider :)

    • Dear Traveling soul, Thanks for taking time to pen your thoughts.

      I know what you mean!!! I’d have a hot-air balloon ride on horseback over a branded handbag, any day! ha.

      I’m with you on many points, especially your last paragraph.
      In many ways, I’d just like to encourage and profess my love of the country – a love that does not need to be synonymous or confused or blurred as love for the government. (something many struggle to do).

      x

  • It is like groups of blind people feeling up an elephant. Some feel the butt of the elephant and conclude it is a lovely and cushy pillow.

    I, for one, do not think that the world works around the elephant or the elephant should defines the world.

    But that does not mean people should not be allowed to enjoy an island mentality though it is an unrealistic one – in a globalize world

  • Tried Finland yet? A bit tough with the local language but once you hack it, you might not want to leave.

  • XIN HUI

    You are just lucky, as a Singaporean for more than 60 years, I had suffer in silence for so many unfortunate things happened to me until today.

    example : TRAFFIC ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION DEPT
    HDB AND TOWN COUNCIL.
    OUR HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONAL AND CHARGES

    Below is one of my case :

    Just to share my experience, I help a fallen motorcyclist by using my car to block him to prevent other vehicle to round over him, call the ambulance.
    The ungrateful rider claim I cause him to fall,he claim from my insurance about $30,000.
    The traffic accident investigation unit just taken my statement and my only passenger (original from PRC) only once, few month later they sent me the summon for dangerous driving, 3 demerit point + 1,000 fine, if I want to compound. I wrote in to appeal, they told me if I want to see the evidence I must go to court, with my first experience I choose to go to court to prove my innocent, I was wrong, never go to court for any traffic offences just pay, it took more than 2 years for the hearing, I travel alot each time I need to rush back from oversea to attend the court and always further mention for so many times.

    Finnally hearing is on, I had make a mistake by not engaging a lawyer and I without court experience defended myself in a very poor way, after a long hearing, I was convicted by the nice hearing judge, she reduce my fine after i asked, to $800 instead of $1,000 + 3 point + 3 months driving supension ask by the DPP, which I did not heard, as my hearing is not so good, due to my old age.
    I think she knew I am innocent, but I can’t prove my case, as she had seen me comming to court so many time for the mention,I had wasted so much time comming to court just to find justice is done by myself,but I was wrong, only lawyer can do. BIG MISTAKE.

    If the insurance company deal carfully in my case and gave right advice,rather than just paid for more than $30,000, than engaging the defend lawyer to fight my case, they would have save more money, because the true is I did’nt cause him to fall.

    They knew many insurance fraud and scam but they don’t bother. My premium is up and losing NCB,having insurance is not fully protected. What our govement do ?
    Who is responsible, as a Singaporean I am very disappointed if only you experience it.
    PHILIP TAN

  • Hi Xin Hui,

    I loved your articles. Please also inform them in your overseas travel that Malay is our national language, English is our official language. They always get stumbled by this.

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