Singapore fascinated us. After unfortunately:
- getting somewhat used to holding our breath through the spell of soiled streets
- making eye contact but declining homeless beggars
- not understanding the language
- being lost due to terrible signage
- constantly worrying over the safety of our purse
- being depressed over garbage everywhere...
we came to Singapore. Looking back on our short 4 days there it still seems more like a society I read about in a book than an actual place on earth.
There are many rules in Singapore (our favorites listed below). Though strict, the society that has developed because of them is polite, clean, well mannered, and seemingly rich. We spent a lot of time talking to our AirBnB hosts who shared that 80% of the population lives in government housing (the rest, like our hosts, live in private housing). All schooling, through University, is paid for by the government. The country is meticulous. The roads are nicely paved, and same with the sidewalks. There was not a single dog dropping to be found (how nice to not have to watch where we are walking!). Everywhere we went was well landscaped and well maintained. The cab driver to the airport proudly told us the flowers and shrubs lining the way to the airport are trimmed monthly. And whoever designed their subway system accounted for tourists being akin to 5 year olds learning something new and make it foolproof. We were never lost while there.
That said - life in Singapore is expensive. Our hosts did not live in government housing and paid over a million USD for a postage-stamp sized apartment. Their interest rates hover at around 1% which is how they can afford it to begin with. Their BMW, which would cost $50,000 in the US was $100,000. And, no cars can be older than 10 years, so in 10 years time she'll have to give it to the government for hardly any money in return. Seemingly the most popular thing to do here is shop and they shop! The malls are gorgeous, with AC (to escape the humid, humid heat), and shops that put our malls in the US to shame. The tourist attractions were immediately out of our price range, starting at around $50USD.
Our hosts shared that the cost of living is rising faster than salaries and there have been some grumblings among the lower classes. Protesting is illegal so it's hard for the people to express themselves. Oh, and the ruling party here has been in power since 1905, so nothing is going to change quickly.
I'm not going to pretend to have seen all of Singapore, we didn't, nor to be an expert on the country, but it is interesting to reflect on a country that was vastly different than anywhere we have been before.
So here are some of our favorite rules from Singapore. Really, it's all common sense but by making infractions such as these, people have a reason to follow them!
- Importing or buying gum is illegal. You can declare gum and bring it into the country but if you get caught smuggling it in, it's a year in jail and a $5,500 fine.
- Smoking is illegal in restaurants, cinemas, and other indoor places. They are considering making it illegal in parks and other outdoor spaces. The fine for first time offenders is S$1,000.
- If you get caught doing vandalism, the punishment is caning. Fines can include up to S$2,000, between three to 8 strokes of the cane and up to three years in prison.
- Residents and non-residents can be forced to take a drug test. And if you are caught there's the death penalty for some drug offenses.
- You are not permitted to eat or drink on the subway. It's a S$500 fine. Smoking is a S$1000 fine.
- Unwanted touching, both violent or sexual, falls under the "Outrage of Modesty" law. Violations of this law can bring up to two years in prison, caning, or a fine.
- Bringing porn into the country can carry a fine of up to S$1000 as well as imprisonment.
- No hugging without consent.
- Nudity, even in your own home, is illegal.
- If you don't flush the toilet the fine is S$500.
- Drinking and driving can get you 10 years in jail.
- Littering is illegal. The first offense is S$300. The second offense is S$1000. The third time you have to wear a shirt saying you are a litter and clean up the streets.
- Surprisingly, prostitution is legal. Prostitutes in their red light district have to pay a lot of taxes and frequently get drug tested.