After we left Taiwan, our next stop was Singapore. Singapore is a place about which we had a lot of preconceived notions. We had heard about their strict laws, their squeaky clean streets, the prevalence of English speakers and the high prices. Interestingly, Singapore didn’t live up to her reputation. Here are five interesting things about Singapore:
1.) Singapore is a city-state, similar to Hong Kong, Macau or Vatican City. It’s such a small country that it only has one city. So it functions as both a country (the Republic of Singapore), and a city (Singapore). It’s actually a collection of islands, and the main island is connected to Malaysia by a major causeway.
2.) Singapore is yet another former British colony. They remained a colony from 1824 until 1959, with some years under Japanese rule during WWII. In 1959 they became a self-governing part of the Commonwealth. In 1963, Singapore declared independence from Britain, and together with other former colonies formed the Federation of Malaysia. After conflicts with Malaysia over how the countries different ethnic groups were treated, Malaysia expelled Singapore in 1965. Since that time Singapore has been an independent city-state. Because of Singapore’s mixed heritage population, there are four national languages in the country: English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil.
3.) Singapore has a lot of really intense laws. About Singapore’s legal system, Wikipedia reads:
“The legal system of Singapore is based on English common law, albeit with substantial local differences. Trial by jury was entirely abolished in 1970 leaving judicial assessment performed wholly by judgeship. Singapore has penalties that include judicial corporal punishment in the form of caning for rape, rioting, vandalism, and some immigration offences. There is a mandatory death penalty for murder, and for certain drug-trafficking and firearms offences.”
So….yah. Pretty intense. We heard a lot about how strict Singapore was about littering and jaywalking, so we were surprised to see a number of people freely doing both of these things with no consequences.
4.) Because of the strict anti-spitting and littering laws, Singapore has a reputation as a very clean city. We found this to be a bit of a misnomer. I would add the caveat “Singapore is a clean city for Southeast Asia.” Sure, it was clean compared to Malaysia. But otherwise…it was pretty normal. It was still less clean than a lot of Western and Northern Asian cities. Seoul is definitely cleaner. We found it a bit strange how much Singapore did not live up to its reputation in this regard.
5.) Singapore is expensive, especially for Southeast Asia. In the land of $1 street food, Singapore is definitely the rich, uptight, snotty neighbor. Singapore has the world’s highest percentage of millionaires, some of the world’s most expensive property, and their economy has been ranked as one of the freest, most innovative, most competitive, and most business-friendly in the world. You see a lot more business-wear in Singapore and a lot less poor grannies selling food by the side of the road.
Have you been to Singapore? Did you find the reputation of being strict, clean and expensive held up? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!