ANG MOH FT GIVES SINGAPORE SCATHING REVIEW BEFORE HE LEAVES FOR ANOTHER COUNTRY
After 4+ years, I've decided to say goodbye to Singapore. I thought the other "exit interview" posted here a while back was interesting, so thought I'd do my own. There is probably some overlap.
A bit about me: ang moh, worked in management, local salary (no expat package), have lived/travelled in various countries around Eurpoe, Africa, and Asia for the past 6 years.
What I liked and some compliments:
You have some incredible parks and nature here
It's so clean here!
It's so safe here!
Your public transport is amazing. Anybody here complaining about it needs to spend some time in a western country to see how good you have it.
Your banking and online government services are seriously world-class. I'm going to miss how convenient everything is.
Yes it's bloody hot, but summer all the time is great.
The ice-cream sandwich uncles! Yam flavour!
In my experience, your police, immigration, security officers, government workers, etc. were all really kind, professional, respectful, and amazing to deal with.
Changi Airport… holy shit this is a national treasure. I'm sure after the next part you'll dislike me and that's fine, but if you take one thing from this: please SG, teach the rest of the world the secrets of your airport mastery because nobody else can do it like you.
What I disliked and some criticism:
Obligatory: rent here is damn expensive! Also, your property industry has some pretty slimy agents.
The overt racial discrimination here is somewhat shocking to an outsider. E.g. Some property websites advertising "All Races Welcome" on apartment listings, and this being seen as progressive… I mean, I guess it's a nice gesture but if you really care so much about the issue, how about be like AirBnb and I don't know… not accept listings from people who discriminate over race?!
Alcohol prices are obscene, and the bar/club scene is quite pathetic for a city of this size. My guess is this is part of the reason many visitors consider Singapore boring.
Aside from some nice Indian/Muslim options, hawker center food here is way overrated. It's really oily and bland, usually loaded with sugar, salt or MSG to try and compensate, and just overall unhealthy and not very nice. ducks
The local art/music/festival scene is really weak compared to almost everywhere else in the region (HK, Taiwan, Malaysia, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand all have much more vibrant, creative scenes. I guess you beat Myanmar and Cambodia?) I don't know how to define it, but it seems most artists/musicians here try to mimic an aesthetic while ignoring the substance of what makes it interesting in the first place. At the same time, they make it painfully obvious the whole purpose is to monetize it. (On that note: isn't it odd that you celebrate counterculture things like graffiti, electronic music (with its rave/drug culture roots) etc. when these things have foundations in rebellion? I mean, here you'd be caned and face serious criminal charges or even death for doing most of what led to this stuff. It could never have originated or been developed here, yet it's still celebrated in a closely monitored, sanctioned box. Just seems sorta dystopian…)
Speaking of pop culture, your media and especially blogger, YouTube personalities, and so-called "influencers" take "cringe" to a whole other level… I mean, these people are usually awful everywhere, but here it's like a poor man's copy of the awfulness.
Business culture here is… challenging. I work in management and virtually all of the local companies/clients/stakeholders I've dealt with take weeks/months to make a decision. Worse, they are extremely cheap yet expect world-class design and development. In my experience, 9 out of 10 times rather than pay a local price or hire Singaporean teams, they will outsource to developing countries (or use a local agency/middleman that outsources to them) for a fraction of the cost. They end up with garbage, and wonder why their website/design looks like it was developed in the 1990s, rather than the gorgeous and modern Silicon Valley design they envisioned. They abandon it and move on to the next idea. Rinse, repeat.
I'm not sure if Singaporeans are "cold", but I'll say this: I have lived in numerous countries around the world and this is the only place I've lived that I haven't made a single local friend (and interestingly enough, SG is the only other place besides my home country with English as an official language.)
My god people here walk annoyingly slow and stare at their phones a lot… I mean, people in other countries do too but here it is almost comical. This wouldn't be a problem but so many here are oblivious or just don't give a shit about anybody else around them, and always walk in the center making it difficult to walk around them. Ugh just move to the side if your phone keeps you from walking a normal pace.
Most of your drivers are complete assholes. I've never seen such entitled motorists anywhere else in the developed world. I guess when you pay 3x the value for a car, you can't help but feel like a king that deserves more respect than pedestrians (peasants).
As a coffee lover, I've never seen a large city with such poor cafes: most are expensive, crowded, and uncomfortable. There is nothing relaxing about hanging out in a cafe here at all. And while I enjoy kopi for what it is, sorry – it is not coffee. ducks
I'm sure it's been effective, but maybe tone down the flood of service announcements dictating acceptable public behaviour? That said, Bag-Down Benny makes me lol every time I see him.
I don't follow your politics much, but your goverment's "stability above all" mantra (and using that to justify cracking down hard on everything they don't like) isn't going to benefit SG forever. They keep preaching the importance of innovation for SG's future, but innovation at its core stems from dissent and challenging norms, and sometimes that's not always harmonious. If it's ingrained in your population from birth to instinctively avoid challenging authority, I don't see much true innovation ever happening here.
Your government's response to Amos Yee did far, far more damage to SG's reputation than he ever could. This is just an outsider's opinion, but if some vulgar kid trolling on the Internet can be such a threat to your 'social stability', that speaks volumes.
The mental gymnastics some of you go through to justify your borderline slave labour… come on. I mean, yes, by all means CONGRATS that you are not Qatar or Saudi Arabia in your treatment of foreign workers, but I think deep down you know SG is better than this.
Enjoyed my time here, but also happy to move on. After writing this the criticisms are more, but only because Singapore does so much so well that there is a lot of good that probably just went under my radar.