Thursday, 8 November 2012

A Londoner’s love/hate relationship with Singapore

First timer’s to Singapore be warned: The first culture-shock that’ll smack you in the face is the immediate and distinct LACK of graffiti, tramps and chewing gum. 

Lets not forget that the distance between your feet and a pavement-dwelling cigarette butt will span far over a metre. In fact, make that 1000 metres, a million metres, however many metres you bloody want. You won’t find one.

And no. It isn’t because Singaporean’s are genetically predisposed to be clean freaks. Obviously there’s got to be some laws laid down to create a place which probably squeaks if you rub it with your finger.

You might have heard Singapore being described as ‘a fine city‘, but never quite figured out exactly what’s what. To start, here’s a few things to avoid:

SMOKING IN PUBLIC PLACES: $500 fine - stick to designated smoking areas and bins
LITTERING: $1000 fine and litter picking duty
Fines up to $2000, a prison sentence of up to 3 years and between 3 and 8 strokes of the cane. If you fancy yourself the next Banksy, Singapore isn’t a place you want to hit up
DRUGS: Lengthy prison sentence/ death penalty.

Harsh? It’s arguable.

Anyhow, the list goes on… It truly does. Did anyone mention even a sip of water on the tube will cost you $500?

But the result of all these rules is that Singapore, quite frankly, is pristine. It really is an achievement that they’ve managed to create such a rule following society.

Since I got there it was noted that I tend to walk with my handbag swung round the front of me, clutched close into my chest like a newborn baby. Then there’s how anal I am about hiding my pin when I withdraw money at a cash point. I won’t even leave my bag lying next to me when sat at a table outdoors. To me, every child without an adult is a pickpocket.

Apparently all that jazz is simply not necessary there.

Everywhere is safe. Everything is so clean. Hypochondriacs, get your butts over there, the place is heaven.

How they managed to keep it that way is beyond us all. It’s fantastic. Grand. Amazing!

Take London; there are fines for littering. However, even taking one step out of your front door will show that clearly the rule isn’t enforced enough - if at all.

Yet Singapore is perfect. Or is it?

Well, no. I’m afraid not.

Sure, it’s got its plus sides. The city is beautiful. It’s kind of nice that everything’s so god damn perfect.

If you happen to find yourself in the area, get a cable car ride round to Sentosa at night. The panoramic views over the city are stunning. Sentosa on the other hand… not so much.

Either way, the novelty of a “perfect” city soon wears off.

You get bombarded with disappointment when you’ve spent your time searching for something a little quirky and it’s just not there. Say you fancy a dance, the authorities have even set up a designated ‘partying area’. Draw your own conclusions.

The place is so ‘staged’. People say there’s no such thing as perfect. Well, they are right…

To live there would be like becoming a kid whose parents keep them in a cocoon, hidden from the harsh realities of life. Or in this case, the dirty habits of back home.

The place has no soul. It drones through life.

You never thought you’d miss the singing tramps stumbling through the roads late at night. Or avoiding gangs of kids outside fast food shops on your way home, for fear of being stabbed. But these are things that come from a place where rules are not so strict.

In Singapore, the most out-of-the-ordinary thing I’ve seen is a man with bright red hair. Fascinating, or just plain dull?

On the other hand I do love the place. It’s fantastic. It could be seen as the ideal city. But only if all you want to do is eat, work and sleep.

I’m no extremist. I don’t jump off the world’s tallest buildings for thrills. But it really is the sense of 'unusual' - subculture, rebellion, danger, that a new piece of graffiti will turn up - which make life interesting.

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