Exiting the excellent Changi airport, into the humid hug of the Singaporean tropical air, there is always a feeling of excitement because Singapore is a wonderful city to visit. We have been numerous times before but these are my impressions of our most recent visit.
The most striking thing is the mask wearing compliance in Singapore. Everyone wears a mask indoors. Most people wear a mask outdoors even though it is no longer mandatory. This is despite the tropical heat. Masks are worn properly, covering both the nose and the mouth. There is none of the slovenliness observed in other countries during masks mandates where people would allow their masks to slip down past their nose and mouth. The fact that the entire Singaporean population can wear their mask properly, means that every mask wearer is perfectly aware of the position of the mask and that if a mask has slipped down, it is intentional.
Even very young children wear their masks properly in Singapore. Toddlers of only 20 months old manage to mostly keep their mask on during a long day of play at day care. We saw a line of older children of 4, 5 and 6 being led in a line through the city by their teachers. They were all wearing their masks properly. To a “liberty” and “freedom” loving person, this may look like sheep-line behaviour. To me, it looks like care and consideration for the community. When people wear their masks properly, they are showing that they care about the more vulnerable people in the community and they care about each other. The only time, I saw masks worn incorrectly or not worn at all was at Changi Airport amongst the foreigners. This was disappointing.
Similar to masks, is the orderliness of things in Singapore. There are neat queues at the MRT train stations to get onto the trains. There are self scanning systems installed on all cars to pay for car park fees which requires no effort by the driver other than to keep their accounts topped up. In many ways, Singapore feels like the future although it is totally understandable that some may find this kind of order too stifling.
This visit to Singapore, it felt like there was a lot more Mandarin spoken rather than English. This may have been a function of the areas we were frequenting. Mandarin would be the default language and English secondary. This is different to my experience on previous visits.
When traveling around Singapore, look out the window at the huge number of high rise apartment buildings. Many of these are HDB (Housing and Development Board) apartments. The vast majority of Singaporean live in these tiny, high rise apartments, a contrast to the spacious houses and backyards of many middle class Australians. As a result of this population density, there are plenty of shops and amenities clustered around these apartments. One could easily live an entire life serviced by the amenities within close walking distance. Just downstairs from an apartment would be all kinds of shops selling cooked and uncooked food, a supermarket, a pharmacy, bank, beauty salons, general stores, medical clinic, dentist and of course the gambling shop. The completeness of the range of shops and services available is driven by the population density and therefore demand from these high rise apartments.
Due to the small size of the island and the large number of people living on it, there are strict restrictions on car ownership. Owning a car is extremely expensive and most Singaporean rely on their excellent public transport system for getting around.
In Singapore, good food is readily available everywhere. The food is almost always reliably good and clean because of competition. A stall selling bad food simply would not survive. It is a frugal food lovers paradise where good meals are available for only a few Singaporean dollars. In Singapore, there is a huge range of prices that a person can pay for a meal. From the cheapest meals at the local coffee shops to the swankiest, fanciest dining experiences. All are available in this buzzy city, whatever your taste.
Singapore, like other Asian countries, it can be economical and healthy to eat out for every meal. There are many places selling dishes which are not too different from a home cooked version. Purchasing ingredients from the supermarket and cooking at home does not always work out cheaper. In many Western countries, a healthy home cooked meal is always multiple times cheaper than eating something of equivalent quality outside.
The public image of Singapore is of slick office buildings, Changi airport, the Jewel at Changi airport and shopping. It is easy to forget that Singapore is one of the world’s busiest ports.
Singapore is indeed a hub for shopping. There are shops selling every variety of goods and services at a huge range of price points. The competition leads to an astounding variety and a strong desire to appeal to every customer.
One of the most impressive things about Singapore is how green it is. The tropical climate supports lush green growth. This combined with smart town planning means that there is plenty of greenery around the city. My favourite are the elegant rain trees that line so many of the streets. All the greenery may look beautiful but it also has a cooling effect on the city. There is a lesson here for other hot climate cities!
Do you like Singapore? What are your impressions of this city?