Traveling: Life in Singapore

My brother has lived in Singapore almost twenty years, so when I go to visit, I stay with him and his family. Here’s a little bit about family/life in Singapore.

1. School and Life of a 14-year old. Singapore subscribes to the process of streaming where students of the same year are put on one of four tracks based on their test results: Special, Express, Normal Academic, and Normal Technical. As a 14-year old, godson’s/nephew’s daily load is English, Chinese, French, math, history, geography, literature, physics, and biology. He is also on the debate team. And Boys’ Brigade (think Boy Scouts). One more thing – Junrui is also a top ji-jitsu athlete and represented Singapore in the Jiu-Jitsu U15 World Cup in Athens.

Boys’ Brigade started in the UK.
So. Much. Homework.
Junrui trains against adults.

2. Government services. There are no homeless people (or people just hanging on the streets if you know what I mean). The government has developed excellent public housing. While some are for low income, there are also high-end units that even doctors will live in because they are well-priced, and Singapore is an expensive place to live.

Example of public housing.

3. Homes. Land is at a premium in Singapore, so people build up – 3 stories is typical in my brother’s neighborhood. Backyards are small/almost non-existent as the weather makes it prohibitive to entertain outside.

This tile roof is distinctly Singaporean.

4. Cars. Traffic is extremely reasonable in Singapore, especially given that it’s a metropolitan city. The government makes owning a car difficult – first you must apply for a permit. Then the average car starts at S$100,000. IKR? That’s why even wealthy people have only one car — and why such reasonable traffic.

One car only!

5. Breakfast and nephew Tim. This is the breakfast set-up for the family. Tim is eating one slice of toast with peanut butter. Yup. That’s it. While Singaporeans may not be the fittest group of people (I didn’t see too many people exercising), I didn’t see any obese people the entire time we were there. Small portions. Stop when you’re full. That’s the “trick”.

6. Rules. Singapore is beautiful, super clean and yes, there are a lot of rules. There really is a chewing gum ban and penalties for what we consider minor infractions are enforced. They will execute you for drugs. No joke. So…a couple things. One, if you really REALLY have to commit a crime, then people just cross the border into Malaysia. Some will even go there just to speed in their cars. Two, while Americans may bristle at the idea of having their individual freedoms suppressed, note that individual freedom is a Western (and fairly modern) ideal that is not held as highly by other cultures/countries. Other values such as duty, respect, common welfare may be ranked higher.

T-shirt listing fines – $300 for spitting!

Anyway, this is my sixth trip to Singapore, and I have come to appreciate it more over the years and recommend as a place to raise children and, as my friend said, a nice entry point into traveling to Asia if you’ve never been.

Sensible Rich Asians.
Me and my baby brother at the American Club — where ex-pats go to eat bad tacos.

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