“How is it to live in Singapore?” I asked. “Everything is so clean here!”, he responded passionately. “And our laws are very firm. If you litter, you will get a fine of 300 Singapore dollar. You are not allowed to smoke everywhere. And where you are, you must stand near a public ashtray. And Look! You can see flowers everywhere! And no old cars. Cars older than 10 years, must be replaced by a new one. So there is no smog here.
Do you see that old man gathering paper? He is retired and volunteers to do simple work. Otherwise he wouldn’t have anything to do.
Did you know we hardly pay any tax? In Europe you pay 50-60% on taxes right?” I nodded he was about right. “Here we only pay about 20%! And our government is the best! They help us save so everyone can buy a house.” “How does that work?” I asked. “Depending on how much you earn, you are obliged to save a certain percentage of your wage at the Central Bank. From there the government makes sure everyone can buy a house.” It tuns out 90% of the Singaporeans own a house.
“Look! You see that man smoking over there? He throws his cigarette in the ashtray as he should”. “So how do ‘they’ know if he doesn’t?” I asked. “Well, look there, and there. You see? Camera’s everywhere. They will identify him automatically and he will have to pay a fine.”
This was part of a conversation I had with one of the taxi drivers in Singapore. And I must say: Singapore is beautiful! The streets, buildings and air is cleaner than anywhere I have been in Asia or even Europe. Although Singapore is small and densely populated, it never feels crowded. Not in the subway, not on the streets and not in the malls. You see all different kinds of cultures mingling, resulting in a beautiful mix of delicious foods in restaurants and on the street. There is a vibe of relaxation and everywhere you go, it feels save.
However, when you look a bit further, it turns out there is a different side to Singapore. For example, an old local gardener told us he had to keep on working until he died since they was no retirement plan for him. So far for volunteering… A creepy detail about Singapore is that the government controls all media and freedom of speech is restricted. Also they are allowed to put someone behind bars for years, without trial. They can monitor anyone they please by law. [source: Wikipedia]. So be carefull what you do or say, because big brother might be watching you…