Wednesday, June 06, 2007

O Singapore - Ten Things I Hate (and Love) About You

View from our flat circa National Day 2006 (arty shot courtesy of E, D's step-sis who was visiting at the time)

I received my IRAS tax bill yesterday. And I arranged to have it paid in interest-free installments today. Not that the bill was huge mind you, but just a shock to the system when you've been used to the trusty Kiwi Pay-As-You-Earn routine.

So as I signed-off on the invoice, which by the way cheekily read "Thank you for your contribution towards nation building," I thought it was high-time I did the Camel List on what I love and loathe about this tiny island state I call home.

Laundry drying Singapore-style (photo courtesy of E)

Why I love Singapore...

1. Because even though the tax rate is around 5% here (compared to a whopping base rate of 19.5% in New Zealand), the public infrastructure is pretty superb. Great roads, clean water, decent schools, an accessible health care system, efficient and reliable public transport network, and one of the safest urban environments in which to live. So yes, I pay my taxes gladly.

2. Convenience is our middle name - you are never ten steps away from food and groceries, you can buy a TV on Christmas day, and use your bus and train card to buy a Happy Meal at McDonalds.

3. There is a genuine attempt at building social cohesion - from the racial quotas in our public housing policies (to avoid ethnic ghetthoism), to high-kitsch but (I think) well-meaning national campaigns to build national identity and culture. You can't say Singapore doesn't try. And this is where I plug what I do for a living - there are many good people in good organisations chugging away quietly doing good well in and for the community. A pretty un-heralded group of people sandwiched between an increasingly well-paid public service, and the always alluring bright lights and bling of the private sector (very challenging considering this is Singapore, MNC HQ of Asia). Yep, take a bow you fellow creatures who for whatever reason, have chosen to work in the non-profit sector. Ours is an existentialist path fraught with doubt, but I believe (or hope, anyway!) one that will ultimately bring reward and satisfaction. Don't think anyone on their death bed wishes they earned more, but will wish they had made a difference.

4. It's hard to feel out of place (ok, maybe if you are a single lesbian mum then perhaps you may feel a tad marginalised here). Other than that, this really is a melting pot.

5. The food - enough said! Pretty much the main reason why D and I moved back! Oh and of course, there's family and friends... but the food!

Overloaded on the street where we live (photo courtesy of E)

My loathe list...

1. Stinky buses

2. Incredibly irritating people who do not move to the back of said stinky buses and create a bottleneck for those wanting to get on to stinky bus. Oh and these people have clones who hang around the MRT train doors as well.

3. A national tendency to "sweat the small stuff" and become unnecessarily stressed or upset by the minutiae of life (and work!)

4. The permanent obsession with 80s music - Singapore is officially stuck in a time-warp. Our radio stations regularly play Tommy Page, Belinda Carlisle, New Kids on the Block, and the 90s band that sounded so 80s, Michael Learns to Rock. But in the right mood, that's exactly what I love about it though.

5. Our other obsession with trying to be at once unique (failed tourism campaign) and yet benchmark ourselves against Important International Icons. Example, Orchard Rd is self-compared to the Champs Elysees in Paris. Ermm. The apparent buildling of a world-class theme park on Sentosa a few years ago. If anyone has been to Volcano Land, you understand my pain! And don't get me started on Merli, our resident puker (literally!) of a national icon...

But you know, ultimately, this is home and for better or for worse, where I was born. And no, I haven't succumbed to Mad Camel Disease, but I am going to state categorically that I am happy paying my taxes and contributing to the nation building of this crazy place that has often inspired irrational stirrings of longing in me.

O Singapore O Singapore, O island I adore...


Jeanne said...

Sounds like a great place! I am going to look it up on a map right this minute.

Anonymous said...

Good MUST be joking...

Killroy said...

There IS good food to be found. However, the good eats spots get fewer and fewer each passing year as the government - in the name of progress - upgrades the old hawker centres and the rental prices - forcing the hawkers to either ship out to cheaper establishments or cut back on what makes their wares so yummy in the first place. :(

Hey URA!!! LEAVE our favorite food haunts ALONE!