Alan Porter's minimal net presence

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1 The natural beauty

Asian women are just beautiful. I like them so much, I married one!

2 The natural beauty -- this time, I mean the plants and trees

There are trees and plants everywhere. The city planners decided to leave some areas green, and they plant flowers on the sides of the roads and on overpasses. Parts of the island look like a jungle.

3 Friendly people

The people here are extremely friendly. Of course, in a city of four million people, you're bound to run into one or two yahoos out there (and I discuss them in other parts of this web page). But for the most part, the people in Singapore are very warm and courteous.

4 Warm weather

No need for sweaters and jackets outside. You might want one in the office, where they keep the air conditioner on full blast!

It's much easier to outfit the baby in summer clothes, year-round!

5 Cheap and good food

A good meal can be found for less than ten dollars (US$5.50). Many times, for less than five!

6 Domestic help

Domestic help is very affordable in Singapore. Many families have live-in maids, mostly from Indonesia or the Philipines. We weren't quite ready for that level of commitment, so we found a Singaporean woman who could work two half-days per week. In addition, when our daughter was born, we hired a "confinement lady" who helped take care of mother and baby during the first month!

7 Proximity to family

Foong-Ha's family is a three-hour drive away (but now my family is a 24-hour flight away).

8 No tipping

Singapore handles tipping the RIGHT way... the boss pays the waiters, and I just pay for the food. I really don't care to get involved in that arrangement.

9 Fresh fruit

Bananas, papaya, mango, starfruit, pineapple, oranges. You name it. And that makes some good fruit juice!

10 Good city planning

They spend little time arguing and more time acting. They do a good job at planning the city's infrastructure, and they keep it maintained.

The city is clean, and it is safe to walk around at any time of day or night.


1 Penny pinchers

There are some really stingy people here. Not everyone is tight, but the ones that are tight are really tight.

  • People queue up down the street (causing traffic jams) to get to a gas station that has a 10% promotional discount.
  • At certain times of day, the ERP (electronic road pricing) tolls change. So you'll see some idiot in a Mercedes on the side of the road just before the ERP gate, waiting five minutes so he can save 50 cents.

2 Rushing the elevator

Singaporeans are notorious for rushing into the elevator as soon as the door opens. Never mind if there are people inside trying to get out! The local term for someone who has to be first all the time is "kiasu". It applies to many different things.

3 Hello, Yes?

Trying to browse the food stalls at the local food market is like running the gauntlet. As you get close enough to see the food, they start calling out, "Hello, Yes?" It's a universal greeting. Some of them start rattling off the names of every food they sell in an incomprehensible flood, "Hello yes, chicken rice Hokkien mee rice noodle prawn cake fried rice mee goreng fried kway teow". It makes my skin crawl.

4 Haggling

Why can't you just stick a price on the item and leave it at that? You spend all of your time looking for a bargain. And when you do finally buy something, you still feel like you could have gotten a better price.

5 Language barrier

There are so many cultures and dialects here, the locals have adopted a very terse and choppy mix of simple English and various dialect phrases. They call it "Singlish".

Here's a typical conversation:
"On the light, ah?"

Singaporeans hear what they want to hear. Therefore, you should speak clearly and avoid using unnecessary words.

The suffix "ah" softens an otherwise harsh sentence or a terse suggestion.

6 Fighter Jets

The military routinely flies fighter jets over the length of the island. They usually fly during dinner time, and they make a lot of noise, flying one after another with afterburners on.

When asked about the fighter jets, most locals will give the same scripted answer: "they are practicing for the National Day Parade". But National Day has come and gone. Yet the jets are still flying.

7 Shoddy workmanship

Labor is cheap, and it is no problem to get someone to come to your house and fix something. Except they won't actually fix the problem. A new coat of paint solves all problems (including structural, leakage, electrical).

8 Show-offs

Nearly everyone here seems to be chasing some sort of status, whether it is a fancy job title, a membership in some posh-sounding club, reserved parking spaces, executive toilets, you name it.

The most visible status symbol is the car. In a country where a normal low-end car can cost S$100,000, it's surprising how many people pay the really big bucks for fancy sports cars: Ferrari, Mazerati, Lamborghini... all in a country that is only 250 square miles in size. What a shame... to own a sports car with no place to drive it fast. This trend also trickles down to the common man, who feels inadequate without at least a BMW or a Mercedes.

9 Propaganda

The print and television media are tightly controlled in Singapore. So they send a unified message. There are various forms of "message unification".

  • The government likes to run ads on TV that remind us how nice Singapore is. The ads are transparent, with sappy songs about cultural diversity.
  • Newspaper stories are overly didactic, often concluding with a moral or lesson. "...and THAT's why you should not throw garbage from the 10th story balcony."
  • The local television studio has a slogan: "MediaCorp -- the Choice". Am I the only one who sees the irony of this slogan?

10 Bathrooms and paper towels

I am a somewhat tidy person. So these little things bug me.

  • First of all, you seldom get napkin at a restaurant. In extreme cases, they might let you have one. That is, order a bucket of chicken and they might give you one. But most of the time, forget it. I have learned to carry a handkerchief. Many locals will carry a small package of kleenex.
  • Everything in a Singaporean bathroom is wet. Since the humidity is so high, things never tend to dry out on their own. There are no paper towels, so most people just fling the water on the counter.

The only thing worse than a Singaporean bathroom is a Malaysian bathroom. Same problem, but pay 10c to enter.

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