Our stay in Singapore was a short five days, but after 29 days in Indonesia we enjoyed the comforts and conveniences of a truly modern 21st Century city. It’s quite a culture shock to step off the plane from Yogyakarta and to use an airport bathroom that is beautifully designed, high-tech, and cleaner than you would ever expect in your own home! In Singapore you are a world away from wondering whether the toilet will be squat-style or not, whether there will be any toilet paper, and how the bathroom might rate on your somewhat-clean to filthy index. And the bathrooms were just the start of experiencing Singapore’s quality-of-life differences that made us feel like we had landed on a totally different planet.
Singapore really is the poster child of how livable an urban environment can be. The buildings are shiny and new, and if not, they are very well maintained. Public transit is first rate. Streets and sidewalks are squeaky clean. You’d be hard pressed to find a single cigarette butt, candy wrapper or chewing gum left anywhere on the street due to Singapore’s strict littering laws. The air quality is good because driving in the city and car ownership is made extremely expensive. There are no traffic jams; crime is very low; true poverty and homelessness don’t seem to exist (at least not at the street level). Like Switzerland, Singapore exudes a certain expectation of “Ordnung”, and from what I can see the Singaporeans appear mostly happy to live by, as well as enjoy the benefits of these strict rules. I shouldn’t forget to mention that if you want your child to get a world-class primary education, it’s hard to beat Singapore’s rigid standards (even Tiger Mom’s will be humbled by the demanding standards and competitiveness of Singapore’s education system).
For me visiting Singapore was a chance to visit relatives on my father’s side of the family, who are enjoying life in the “Switzerland of Southeast Asia”. The last time I met my relatives here was some 30 years ago, so reuniting with family was definitely the highlight for me. The children also enjoy meeting relatives (and their pets) for the first time. Audrey and Josephine wasted no time in taking the opportunity to spend the night at their aunt’s home with two of their new cousins. Aside from their ability to take this whole World trip in stride, the girls’ willingness to get to know and accept new family and friends along our path of adventure is the other quality that always makes me proud as a father.
So what’s not to like about Singapore? Well, the cost of living (especially housing) is extremely expensive. And living in a “policed” state with extreme order in everything probably gets to you after a while. But mostly, if you want a decent home and if you (or your wife) have even a hint of a shopper’s bug, you’ll need to work your tail off (or already be quite well-off) to live here. And for me, this was my reality check. Having been on our road-less-travelled for five months and then seeing the abundant fruits of a highly productive society reminded me that it won’t be long before I will need to return to a daily work routine as well. For me Singapore marked the start of searching for next opportunities and new people to network with along the way. Plan A is a real estate related role in Europe (Germany or Switzerland). Plan B…well, we’re still working that one out. If anyone has any advice for me (or a great idea for Plan B), my new reality could use any help you can offer.