Some Observations From Singapore

Well, the first observation is actually from last year when I had visited both Singapore and Hong Kong…For some reason, I had this thing in my head that the locals in HK spoke English because the country had been a British colony till 1997…But lo and behold when I landed there I realized that the local Chinese did not or didn’t want to speak the Queen’s language…As a result, we had a tough time negotiating our way through the island…Our host’s landlord wrote down his address (the host’s) in the local language on piece of paper and we showed this to taxi drivers when we wanted to get back home…But Singapore is different…The locals speak English (thank god!)…Why is this so? Did Lee Kuan Yew force people to learn the language because he himself was Oxbridge educated?

The second observation is a phenomenon I thought was uniquely Indian – the obsession with ‘fairness’…The other day I saw an ad selling something called a whiteness chip which when stuck to your face makes you fair…OK, I know these creams and chips don’t actually make you fair and that they just help remove tans but I’ve never seen a tanned Chinese…Have you? Also, as far as I can see they are pretty white so why do they want to become whiter?

Singaporeans are extremely efficient…I got a shock when I reached the employment office (a division of the Ministry of Manpower) to register my daughter and myself as dependants…The office was not only clean and well lit, there were four well dressed and courteous young ladies waiting at the door to help us around…We had reached there 15 minutes early but since the place was empty, we were taken in immediately…The registration and fingerprinting (a new rule) took all of 10 minutes…They even had a play area for children which my daughter took full advantage of…Why are 2 countries which started off nearly at the same time so different? Do Indians lack motivation to better themselves or are we by nature discourteous and dirty? Do we need a dictator like Lee Kuan Yew?


33 thoughts on “Some Observations From Singapore

  1. Yes Bones, as Dhiren says, size matters, everywhere; only in this context, it is smaller the better! And this case, I am reminded of an old Whoopie joke about Bill Gates proclaiming that he was “micro-soft”,and his wife saying “No comments”.

    So it is not just the browns who want to turn white; the yellows too want a better shade! Rajesh Khanna can keep singing “Gorey rang pe na itna gumaan kar, gora rang do din mein dhal jaaeyga”. Fairness creams, chips and tomorrow God-knows-what will always sell!


  2. Lots of points I want to make about this post Sraboney:

    1. The fairness chip ad was probably directed to a lot immigration population from other parts of Asia where people aren’t naturally as fair as the natives of the place.

    2. The last time I visited Singapore was around Christmas. We celebrated Christmas eve on Orchard Street. The place was choc-a-block! And you can imagine how littered it would have been. But the cleaning up started right after midnight, when the crowds were done celebrating for the night and were returning home. We were honestly astounded. Can’t imagine how the kind of rubbish on the roads would have been cleaned in India and in how much time. But there, they had machines coming in and within half an hour, there was no sign of what had just happened on the streets.

    3. Singapore is a country the size of one Indian city! So it’s unfair to compare India and Singapore. Of course, I’m not defending Indian’s laid back attitude but it will take more than a dictator to set things right in India.


    • Regarding fairness creams – the thing about the ad was that the model was Chinese…There’s a large Singaporean Tamil as well as Indian population so unless the makers of the product didn’t want to offend them, the use of a Chinese model was wrong…


  3. yeah, Bones, whitness cream are famous there as well….. hmmmm 😛 guess it is not an indian phenomenon….

    and yes, india and singapore cannot be compared….. but yes, we can learn from them…. but we always refuse to learn good things 😛


    • ofcourse size is a big factor but I’m more concerned about the attitude of people…Indians can be efficient in their dealings but they choose not to be…It has got nothing to do with the size of the country…

      Going to the DMV and immigration office in the US can also be nightmarish…Again, it is the attitude…


  4. The fairness rage might be because of the Indian and Srilankan population. Remember Tamil is their official language so there are a lot from this part of the world. The basic thought process we have never changes even with the country.

    On other question, I have thought to myself. I have traveled to quite a few countries and the best airport in the whole world is Changi airport. I have never seen any place so spic n span. They keep cleaning it. It is 24/7.

    The rules are followed. How and why? I don’t know. As Hitchy says, if size mattered then why is Bhutan not as developed as Singapore?!

    May be we need a dictator. Someone who can enforce rules. I really can’t say.


    • Yes Solilo…Our attitude is the problem…We are lazy and like to cut corners when possible…We don’t like following rules and the enforcers don’t like enforcing them ’cause if they did, they wouldn’t be able to line their pockets with cash…


      • Yes, Bones – our problem is our attitude! We are more than happy to cut corners and even where it is possible to get the job done without invoking ‘favours’, we prefer to use that route 😦


  5. I can’t really add much to the discussion because I’ve never been to Singapore other than a brief stopover. But what I feel is that since India is a much much larger country than Singapore, it will take a lot of awareness to instill the importance of keeping our cities clean in the masses. Also efficiency and work ethics are things that need to be cultivated over time and enorced thereafter. But at the end of the day, I’d willingly suffer dirt and inefficiency rather than live in a gilded country ruled over by a dictator.


    • I agree with Mystic Maragarita, no matter what …But at the end of the day, I’d willingly suffer dirt and inefficiency rather than live in a gilded country ruled over by a dictator.

      We have had a small taste of dictatorship in the Emergency, and we are forever blogging against attempts at dictatorship by our politicians …


  6. Obsession with fairness?you know Sraboney in some way or the otehr most countries… have some kind of an obsession with some part/aspect of the body…
    eg the Chinese want really small feet..(for some reason) and liek you said wnat to become whiter..

    the white skinned people…which would be I think Europeans to an extent, those from the US, UK…they are obsessed with tanning themselves…(at least the ones I know or have seen)

    in short noone is happy with what they have been born with…
    and therein lies the cause of all of Humanity’s various miseries…

    *sigh* we are too huge a country to get any semblance of order anytime soon…our attitude doesn’t make it any easier……


  7. very interesting observations bones..

    I know Singapore is always a clean country… one thing is that they are a small country and it will be easier to implement anything evenly but ours is a very big one.. and it requires lot of effort to make everybody importance of anything…
    and we people used to negligence… so thats the reason I think for dirtyness..

    and for fairness cream.. LOL 😆 what can we say when chinese were using it???


  8. Was in Singapore recently and we [me and my family] were not that much impressed with cleanliness. May be because we had heard so much about cleanliness in Singapore and expected too much. Took some pics of the litter and cigarette stubs too.
    It is a very well organised country and was impressed by the museums. They have only about a 150-year history but they have made most of it. The excuse that India is too big and we have a democracy does not explain our backwardness fully. May be it is the mindset.


    • “The excuse that India is too big and we have a democracy does not explain our backwardness fully. ”

      Well said…That was my point…The US is bigger than India and it is a democracy and they are far ahead of us…OK , they got independence before us but I’m sure they were well ahead of us 60 yrs. after independence…


  9. India could so with a dictator, I feel sometimes. Anyway, Singapore is just tiny compared to India, so developing it is easier I guess. Having said that, India has no excuse for its state of being. It feels so so wonderful to go to offices which function efficiently, which don’t have a false notion of self importance, which don’t take people for granted, assuming they have nothing else to do, but sit around in that office.


  10. I have often asked myself the same question. And I agree with Charakan when he says that our size and democracy do not fully explain our backwardness. Or our terrible attitude.


    Quirky Indian


    • These are all explainations.It is nothing but a matter of attitude.We want to hide behind the inefficient system so as to blame someone for our failures.
      We know we can all get away with any thing by bribing our way through. Try this in Singapore!!!
      I feel ,the day we can make neta and babu accountable,efficiency will come knocking…try it.


  11. I am quite uncertain about this fairness complex ! Clearly every race/community has their own complexes.. as far as they don’t reach ridiculous heights.. I don’t care… I do care – when discrimination occurs on basis of these complexes/prejudices though..

    As for efficiency – I agree with most others that the size and complexity of India is no excuse… It has to do with our attitude more anything else.. It is our habit of cutting corners , of invoking favours and trying to go the easier way – than the correct way that is the root of our problems.. For corruption to reduce, we as a people, have to try, it is not just upto the govt to do so.

    And I’d rather live in a democracy – with all its flaws than in a dictatorship.. anytime


  12. I guess a dictator is required. We have been good servants and very bad masters.

    A long way to go before we can call ourselves mature.

    Some changes have taken place. Our Municipal ward office has been airconditioned and computerised. You can go to any counter and pay any bill or get birth / death certificates….small improvement but the sour unhelpful attitude remains.

    I am told by my colleagues from Gujarat that there is a dramatic change visible at government offices. But then you may say Narendra Modi is a dictator..(almost). Is there something in this???


    • mavin, when in a govrnment office in mahrastra – i speak in marathi and get the work done..that’s what i do. if speaking gujrathi helps, i speak the broken language and get it done. i do that hear too – in shops if i meet a baung – i speak broken bangla —

      singapore is a great place i hear – good education, schools, infrastrstructure – cosmopolitan living and an influx of westerners and easterns – seems a pretty picture to me — keep us posted ..i’ll like to ssee singapore through your eyes


  13. I`m surprised by the obsession with fairness. I wonder what the reasons for that could be.. Secondly, in India the biggest problem is Population. If that could be under control, rest everything else would fall into place.
    Are you settling in?


  14. Oh the fairness obsession is shared by all Asians. In fact we were late in acting on our fairness fixation through all these creams, lotions and what not compared to people in East and Southeast Asia. I have a friend in China who has stopped going for facials because she always comes out of there looking pale as a corpse! And her beauticians take great pride in that outcome.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s