I visited Singapore for the first time in 1994, during my maiden trip to South East Asia and I did not like the Lion City at all. After experiencing the magic of Bali and Koh Samui I found the place very bleak, a plastic city, nothing more but a big collection of international standard hotels and shopping centres. I decided that this was my first and last time spent on the Island State….
But Thailand and Indonesia made a deep impression on me and back in the cold, rainy Netherlands nothing seemed to make sense anymore. I decided to explore the possibility of finding employment in one of these Asian paradises…
2 years later, in 1996, I managed to find a job in Asia, not in Thailand or Indonesia but in Singapore of all places. I was employed in the wine business in The Netherlands and drinking wine was getting very, very fashionable in the whole Asia Pacific region so I happened to be at the right place at the right time. In those days a lot of wealthy and not so wealthy Singaporeans acquired a taste for wine. It was very easy to get a job with my experience in the trade. When the 1997 Asian crises hit, Singapore was not spared but much less affected than the other countries in the region so I managed to survive the economic mayhem i.e. I was not forced to return to The Netherlands due to unemployment. Although I definitely would have preferred a job in Bangkok initially it would have been short lived since Thailand was really hit very hard by the economic downturn, affecting the sales of commodities like wine very, very badly.
As said, Singapore is less exciting than Bangkok and it took me quite a while to get used to it and eventually I ended up really liking the place. When on holiday the power failures, vehicle breakdowns, traffic jams and misunderstandings due to language problems in many Asian countries may have some charm. But if you are making a living in a country you want things to work. And they do in Singapore. Probably a lot better than in most western countries as well. Singaporeans are very efficient and all speak very good English. Salaries are similar or higher than in the west and taxes generally much lower, especially compared to my home country. Although the country is extremely, not to say over-westernized (I will talk about that later) it is very much an Asian country. The population is a mix of Malays (the original population) and the descendants of Chinese and Indian immigrants. This makes Singapore a unique place, where different Asian cultures co-exist while keeping their own identity in terms of customs, religion and especially food. Singaporeans have a passion for food. Nowhere in the world one can find such an amazing variety of culinary highlights. At very affordable prices, too. For less than 2 US Dollar you can eat very well, weather you opt for Hainanese chicken rice, Malay satay or Indian lamb bryani.
Singapore has a strong image of being a very strict country, with very high fines for relatively small trespasses. You will find the signs everywhere, on the public transport, in train and bus stations, in shopping centres and in parks. Eating & Drinking: Fine S$1000, Smoking: Fine S$4000, Littering: Fine S$2000. They are there for your own benefit. Once you visit Singapore the first thing you will notice that it is such a clean place, and this is a very nice break from the dirt and grime that characterizes actually all other South East Asian cities. Chewing gum prohibited? I stopped chewing gum at the age of twelve, and when I look at the way the pavements in my own country are pockmarked by disposed gum, I think it a brilliant and simple idea to ban it altogether. Singapore is also very well known for its severe punishments for criminals. If you rape a girl in my country you go to jail (read: a 4-star facility) for a few years in order to pick up your habit upon release. In Singapore you will be caned. Your pants will be stripped from your ass and pounded with a thin rattan stick. After a few strokes bits of flesh from your bottom will fly around. A doctor is present to make sure you get a break in the case you loose consciousness. Unconscious people do not feel anything, so the beating stops until you wake up. Rapists generally get at least 15 strokes of the cane prior to spending many years in a very unpleasant prison. Consequently, Singapore knows very little rape and crime in general, and you will always feel safe there, no matter where you are and at what time. My own country, which is a real paradise for criminals by now since it has been hollowed out by a government of soft fucks for so many years could learn a lot from the way pests are dealt with in Singapore.
So far so good. So Singapore is a nice, well-organized, clean, safe, tropical country where the salaries are high, the girls are pretty and the food is great and cheap. It almost seems like paradise. Of course it is not, there is definitely a flip side to it. I said that Singapore is over-westernized. Not too long ago a lot of the old Chinese shop houses had to give away for steel and concrete high rises. Singapore was a modern, wealthy city and old ramshackle buildings had to be done away with. It is very fortunate the government realized that the little heritage left was going to disappear quickly and now the remaining shop housed are being restored in their former glory. But despite this you will not find much authentic architecture. High rise office blocks, posh apartment buildings and prestigious hotels are omnipresent. In spite of that Singapore is often referred to as The Garden City, because of its abundance of lush greenery and parks. But nonetheless you will certainly miss the charm of the haphazard architecture, around the clock activity, traffic mayhem and smells of other Asian cities. Singaporeans crave western goods, especially expensive cars, jewelry and designer clothes. You see an unusually high number of Ferraris, Porsches, Mercedes and BMWs on the roads, and I believe every grown up wears a Rolex. All major designer houses have set up shop on the island and are doing excellent business. Louis Vuitton luggage is so commonly seen that its exclusive image is badly affected, its elegant image compromised by people dressed in flip flops, shorts and T-shirt sporting the brand. Everybody to its own, but if a Chinese girl has an Ang Moh (the Singapore equivalent of farang) boyfriend she is frowned upon by other Chinese and her parents will often disapprove of the relationship. This is not always the case but still, all too often. Anyway, similar cases of racism are also very common in the West…
If you do not know Singapore very well, the nightlife seems quite dull and above all, very expensive. A mug of the local Tiger beer easily costs 10 Singapore Dollars, that is close to $US 5 in a decent bar. There are no topless or naked girls dancing on a podium holding on to a steel pole. You also will not find beer bars on the beach where you can play connect 4 after the conversation with your new found girlfriend is over after you answered the usual questions “What your name”, “Where you from”, “How old are you”. But there are quite a few bars where you can find local girls willing to have some fun, they are often very pretty and well dressed. The whole thing is the same as picking up loose woman in your own country. You have to make an effort. Often they will not go with you the very same night, but first give you their phone number to fix a date first. Some very good bars for that matter are Papa Joe’s on Peranakan Place (off Orchard Road), Brannigan’s (in the basement of the Grant Hyatt) and Bar None (in the basement of the Marriott Hotel). Furthermore there are countless bars along Boat Quay, where most of the Singapore nightlife is concentrated.
But you can still opt for a Thai prostitute if the local girls do not want you. There are loads of bars located in Orchard Towers where expatriate freelancers from Thailand and The Philippines play their trade, visiting the country on tourist visas. Since Singapore is so expensive the girls charge accordingly, so do not expect to get a fix for 1000 Baht. Prices vary between 200 and 300 Singapore Dollars per night (US$100 – 150). If you arrive late, around 3 when the bars close, the pavement in front of Orchard Towers becomes a virtual clearing zone for girls who did not manage to find a customer in earlier in the evening. Prices go down to sometimes S$100 per night, if you are lucky the girl is pretty, but you end up opting for a real left over or a katoey most of the time. But even if you pay S$200, you often end up spending less than with a regular, local girl. If she hops in a taxi with you straight away after a few drinks of course not, but if you have to go through a dating process you will have to wine and dine her before bedding her. The women in Singapore are not different from their counterparts in the rest of the world, they like to be impressed. So you often end up spending more than S$200. After having sex with a girl I just met I always suffer from the Post Coitus Effect. That is the scientific term for completely loosing your interest for a girl the morning after. Often the girls will call you afterwards, women can be so romantic…. That can become a bit of a hassle, to avoid unwanted telephone calls you can opt for a prostitute then there is no victory involved… A local girlfriend solves these little problems, I used to have a Singapore Airlines stewardess for many years, we finally broke up but we are still very good friends (because we did not make the mistake of blaming each other for this and that when we called it an end).
The Singapore girls can indeed make great girlfriends, they are very westernized so you will not encounter major problems caused by cultural differences. They also earn western salaries so they can take care of themselves. That sounds like a relief right after all those pathetic bar girl dramas! A regular, educated western guy who will never date a girl who works as a cashier in a supermarket back home gets heart broken over a little whore who is not capable of a decent conversation and drains him of as much cash as possible in the process! I had my share of bar girls but I never fell in love with one of them, although I met quite a few who where really nice and did not ask for money, they just liked to have fun. At the end of the day that’s what important, you will pay always one or the other way, bar girls, freelancers in Singapore, regular girls all charge you, directly or indirectly. That is why I never understand why so many people find sleeping with a prostitute immoral, especially women. Probably ‘regular’ women see them as a threat, because they use the male sex drive as a weapon to get their way with them. Prostitutes, especially when they are cheap, disarm women in that respect, since sex can be obtained so much more easily with the added bonus that you can choose the most beautiful girl. Regular women are simply not needed anymore, and that hurts. Many people will disagree here, what about true love and romance? This certainly sounds not so primitive than simply following your instincts, however, although wrapped up nicely, still boils down to the same Darwinian principle, the maintenance of the species. After spending more than a year in The Netherlands and Ireland I am very, very happy that I have the luxury now of being able to choose between two jobs, one in Jakarta and one in Kuala Lumpur.
A very nice report. I must admit that when I was in Singapore recently, the island nation had a profound effect on me. I loved the efficiency, the cleanliness, the safety, the food, the shopping….and on top of all of this, I really liked the people too – they were so friendly and with great English, were both able and willing to have interesting conversations – not the inane nonsense that we get here in Thailand. Also, the Singaporean females were in my mind, amongst the most beautiful females I have ever seen. I'd love to live there for a year or two.