Soon after returning from Ethiopia and Israel I heard from my dear friend, Jo Rifkin, saying she is going to Singapore to visit her daughter, son-in-law and grandkids for 3 months. She and her S.O., Norman, were packing up their Pittsburgh life of 20 years and contemplating a possible relo to Singapore. Would I like to visit? Opportunity knocked. I answered. Two weeks later I was on my way…23 hours flying. One stop at LAX from EWR.
Jo warned me about the heat but seriously, this sweltering heat was way worse than I imagined. Singapore is a beautiful city-state and island country in Southeast Asia in case you didn’t know. Very close to the equator and humid. Like melting kind of humid. It’s a benevolent dictatorship and I’m not so sure this is a bad thing. No homelessness. No graffiti. Barely any crime. No drugs. Flowers blooming everywhere. Not a drop of garbage to be seen. In fact, there weren’t any trash cans in sight. Not even in the metro stations which, by the way, were efficient, immaculate and easy to navigate. Take an escalator in or out of the metro and everyone stands to the left so those in a hurry can pass on the right. Signs are in English, the first language in this global commerce, finance and transportation hub. Did I mention no gum chewing? No gum sold here. Want a cab? Call and they appear. The driver lets you know exactly when he will arrive.
The government provides assistance programs so acute poverty is rare. Subsidized healthcare, financial help for education and to buy apartments, money for the disabled, free money to exercise in gyms, and more. Yes, government is big here. But it also seems to care for the quality of life of its residents, rich or poor. Not much middle class here.
Ex-pats live well here. Last I looked, Singapore has the world’s highest percentage of millionaires, with one of every six households having at least one million U.S. dollars. Shopping on world famous Orchard Road, in Little India, on Arab Street, in flea markets and more will provide plenty of juice for the shopaholic in you.
It is quite expensive to live here but if you like living in a state controlled country where safety and security of its citizens is a priority, you can tolerate the rain forest climate and you have a high income, this could be for you.
Miriam Seiden is a cultural explorer who loves to write about her living bridges around the world.