Many visitors from the Internet come to our site
looking for answers to questions they have about Singapore. The
world view of Singapore, it seems, is very one dimensional.
People who don't know Singapore often view it as some kind of
artificial country, "Disneyland with a Death Penalty" I've
heard it said. Well, the Fong's, as big fans of the X-Files as
we are, can tell you not only is "The Truth Out There", but
the truth is right here. Here are the favorite myths about
Singapore and Singaporeans, and the real truth (note: take some of
them with a grain of salt please; we know most Singaporeans have a
sense of humor).
1: Singapore is a Clean City.
Not altogether true. Singapore is
generally a clean city, but especially the parts that tourists are
more likely to see. Move out into the HDB Heartland (or
"Singapore Suburbia" if you will), and you will see that
Singaporeans actually do litter, some sidewalks are actually made out
of dirt, and despite the threat of a stiff fine, people do spit on the
street. The scary truth is that the landfills in Singapore are
full to the brink, and there is no real spirit of recycling at
all. Maybe the Singapore government should swap a useless
program like the Courtesy Campaign
with a helpful one like a Recycling Campaign and do two great things
2: Caning is inhumane and that poor Michael Fay boy got undeserved
punishment for his little bitty crime of vandalism.
Dead wrong. First of all, as an American
and proud of it, Michael Fay deserved to be caned for what he
did. If his father took a yardstick to his sorry *ss at a
younger age, maybe he would have acted better as a teenager. In
any case, you deserve to hear the whole story behind what happened to
Michael Fay, and draw your own conclusion.
Fay was convicted of vandalism along with
another boy, son of some Hong Kong bigwig or something like
that. They had taken spray paint and painted some cars. He
was sentenced to jail and three strokes of the cane, which is
basically a really painful spanking. Is that too much for simple
What Americans don't really understand is that a
car in Singapore will cost you at least $60,000 US dollars. And
that's for a little tiny subcompact car that you wouldn't want to be
seen in. A mid-sized car that costs $15,000 in the US will run
you $100,000 in Singapore. Vandalizing a car is the equivalent
of breaking into someone's home and damaging that. People in
Singapore work years to buy or pay off their cars and any malicious
damage to a car shows extraordinary lack of respect for that.
Also consider that Fay, mostly due to the
whining of his father to the US government, got off easy. He got
only one stroke of the cane and served no jail time. His
"friend" from Hong Kong, however, was not so
fortunate. He got the full sentence. How's that for
American justice? Ironically, Fay has been in trouble with the
law back in the US more than once since his Singapore incident.
Maybe some time served in jail would have done him some good.
Finally, where do people get off saying that
caning is a violation of human rights? America is so quick to
pass judgment on the human rights conditions of other countries that
it forgets to look it's own violations. The death penalty is
still enforced in the majority of the States. Enough said.
3: Singapore Airlines has the best service in the world.
This may have been true at one time, but
unfortunately, as a frequent business traveler, I would have to
dispute this. At least in Economy class, where us "working
class" people have to sit most of the time, the service on
Singapore Airlines is at best, so-so, and at worst, like shopping in a
Singapore department store, no attention whatsoever. Business
class service is still very good, but almost any airline can claim
Many of my Singapore friends complain that many
Singapore Airline air hostesses are stuck up and provide a better
class of service to "foreigners" (read: non-Asians and
especially non-Singaporeans) than they do to locals. I myself
was a victim of this when I lost my seat to a European passenger and
got stuck in the back of the plane, in a seat where the headphones
didn't work so I couldn't watch a movie.
Recently, I took a flight on SilkAir, Singapore
Airlines "little sister", which flies within Southeast Asia
on smaller planes like Boeing 737s. The service I received on
that flight was far better than the service I have received on any
Singapore Airlines flight in the past year. If it's great
service your looking for, stick with the very expensive Japan
Airlines, and avoid, at all costs, Northwest Airlines.
4: Sentosa is Singapore's answer to Disneyland.
Well, okay, this might be true. For both
Sentosa and Disneyland, you pay large sums of money to go to a place
which is completely artificial and be surrounded by other unsuspecting
tourists who have been swindled. But Sentosa is no
Disneyland. Jayne has been there four times and myself twice,
and we have determined the only thing worth doing there is Fantasy
Island, which is a really cool waterpark. Unfortunately, to get
there, you have to pay the admission fee for Sentosa, and probably you
will end up buying food or drinks there, which are overpriced and not
particularly good. So we say, avoid Sentosa, and enjoy the
Zoo instead. They have monkeys there!
5: Singaporeans dig their noses in public.
I wish this was a myth. God, how I wish
this was a myth...
6: Chewing gum is a crime in Singapore.
Another example of twisting the truth.
Chewing gum is not a crime in Singapore, and neither is possession for
personal use. You cannot bring in large quantities of gum to
Singapore (it would be assumed you were selling it, which is a
crime). You cannot spit your gum out on the street or stick it
under the seat on the bus (this is common sense, people). In any
case, I don't believe that you can go to jail for any offense related
to gum (unless you kill someone with it). Generally, there is
just a fine. Which brings us to the next myth...
7: You must be careful what you do or you will be fined for
all kinds of little offenses in Singapore.
No, but you CAN be fined. Just as there
are laws in any country which exist but are rarely enforced, many of
the laws in Singapore for minor offenses are not enforced
either. Not flushing the toilet after you use it is a fineable
offense, but since most toilets in Singapore flush themselves after
someone uses it (thank you, infrared sensors), this is rarely a
problem anymore. Spitting on the street can get you fined $200,
but I have yet to see this one enforced either, although I have been a
primary witness to some rather nasty things being spit out.
Peeing in the lift (elevator, for you Americans) carries a fine, but
we have unwittingly stepped into some lifts where we have become the
victims of this heinous crime (riding 10 stories up in a lift reeking
of urine, that is).
My favorite fine(s) are the $500 fine for
smoking on the MRT (train system) and $500 fine for bringing explosive
or combustible materials such as gasoline on the MRT. So is the
fine only $1000 if you do both?
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