My previous post covered the positive aspects of American and Cincinnati culture that were first brought to my attention after living abroad. This post will cover the aspects of Asian and Singaporean culture that I miss now that I have moved back to the U.S.
Disclaimer: I recognize that everything I write below will be a generalization to a degree. I will try to avoid excessive generalizing and stereotyping, but I want to clarify that this post is me trying to demonstrate my initial impressions instead of giving any in depth analyses.
Positive Observations of Culture in Singapore (or other parts of Asia as specified):
1. Energy efficiency is heavily valued.
In Singapore and Tokyo, resources are used in a more energy efficient manner. For example, all outlets have an on and off switch to avoid wasting electricity, water heaters are manually turned on and off before and after taking showers, public transportation is more readily used, and some restrooms require one to bring his or her own toilet paper.
2. Americans seem more selfish.
In comparison to Singaporean, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Malaysian culture, Americans now seem more greedy and have poorer values. We drive large, gas guzzling cars, more than one person in the home has a car, we waste food, we celebrate food eating contests, we value reality shows over thought provoking books, we glorify degrading rappers, etc. etc. etc.
America isn’t all bad and plenty of people do not fit this generalization, but too many in our culture do. Singaporeans could teach us a lot.
3. Singaporeans seem more openminded and understanding of other cultures.
Singapore is a secular immigrant company which means respect for different religions and beliefs is heavily emphasized by the government. The main religions are Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism and the most represented ethnic groups are the Chinese, Malay, and Indian. With such diversity, Singaporeans have to respect one another in order for the country to survive.
Also, Singapore is an international city with visitors from around the world. While living there, I met people from Germany, France, Belgium, Denmark, England, Italy, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Burundi, South Africa, Mexico, Paraguay, Brazil, Taiwan, Japan, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, South Korea, Russia, Mongolia, Philippines, Fuji, Canada, and the United States. Singapore relies on foreign countries for business, some of its labor force, and tourism profits, so the citizens must be open to all cultures.
Funny observation: Most Singaporeans I met knew the general area of where Ohio was on a map and knew it was a state in the U.S. Most of my friends and family in the U.S. thought Singapore was a city in China…. LOL!
4. Singaporeans seem to simply have less stuff.
The homes and workspaces are significantly smaller in Singapore… So the citizens cannot have the same amount of general stuff as we do in the U.S. I was stunned at the amount of clothes, old toys, clutter, etc. in my home when I moved back to Ohio.
5. Singapore is more exciting for me on the weekends.
There is always something to learn, a cultural event, and new place to explore every weekend in Singapore (or in a nearby country). I can’t say the same about Cincinnati, but I make the best of it. Even in comparison to my time living in New York City, I personally found the events in Singapore to be a little more interesting… The culture as a whole felt new to me and every event was a learning experience.
6. There are interesting people to learn from everyday.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of interesting people in Cincinnati that are worth getting to know. However, I met more people with drastically different backgrounds from me in Asia and I adored getting to know them. Their perspectives, beliefs, religions, and upbringings always gave me plenty of food for thought and new ideas to think about.
7. Better weather for outdoor workouts.
I complained about not being able to join a gym in my last post, but the issue ended up having a positive side. I spent more time running, doing body weight workouts, and doing yoga outside than I probably would have if I joined a gym. My runs always lead to interesting views and the body weight workouts and yoga sessions felt better in the fresh air anyways.
8. Singapore is cleaner.
Singapore is the cleanest city I have ever been to thanks to their laws and the respectful citizens .
Anyone who is caught littering can be fined up to $1,000 for the first conviction. Repeat convictions cost up to $5,000, and may lead to a community service orders or anti-littering lectures. Singapore also fines people for chewing gum ($100), for peeing in lifts ($500), eating or drinking on the subway ($500), and for failing to flush in a public restroom ($500).
9. Very few homelessness people are in Singapore.
Whenever I would leave work in both New York City or Cincinnati, I would almost always be approached by multiple homeless people begging for money shortly after leaving my offices. That never happened in Singapore. In my entire time in the city, I only saw ONE homeless man. This isn’t to say homelessness is not an issue or that it does not exist. Singapore just does a better job with handling the situation than the U.S. (however, it is difficult to completely compare the U.S. due to the dramatic size difference). The housing policy reacts and responds to public needs extremely fast and incredibly cheap public housing is readily available. Also social assistance is available and low-income workers can easily tap on wage supplement schemes and job training programs.
10. Significantly less crime happens in Singapore.
The crime rates in Singapore are some of the lowest in the entire world. For example, if I left work at 3am and had to find a taxi, I would feel perfectly safe waiting on the street. Here is why:
- Most workers earn enough money to survive.
- The punishments for most crimes are intense and readily used. The death penalty, caning, and huge fines are major deterrents.
- Heavy government investment in education.