Top Seven Singapore Myths

What to Believe - And What Not

Let's have a look at the top seven Singapore myths - and put some facts behind them.

Now, when you read about Singapore, it seems like the reports either magnify the city's wealth, its super efficient government or some draconian law that allegedly punishes people with caning and prison for minor infractions like chewing gum or jaywalking.

But - as usual - the top seven Singapore myths are just that - myths! With a kernel of truth hidden inside.

So here we go:

Myth # 1: Chewing Gum Is Verboten!

Fact: Yes, dear. You may chew gum in Singapore. And you will not get caned for it.

But: you may not import chewing gum - not even small amounts for personal use.

Back in the 80's - when the train system was put into service and public housing built out in a grand scale - people were sticking gum onto door sensors, elevators, under tables and other public places. The government decided to ban gum to avoid disruptions and servicing costs.

And: You can buy gum at dentist offices and pharmacies. Simply leave your name and address - otherwise the seller gets slapped with a hefty fine.

Honestly: you can think what you will about all of this this, but stepping into a half-melted chewed-up wad of gum in tropical temperatures is just plain disgusting.

Myth # 2: Smoking is Verboten, too!

Another happy Top Seven Singapore myth.

Fact: Yes, you may smoke. And many people do, too, so don't think otherwise.

But: Although cigarettes are widely available, they are very expensive and packages prominently sport the most gruesome pictures of tumors, mutilations and deformations caused by smoking.

And: the list of place where smoking is not allowed is long. Very long. And getting even longer year-by-year.

Here's a list of places where smoking is - indeed - verboten!

Myth # 3: Singapore is part of China.

Fact: No, Singapore is definitely NOT a part of China. You may be thinking of Hong Kong, or Shanghai.

Singapore is at the end of the Malaysian peninsula - and about three hours' flight away from the nearest Chinese border

But: Singapore is heavily influenced by a Chinese population that stems from immigrants from Southern China and most Singaporeans today speak Mandarin as well as dialects like Hokkien, Teo Chew or Cantonese.

In addition, a lot of mainland Chinese people work in Singapore, so you will encounter many Chinese things - from food to statues to gossip on the bus - in your daily dealings.

Honestly: Singapore actually prides itself as NOT belonging to China and having developed very well by themselves, thanks very much.

Which brings us to another Top Seven Singapore myth.

Myth # 4: Everyone's a Millionaire.

Fact: no, not everyone is a millionaire in Singapore.

Actually about 85% of the population are regular income-earners, and there is a very large pool of workers in construction and domestic helpers who earn very little.

But: Singapore does have a high population of millionaires - at about 14% probably one of the highest in the world.

And these people show - even flaunt - their wealth openly. Just go down Orchard Road and wait a few moments to hear the roar of a Maserati or Ferrari.

Honestly: who cares? Live and let live and find your happiness as you see fit, right?

Myth # 5: Singapore is spotless and litter-free.

Fact: Yes, it can be. And no, it is definitely NOT litter-free.

Head down to Marina Bay and Orchard Road and you will have a hard time finding litter. Armies of workers clean the streets of Singapore, especially in the main areas where tourism and business concentrate.

But: Hit the housing estates or industrial complexes and you will find litter in many places. Just look into the many canals to see what I mean.

A recent poll conducted by the Straits Times actually showed that there is generally a 'littering' attitude by many people who rely on the cleaning workers to clean up behind them.

Honestly: as most countries go - Singapore is very clean - and grafitti-free.

But what's wrong with that?

Myth # 6: Singapore is scarily - even robotically - efficient.

Fact: Now this is not a Top Seven Singapore myth - it is largely true.

Government offices work very efficiently and overall government planning is practical and almost ruthless in implementing anything from road works to building a new train line.

Things simply get done in Singapore.

But: In spite of all that, some of the pressing issues are getting worker productivity up and making Singapore industries more efficient.

In daily life you will find that many shop staff and office workers are not really efficient - maybe following strict rules and regulations make them less flexible when things come up that require flexibility and ownership.

Also, a lot of foreign workers come with different attitudes to efficiency.

Honestly: if you deal with the government, mostly expect efficiency. If you deal with the private sector, results can be very mixed.

Myth # 7: Fail to flush or jaywalk and get caned.

Fact: Think about about this for a moment - really? Caning for not flushing?

This is one of those top seven Singapore myths that really defies logic.

I mean how would you enforce it in a city of 5 million people with all the traffic lights and public toilets? Half the population watching the other half cross the road in search of a toilet?

But: Yes, caning exists for major crimes and offences and yes, there are monetary fines for jaywalking, like in many places - but not enforced strongly.

And there was indeed a campaign to clean up public toilets in the past. Most public toilets today have sensors, anyways. I for one, have - gasp, gasp - occasionally not flushed and my back and rump remain unscarred.

Honestly: Things like this make for good headlines but really just don't pan out when you think about it a little bit more deeply.

So there you go: the Top Seven Singapore myths - mostly - debunked!

City Hall Singapore
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