Friday, April 24, 2009

I love Singapore!

After my graduation, I thought I would live and work in Canada. Little did I ever dream I would end up in Singapore. Man proposes; God disposes! However, I must say that I have enjoyed living here for the past 26 years!

When I first came to Singapore, I found Singaporeans to be cold even though the country is so warm! In sharp contrast, the people in Canada I met were so warm even though their country is so cold! Hang on a second! Why must I keep comparing Singaporeans to Canadians.? Should I not accept them for what they are? I was certainly not comfortable living in this little island the first few months when I kept comparing Singapore with Canada. It was then that I decided to change my attitude.

Hence, instead of waiting to be smiled at, I smiled first. So far I had never been snubbed at. Even the most shy of homo sapiens would immediately smile back! Instead of waiting to be talked to, I spoke first. Instead of waiting to be helped, I extended my hands first. Instead of waiting to be invited, I invited my church friends first to the YWCA Hostel for meals. (I was then living in this hostel and continued to live for three years.) Instead of waiting to be invited to their homes, I invited my friends to my home in Penang when I went back to my hometown for vacation.

I find that beneath their reticence and aloofness, Singaporeans are actually people with big hearts. When the little girl from China went missing, many Singaporeans spent days helping the police to look for her. At Huang Na's funeral, Singaporeans donated generously. When the little Malay girl, Noni went missing, people took time off from their busy schedules to look for her. When Singaporeans heard of sick and needy patients in hospital, they donated generously. When Singaporeans heard of earthquakes and tsunamis, they queued up at the Red Cross to donate clothes and money. I am so proud of our people!

In the MRT, if I were very tired and not feeling well, all I had to do was to open my mouth and ask a seated passenger, and he would willingly give me his seat. I had done that a few times and I had also given up my seat when the situation called for it. At the lift, kind neighbours would volunteer to help me carry my shopping to the door of my apartment.

I love my neighbours! My Indian neighbour, Shanti, introduced me to Emtech, a machine with tremendous health therapy. Shanti had used the machine and it helped her to regain her health. My immediate neighbour, Irin, would sms me if she did not see me around the block for a few days. I sometimes helped her to walk her dog, Bobby, and Irin gives me some space for my plants since she does not do gardening. A few of the neighbours, knowing that I am an agent, have entrusted me to help rent or sell their apartments. Wendy, who lives on the 10th floor, often gives me herbal plants and would ask me to go for morning stroll along the East Coast with her pet dog, Shufi. Helen, who operates a food stall would often give me some of her specialties!

Though we are not super clean, the surroundings are clean enough for me. Yes, we complain about the rules and regulations, and yet without these rules, I guess we would have even more traffic jams and dirty roads and public places. Yes, we complain about the laws, yet without the harsh punishment meted out to offenders, we might have an even higher crime rate!

For those of us who cannot afford country club memberships, there are many Community Clubs we can join. At S$20 for a three year membership, we have access to so many Community Clubs where we can make use of the gym, play badminton, dance, and learn new courses. For those of us who love outdoor activities, there are the parks and hills as well as the sea for sailing, surfing and canoeing! Now we have an increase in art exhibitions, concerts, plays and musicals. How can anyone be bored?

Daisuke Nakanishi, the roving rider, brands Singaporeans as the most unfriendly people he has met. It is unfortunate that I did not have the opportunity to meet Nakanishi or I would have invited him to stay with me and my tenants for a few days. He would not only enjoy some Penang and Indian delicacies, he would also have enjoyed talking to my friendly and learned Indian tenants. I would also have the opportunity to discuss the famous movies, eg. "Oshin" and "Departures" with him, and to understand more of Japanese culture. Perhaps I have been greatly influenced by my hospitable parents who often invite those who travel on a shoe-string budget to our homes for meals or for a few days of stay. If Nakanishi wants to stay longer in Singapore, I could also have introduced him to my client, Peter, a bachelor who has travelled widely and who enjoys sharing his apartment with a needy missionary, social worker or world traveller.

I have lived here for 9,290 days , and am enjoying myself more with each passing day. There are so many new developments in our little country. I can come home at midnight, without having to keep turning around to see if I were being followed. I can travel cheaply and quickly in buses, trains and taxis.

I have also found that the various government departments are quite fair and reasonable. I have written to government departments on a few occasions, and if my requests are fair, and my appeals are logical, I often get what I have asked for.

In my earlier blog article, I have analogised Singapore to a Jenny Wu Durian. This species of rare and special durian is produced by Uncle Lim in Penang. As the name suggests, there are only five compartments, and in each compartment there is only one fruit. The durian is the most expensive, yet people came from far and wide to buy it. The thorns on the durian make the fruit somewhat unattractive just like some people may not find Singapore attractive at first. However, if people were to take the trouble to open up the fruit, they would find the lovely and tasty fruit in the five compartments. Sure, I have also met some rude and unreasonable people, but why should I let their rudeness and bad attitude rob me of my joy and sanity?

I am fully aware that Singaporeans are reputed to be kiasu (afraid of losing), kiasi (afraid of dying), kiatiah (afraid of pain), kialaukui (afraid of being embarrassed or losing face), kiaboh (afraid of wife - henpecked) and kiachenghu (afraid of government). Please show me a perfect person, race or country.

I have travelled to 38 countries and some 187 cities. Hence, by virtue of my age, and my experiences, I have some credibility when I say, Singapore is still the best country for me to live in.

Before we complain and murmur, let us remember that it always takes two hands to clap and it also takes two to tango. Wherever I go, I try to fit in with the people, customs and lifestyle. I ask not what Singapore and the world can do for me; I ask what I can do for Singapore and the world. Then, I will be happy wherever I go and wherever I am.


Anonymous said...

Interesting article you have written and I'm certainly glad to know that you're finding Singapoe the best place to live. I absolutely agree with your view points and that it takes 2 hands to clap. Many of us, and of course counting myself as well, tend to view things from a one-sided perspective. It seems you have a very positive approach to life and in your interractions with others as well. That's something many of us need to learn and possess too. Only when we view others positively can we expect others of us... and perhaps not in order not to create unrealistic expectation. Have a great day!

Anonymous said...

Well said, Choo Choo. And I must say that I always enjoy Singapore whenever I am there and have a big soft spot in my heart for things Singaporean, going back to the 70s and our university days when I got to know so many good people from Singapore, and cemented by my kids being at the Singapore International School here in Hong Kong for six happy years.

James Dunlap
Legal Consultant
Hong Kong

The Oriental Express said...

Yes, James, I remember how people often thought I was a CBC ie. Canadian Born Chinese, as I took to the cold like a duck to water and could downhill ski pretty well!

Most people also think I was born and bred in Singapore, without realising I am an immigrant from Penang! Ha! Ha!