Myths About Singapore

The Myths

The Clean City
Michael Fay Caning
Singapore Airlines
Digging for Gold?
Chewing Gum
The "Fine" City

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).

Myth 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 at once.

Myth 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 vandalism?

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.

Myth 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 that.

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.

Myth 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!

Myth 5:  Singaporeans dig their noses in public.

I wish this was a myth.  God, how I wish this was a myth...

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...

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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