8 Things About Singapore We Truly Appreciate After Travelling

8 Things About Singapore We Truly Appreciate After Travelling

Among the things that Singaporeans miss the most back home after travelling: good food at cheap prices and clean and nice-smelling toilets.

Image Credit: Erwin Soo

Most of us grow up with a longing desire to see more of the world, to explore, to find out whether the grass is really greener on the other side. We travel, often far and wide, to see the best the world has to offer, to take in new experiences that our native homes couldn’t give us. We assume that having spent a good number of years in our homeland, we’ve exhausted all the possibilities for something new, and hence look outward for something fresh. This also leads us to overlook what we have back home. Things that we take for granted all too easily.

Also Read: 19 Reasons Why Travelling to Singapore is a Complete Waste of Time

1. Food

Image Credit: Ammom Beckstrom

Food is undoubtedly the first thing we miss about Singapore after travelling. It’s not even a close fight. Ask yourself, how many times have you stepped off the plane at Changi and made a detour to your favourite food stall in the east before heading home?

Singapore is decidedly multi-dimensional in its food offerings, perhaps due to its melting pot of cultures and traditions. Unlike say, French food in France or Italian offerings in Italy, there is no one dominant cuisine in Singapore. Instead, people in Singapore are spoiled for choice with the pick of the litter in terms of cuisine on offer. Craving some of the regional favourites like Pad Thai, Pho, Penang Fried Kway Teow etc.? Singapore’s numerous coffee shops and small eateries have got you covered. What about some haute cuisine like Japanese or French fine dining? Singapore is home to some of Asia’s most accredited restaurants.

However if you ask any true-blue Singaporean who has spent a period of time abroad, chances are the food they miss most is not something from a Michelin-starred establishments. Rather the institution of hawker centers are quickly worshipped and lusted over abroad, where no such cheap and delicious alternatives exist. So the next time your friends or family head out to the neighbourhood hawker center for the umpeenth time, remember how lucky you are that you can get that mouth-watering bowl of wanton mee for around $3 or so.

Image credit: the4moose

Also read: 16 Local Foods You Must Try in Singapore

Thought: Singapore was recently identified as the world’s most expensive city to live in, but I’m a little confused by this somewhat “unwanted” designation. Where else in other first-world cities like Tokyo, London or New York will you be able to find a belly-filling meal at under $5?

2. Cleanliness

Image Credit: Andrea Schaffer

Singapore has been derided in foreign media as being a “fine city”, given our proclivity for issuing fines for almost anything and everything. Quite true. Spit? Here’s a $100 fine for you. Litter? Here’s another $100 fine for you. Chew gum? Don’t even get me started on that one.

But there lies the rub. We dislike having these seemingly banal and inane rules, yet we enjoy and even expect our surroundings to be spotlessly clean. And most of the time, they definitely are. Take a stroll down Orchard Road if you don’t believe me. Every time you see a piece of litter on the floor that isn’t picked up, go buy an ice cream. Chances are, by the time you’ve walked to Dhoby Ghaut, you might have had one measly scoop of ice cream. If you were lucky. That just means that the cleaner on duty was on his break.

The majority of places you travel to aren’t going to be as clean. A lot of Singaporean travellers get a cultural shock overseas when faced with their first grimy, putrid public toilet (read: most toilets in China don’t have doors for their stalls.) Then the overwhelming smell hits them and they dash out of the toilet in a hurry. Others are caught up by the sheer amount of litter and junk on the streets.

Point being, after having gone out and seen some other less glamorous parts of the world, we realize that the grass back home is actually pretty damn green. In other parts of the world, the grass that you think is so green? That might be under a pile of trash for all you know.

Quick poll: when tearing out the little stubs on your parking coupons, what do you do with the waste?

If your answer to that is that you bring the waste dutifully to the nearest bin, thank you! Unfortunately, going by the amount of small white circles on the ground in car parks, you’re in the miniscule minority.

3. Efficiency, frequency and cost of public transport

Image Credit: Mark Juan

Complaining about the latest train breakdown has become part of the local vernacular in the past few years. Most people nowadays find out about train breakdowns not from news outlets or the operators themselves, but from their friends who are tweeting frustratedly from the train. Yes we get it, you’re frustrated, and you have a right to be. But doesn’t this speak about our inability to look past the small things?

Consider this: Singapore has one of the most extensive train networks in the world for a country this small. There are currently 5 different train lines across our tiny island nation, and they run frequently from hours before the dawn till long after the sun has gone down. The longest wait time for a train is normally about 6-8 minutes, and that’s during off-peak timings, and the interval dramatically shortens to 2-3 minutes per train during peak hours. You can get from one end of the island to the other in a little over an hour. An hour you spend in relative comfort, in the pleasantly air-conditioned carriage, gliding smoothly over the rails like a skater on ice (I’m looking at you New York and London). And then there’s the matter of cost: based on a recent NLB survey, using the Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) factor, our MRT’s $0.86 per boarding is just over half of what New Yorkers have to pay, and less than ⅓ of what Londoners have to suffer through.


Yup, we all need a little perspective in our lives.

4. Weather

We in Singapore love to whinge about the hot and humid weather. Justifiably so, it can get so bad that many suffer from heat-induced migraines and in severe cases, fainting. But if you’ve ever done a semester abroad or visited a winter country, you’ll figure out for yourself very quickly that the cold isn’t all that appealing either.

  1. You need to wear many layers of clothing just to keep warm. This can get very inconvenient when you’re in a rush to make an appointment on time, and you can’t just throw outfits together like you do in a tropical climate.
  2. We might remember the first time we saw snow with great fondness, and snow indeed is awesome. Not all the time though.
  3. The sun is often a source of irritation for Singaporeans, we employ the use of umbrellas, aviators and sunblock religiously to minimize our exposure. If you’ve ever visited London in winter, where the sun appearing high in the sky is about as rare as striking the lottery, you’ll rejoice and bask in the warmth of sunlight the moment you get back. Its no wonder “winter depression” is a very real thing.

Let’s all put down our umbrellas and let the natural light back into our lives.

5. Shops open till late

Its midnight, but as you toss and turn in your bed you can’t go to sleep as your stomach is growling “feed me!”. You groan and give in to your instincts, hitting up your friend with the quick text “I’m hungry. Meet you at the usual place in 15”.

This man will flip your prata whether its 2 in the afternoon or 2 in the morning.

Whether its the stretch of eateries that open till late along Upper Bukit Timah (for the west-side Singaporeans), or the well-known Bedok 85 in the East, you’ll find that these places are usually jam-packed with the late crowd. Even on weekdays! This has become the norm for Singapore, where opening till late is a win-win proposition: consumers get to satisfy their cravings at any time, and operators are more profitable.

But this is hardly the case in most countries. In many countries, many businesses operate on 5-day work weeks and normal business hours, meaning that by the time you knock off work, most of the shops are closed. And no chance in hell is there going to be a coffee-shop or small eatery open for you to get your fill in the dead of the night. And that’s when we wish we were back in Singapore, where there’s nothing a piping hot teh tarik and a fluffy, crispy roti prata can’t solve.

6. Safety

When going out to get said roti prata for supper in the dead of the night, you don’t want to be accosted or have to fear for your wellbeing at the same time. You just want your damn supper, and you don’t want to have to risk your life doing so. It speaks volumes about the safety on the streets of Singapore (in most areas), that you can wander around relatively safely and unmolested at any time. Another common habit we are often guilty of, leaving our wallets and handphones on the table as we eat.

This runs contrary to advice that seasoned travellers have inundated with: don’t go to a particular area after dark as it can get really dodgy, carry your bag in front of you to make sure you don’t get it ripped from you etc. When we get our precious wallets or phones pickpocketed overseas however, that’s when we most appreciate the safety of Singapore, one of the safest cities in all of Asia Pacific.

7. Connectivity

The recent Gushcloud / Singtel saga failed to bring to light one very important thing of note: Singapore users are lucky to have such fluid connectivity to the internet wherever they go. Sure, there might be the occasional dead spots where you don’t get optimum 4G connections, but these are few and far between. Free Wi-Fi initiatives have also been sprouting up all over the island, which helps you post that Instagram photo or Tweet even faster.

Also read: Stay Connected: The Best Data Plan for Travellers in Singapore

Image Credit: Podere Casanova

This can be very different in other countries, as many of you will have found out on your travels by now. Sure, you might not have issues hooking up to a Wi-Fi connection in developed cities, but if you’re headed out of the commercialized cities for a bit of exploring and adventure, good luck. You’ll be lucky to receive any cell signal at all, let alone 3 or 4G networks. It’s also interesting to note how much business a simple “Free Wi-Fi” sign at the door can attract, you’ll soon see foreigners and tourists piling in to get connected.

8. Size of Singapore

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Everything and everyone is just so accessible. Seriously! Travelling from one end of the island to the other might take you roughly an hour or so by car?

This adorable girl travels 330km a week just to play the game she loves, and she certainly doesn’t mind. Who are we to complain when we have to make the occasional journey from Bedok to Jurong?

Image credit: SGAG

When travelling between states in USA can take anywhere from hours to days, that’s where you can legitimately whine about the size of a country. We take 1 hour by car from end to end, to get from the East Coast to West Coast of USA, you need 5 hours. BY PLANE.

At the end of this list, I realized that we like to complain about a lot of things, especially some of the things on this list. But at the end of the day after going out and having seen the world, we realize that we take a lot of these for granted and that Singapore actually does these things pretty damn well.

About Author

Nicholas Teng

A firm believer in the concept of the grass is always greener on the other side, Nicholas has therefore been chasing the greener grass for the longest time. So far it has remained tantalisingly out of reach, but with time on his side, he hopes that one day the greenest grass will indeed be found.


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