Monday, 3 August 2009

A Few Reasons Why Singapore Became Home

Detail of a Map of Singapore
Singapore - the 'Little Red Dot' in South East Asia

I received an email from a US based reader enquiring about my decision to make Singapore my 'home of choice.'

It is a great question and merits a proper response. I hope this entry will shed some light on my decision.

Cities where I have lived for at least one year or longer as an adult are Los Angeles, Karachi, London, Singapore and Dubai. This is during a period of over twenty years.

A 'home' is much more than just a place to live. One of the definitions provided by the Merriam Webster's dictionary is, "a familiar or usual setting: congenial environment."

In other words, for a place to be called 'home' it must be much more than merely a residence. One must feel as though one 'belongs' and one must feel 'accepted' by the local population.

Tired In A Tri-Shaw

Singaporean in trishaw (1955)

Both conditions of belonging and acceptance are true for me in this 'urban village' called Singapore.

For those looking for a more rational answer underpinning my choice, below I have listed my 'Top 5' reasons (pro and con) for wishing to consider Singapore as a home.

It is a personal list and may not work for everyone.


  1. Everyone speaks English (or its local dialect 'Singlish')!
  2. Physical infrastructure, including public transport facilities, which surpasses or at least equals anything found in any global metropolis;
  3. A safe and secure environment with low crime rates and extremely high levels of personal security. I can walk around any part of the island at any time of day or night without having even the slightest apprehensions about my physical safety;
  4. The food suits my taste. The quality of the food is good and includes basic priced fare at local neighbourhood food courts as well as expensive fine dining restaurants;
  5. Singapore is a great blend of Eastern traditions and Western freedoms. It is free enough for me not to feel constricted in any way but, at its heart, is a conservative society with great respect for historical cultural traditions.


  1. Singapore is a majority Chinese, mandarin speaking society. I am not Chinese and nor do I speak Mandarin or any Chinese dialect;
  2. Cars are lavishly priced due to the Certificate of Entitlement system. Even simple cars are expensive. For example, a Hyundai Avante 1.6 presently retails at approximately Singapore Dollars 48,000 or USD 33,100;
  3. Singapore's location in the Far East squeezes ones travel freedoms. Singapore has a limited 'travel zone' as defined by (say) seven hours of air travel time. For travel, Dubai is ideally located with much of Asia, Africa and Europe accessible within a seven hour flight from the city;
  4. For various (obvious) reasons, including my lack of 'Singlish' skills, I am still seen as a foreigner by many born and bred Singaporeans;
  5. The names of many Malay and Chinese dishes are still meaningless to me. In other words, ask me what is Mee Siam and Laksa and I can't tell you. I have my favourite local dishes like Mee Rebus, Chicken Rice and Roti Prata and the rest of the Singaporean menu is still Greek to me!

Unlike Jet Li, who recently decided to make Singapore his home, my choices for home did not include Bermuda, Monaco or the Bahamas. My life style is not predicated on a Hollywood actor's cash flow!

Nonetheless, now that Lee Kuan Yew has accepted me into his domain, I have every intention of sticking around and carving out my own niche on this Little Red Dot!

Singapore Formula One Grand Prix: Practice

The Singapore Flyer - note the F1 carsin the foreground making a practice run for the world's first Formula One night Grand Prix which took place in Singapore in 2008


  1. I dont really agree that everyone speaks english... Beside the older generations who only speak either Malay, Mandarin, Hokkien or Teochew(Chinese dialects.. Nowadays you can see PRC everywhere.. and they can hardly speak english.. Even their Mandarin is very difficult to understand...

    As a non-mandarin speaking myself.. I understand very well how you feel when everyone around you speak those aliens language.. but with time.. you will understand one word by one word.. then one sentence to one sentence.. If you put a slight interest in it... with the environment.. I think Mandarin is not really a difficult language to understand.. same goes with the food..

  2. I guess there are exceptions - I will not debate that but (by and large) english is good enough for everyone to get by on. I hope you will agree with that?

    I think you have probably heard Mandaring being spoken for a good part of your life so you feel it is not such a hard language. Personally, I find it frightfully difficult (and am not that great with languages anyway).

    I do often consider that Malay / Bahasa is a language that I can pick up if I am thrown into an environment where it is spoken all the time. It does seem a much easier language, especially for Urdu speakers.

    Not so adventurous with food - tried my first pepper crab meal today in JB! After so many years in the region.

  3. Thanks for sharing and welcome to this little island. I am just a little curious. You have been to Dubai and have stayed there for 5 years. I understand that Dubai is a very modern place and a replica of Singapore. Why didn't you continue staying there.
    The reason why I ask is because, I am a die hard Singaporean and now my family wants to move to the Middle East. Perhaps you could share your thoughts.

  4. Hi Peace and Joy,

    Thank you very much for visiting my blog and taking the time to post a comment. And, of course, for your warm welcome into this wonderful island!

    Dubai is certainly a wonderful place with a high quality of life. I left the city, and the Gulf region, with many wonderful memories and friends. Dubai was nice in that it allowed me to reconnect with Pakistan in a way not possible from Singapore. (I used to fly to Karachi regularly for long weekends given that fares are reasonable and flying time is less than two hours.)

    However, Dubai is no Singapore. If Singapore is a 'Chinese' island then Dubai is an 'Arab' city. I used to consider Sg a small city with its five million inhabitants. Dubai is a village with about a million or so people. Size has broader implications, e.g. on availability of cultural activities such as museum exhibits, musical concerts, etc., which if lacking in Singapore are even less visible in Dubai. If Singapore is a 'kiasu' or materialistic society, then Dubai is Singapore multiplied exponentially.

    Likewise, Singapore is no Dubai. Exposure to non-Chinese cultures and peoples from Western Asia, Africa and Europe in Dubai is fantastic. As a Muslim, living in a liberal Muslim society provides an abstract sense of comfort which is absent from a Chinese city-state. Speaking Urdu and watching Pakistani television channels, the ability to travel to almost anywhere in Europe, Asia or Africa within a seven hour flight is wonderful.

    I could go on but my comment will become an essay!

    However, I must add that the Middle East / Gulf is not a homogenous place. it makes a big difference which city and country your family is considering. Dubai is different from Muscat is different from Bahrain is different from Abu Dhabi .... is different from Riyad. And so on.

    I would recommend a sojourn of several years in most cities of the Gulf without any hesitation. Anyone who goes with an open mind and is willing to explore, soak in the culture and experiences will not return home disappointed.

    I hope my comments have been helpful.

    Kind regards,


  5. Home is where one feel most matter where you are.

  6. Hi,

    Absolutely ... and it is important to make oneself feel at home no matter where one resides. It's all in the attitude!

    Thanks for taking the time to post a comment and hope you will continue to visit my blog.

    Kind regards,


  7. Hi,

    I am Siti from 3G karma, I will like to research more about the new Singaporeans as m production house is making a documentary on the livelihood of the new Singaporeans.

    By reading your blog, I really hope that your comments and taught can contribute to the documentary. If there is any way for me to contact you to ask several questions. I will drop you my email. Hope to receive reply from you:)