The government’s presence is pervasive – from government-linked companies in industry to state-endorsed dating events – but day-to-day, the average Singaporean doesn’t live in fear of being watched or arrested.
If you have no involvement in politics or political activity, it doesn’t feel like there is a consistent lack of freedom in Singapore.
But if you try to organize a protest, a public forum, or work in the arts, then the impact of censorship and control is more direct. Singapore’s first prime minister and the “founding father” of modern Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew’s face is everywhere.
A wave of new, upmarket cocktail bars have opened in Singapore, but visitors often make a beeline for the Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel to sip a signature Singapore Sling—it’s where the drink was allegedly invented by a Hainanese barkeep early last century. Singapore continues to retain Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalizes sex between men, even if its consensual, effectively criminalizing male homosexuality.
This cocktail pilgrimage will cost about S (US). It is also often seen as the state’s endorsement of discrimination against sexual minorities.
The result: gems like , which is a local version of ‘oh no!
’, derived from the Hokkien phrase “to sap energy”.
The Singapore model is notable for its focus on merit.
His determination to make Singapore attractive to foreign investment was also a major factor in the city-state’s wealth. It’s easy to get around to most major places via either the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) trains or by bus.
For alternate histories, however, check out the memoirs of former politician detainees, such as Teo Soh Lung’s , an account of a key player in Singapore’s anti-colonialist movement whose political career was ultimately crushed by Lee Kuan Yew. You can buy an ez Link card—it’s easy to find them at the MRT stations—to use for your whole stay, or buy passes per trip as needed. There’s an alcohol ‘sin’ tax in Singapore, so booze comes at a price.
If you’re in a rush or want to travel in comfort you can always travel by taxi, but apps like Grab Taxi or Uber are alternatives to taxi drivers who are “changing shifts” and don’t necessarily want to go to your destination. For beer, the tax is S per liter (US per 33 oz), and the consumer picks up those costs.
His concepts of Confucianism and control have strongly influenced local politics; his belief in tough love and “hard truths” underpin the government’s generally anti-welfare perspective and commitment to retributive justice like corporal and capital punishment.
His eugenicist beliefs have also affected the lives of Singaporeans, particularly low-income families who are sometimes offered financial assistance in return having fewer children.
But the fact is that Chinese Singaporeans enjoy a vast amount of privilege, from the special assistance some schools get to ensure students remain connected to Chinese culture, to the fact that “bilingual” in a job ad almost always means that the applicant should speak English and Mandarin. Sometimes you can’t avoid passing through a mall: some mini-malls were incorporated into train stations or underpasses, such as City Link, which connects one train station to another. The same dish can also be interpreted and prepared a little differently: for example, Indian, Chinese and Baba-Nyonya (Straits Chinese: a mix of Malay and Chinese) food stalls all have their own versions of Singapore’s celebrity dishes: fish head curry, Singapore crab. Hawker centers are food markets with a range of stalls serving local—and increasingly international—fare.