Singapore has a population of 5.8 million people, and hosted 18.5 million visitors during 2018. Any rational traveler would expect a certain level of litter and dirt. But not in Singapore. Singapore became a fine city to travel to partly as a result of their implementation of a strictly enforced fine system. I would advise anybody traveling to this beautiful city to familiarize yourself with the rules before heading out. We did, and felt relatively prepared to have a fine holiday. However, I must admit that when you're still on the airplane heading into Changi airport and you fill in the visa application slip, and your eyes fall on the carefully worded warning: any persons found with drugs on their possession will be executed - your heart-rate spikes despite knowing 100% that you do not have drugs in your possession. That said I respected the fact that while they welcome visitors with open arms - they set the ground rules early, and clearly.
To outsiders or people traveling through Singapore the rules may seem excessive, prohibitive and almost an infringement on human rights. Officials actually conduct random checks in public toilets to make sure people flush after they go. Elevators are equipped with Urine Detection Devices (UDD) that detect the scent of urine, set off an alarm and close the doors until the police arrive to arrest you. Some may feel the rules go against basic human freedom. Walking around naked in your home is considered a form of pornography. And since pornography is illegal in Singapore, being naked in your house is too. Others may feel that the rules align with their personal values and are not put out by the restrictions at all. Country specific rules include the rules around a fruit called durian. Durian's are a local delicacy with high nutritional value, but have an extremely offensive smell and due to that they are not allowed on public transport, or in hotels. They are openly served, and enjoyed, at the hawker centres, or street markets where air circulation makes the smell bearable.
When you come from a country where rules are seldom adhered to, and only sporadically and prejudicially enforced, one has a certain respect for a government which took a hard and serious stance in a sincere effort to improve quality of life for everybody in their country – not just a selected few.
A rule forbidding eating and drinking on public transport translates to spotlessly clean transport for all. A rule forbidding the possession of chewing gum anywhere in the country translates to clean pavements and non-stick walking. The no smoking rule translates to cleaner and healthier air – for everybody. The no noise after 10pm at night rule – improved neighbour relations and a peaceful environment. A no jaywalking rule saves lives daily. The non smoking and restrictive alcohol rules result in a population less susceptible to lung and liver cancers.
Public rowdiness is reduced significantly by rules which include not being allowed to drink alcohol in public places (including the pavement seating of a restaurant) between the hours of:
* 10.30pm to 7am, Monday to Friday
An unexpected inclusion of this rule is that you may not buy rum and raisin ice-cream during these hours either (they aren't concerned about your calorie consumption - they're concerned you may eat enough of it to get tipsy).
Where many countries in the world are banning corporal punishment – to the extent where it is illegal to give your own child a hiding – Singaporeans place a lot of importance on discipline, and corporal punishment is widely accepted. Caning is not only used to punish criminals but also as a disciplinary measure in schools, the military, and in the domestic scene. The result is a population of extremely well mannered individuals, courteous to a fault and eager to reach out and assist anybody – including total strangers.
The saying goes Stop fishing people out of the river, and walk upstream to find out why they are falling in. Similarly a stance of seeking the root cause of a problem and eliminating that with a firm application of rule is much more effective in the long term than continuously dealing with the results of the problem. Singapore launched their Keep Singapore Clean campaign in 1968 which included the first fines being issued for littering. In the 50 years since they have continuously adapted their campaigns to focus on those matters which would make the biggest impact, fast. The resulting spotlessly clean, tree lined city bears testament to the success of these campaigns.
Who, except for the perpetrators of the rule, would take exception to a government making our environments a cleaner, healthier, better space for everybody to co-exist in? Imagine that was a priority for all governments and ruling parties. Instead some of us are stuck with self serving, profit driven people in charge who would rather continue supporting the downfall of a country, than enforce the written rules consistently and stringently.
Singapore is a fine city – if you are a fine person you will fit right in.
Indulge yourself in the vibrant Singapore hawker center cuisines in our ethnic neighborhood quarters. Singapore Foodsters conducts small group food tasting tours that expose you to an in-depth culinary culture of Singapore street food at our hawker centers. You'll also get to travel like a local to complete your Singapore experience.