Singapore. It really is like visiting a Christian university for the weekend. It scares me. I keep expecting to come across the satanic underbelly. So far, no joy.
Even the Amish would find this place too straight and would jump into their wagons and head straight back to Pennsylvania for a good old barn-raising. No wonder Changi airport is the number one visitor attraction. Ask yourselves why authorities. The second most popular is the zoo.
That’s because people who can’t catch a flight out are flocking to the lion enclosure.
The powers that be don’t want you to have fun. Because they drew up their constitution after reading 1984. Unless you are Bill Gates you can’t even afford to get drunk thanks to the 400% tax.
And this is why I can’t live here. I can shop here yes. But I can’t live here. It is too goddam wholesome. Too sanitised. If Singapore were a pop group it would be the Jonas brothers. If Singapore were a food it would be uncooked tofu. If Singapore were a drink it would be perrier (because it looks nice, it’s chilled and it’s expensive but ultimately it’s boring and kind of 80s).
If you need further proof check out what I’m flicking through on the tv right now…Justin Bieber is on prime time news. This is followed by a much hyped report on the evolution of Singapore’s public housing. I flick over to a daytime soap which I mistake for an infomercial on a wedding planning service. And finally, with hope slipping away, I come across Enchanted – the Sunday afternoon movie. Hope dies last. Well it died in me in Singapore. Sorry Amy Adams.
Wanting to find some edge, some badness at its core, some sign that people live here and not robots, I visited the Social Innovation Centre and posed the question –‘but what social issues are there to innovate on in Singapore? No. Really.’
The man thought about it for a whole minute before replying (and people it was his JOB to study these issues), ‘Well…people treat their domestic help really badly.’
I wasn’t sure if he was being serious. Was he referring to Alula? How had he found out? Then I saw the posters all around the room – a campaign to ensure Philippino domestic staff get holidays. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a really important campaign – but that was it? That’s the extent of their social issues? I’m telling you, 1984…
‘No, we also have a problem with teenage pregnancy,’ he hastened to add.
I raised an eyebrow. Seriously? That’s like trying to challenge an Irishman to a drinking contest. ‘I come from the UK,’ I replied.
He smiled embarrassed and moved on quickly, telling me about Singapore’s number two visitor attraction – the zoo.
So I guess that means we’ve narrowed the can we live here criteria. Proximity to Topshop falls in its ranking but remains on the list. Readily available, cheap alcohol rises. And a place with an edge jumps into the top five. A city where the airport is the number one attraction was never going to make the list.