Singapore, the biggest mall in the world
My first time in Singapore was not in Real Life (RL). As part of the Twinity team, I first walked the streets of Singapore on its virtual version. Twinity was the European answer to Second Life, making available twin virtual cities to explore, adding a The Sims touch with a virtual real estate market. Get your apartment in Berlin, London, Singapore, New York or Miami and play away - discover the city of your dreams walking its streets, decorate your apartment, shop in the local brands.
I walked along the malls of Orchard Road in Twinity and talked to Singaporeans 7 years before I actually landed in Changi Airport. They were the ones telling me about the diversity among their population, the strict rules about public behaviour and the massive construction works around the sea front.
Finally I got to experience the real magic of Singapore and realized my virtual friends in Singapore had forgotten to mention something very important: the food.
Way too good! If you are not into reading but prefer listening, here's my voice note:
One thing an European acquaintance told me about the difference between living in Germany and in Singapore was the lack of racism in the Asian hub. It definitely stuck in my mind because I never considered Germany being racist. At least not more or less racist than Spain. But once I spent a few hours in Singapore I could better understand where he was coming from.
In Sydney, Kuala Lumpur or Indonesia I had seen the mix of cultures and very different communities co-existing without apparent trouble. What I had never seen so far is the degree of integration of so many people with such different backgrounds and religions truly living their lives together and publicly displaying so much friendship, affection and consideration in public. And that's what my memory of Singapore will be like.
Of course you cannot judge a whole country in 4 days. And I'm sure there's more conflict than the tourist eye can see. But while the government might want to impose Mandarin to become a culturally homogenous country or the Muslim community wants to push their religious agenda, on the streets the feeling around Singaporeans was of complete acceptance of difference. Correct me please if I'm wrong!
Pairing that with a high standard of living, awesome food everywhere and access to virtually any part of the world, Singapore seems like a place to stay and become your HQ.
Until you ask about the cost of living and salaries, that is.
Asking my friend Pinch about the possibility to settle down in Singapore, her answer was a bit disheartening: you can have a good life in Singapore if you manage to earn between 5.000 to 6.000 SGD (Singaporean Dollars) gross monthly. Which you can achieve having a few years behind in a top company, working in finance and in the corporate world in senior positions.
For foreigners seeking to stay they need to earn at least 3.500 SGD gross monthly so their work visas are granted. Taxes are low and if you don't do luxurious, with less you can even save up for whenever you go back to your country - if the currency exchange helps. Damn it!
But in any case, Singapore is definitely worth your time if:
- You are a shopping addict. I had never seen so many luxurious brands in one single street. Orchard Road is the dream for those in need of gold and status symbols to go. Not my thing, but I get the appeal!
- You are a foodie. We encountered food courts virtually everywhere that offered dishes from all over the world. Without exaggeration! On top it was well priced - very similar to Berlin standard of price and quality. We fell in love with the Indian food there 😍
- You like flowers. I could have spent my whole trip in the Gardens by the Bay learning about the past and the present of plants, trees, insects, animals and agriculture in Singapore. A brave new concept of Botanical Garden with free and paid part. I only covered the free part and I was amazed and satisfied...
- You love visiting temples from all religions. In every corner you'll find one! And they are very tourist friendly: there are pieces of clothes available if you are wearing shorts and sleeveless tops.
- You want to upgrade your CV with a diverse Asian experience. When I picked Australia for my year abroad as a student I was looking for multiculturality. If I had known back then what I know now, I would have chosen Singapore. I would probably have faced the same financial constrains and emotional shock every end of the month (especially coming directly from Berlin in 2007), but I think the cultural experience would have been richer.
All in all, I left with a great after taste. The best moment of the trip was of course at the beach, in the East Coast Park to be exact. No malls, no brands: just people strolling around, cycling, jogging, fishing, being happy.
My kind of vibe.