It has been a long and sombre week and a half for Singapore since Founding Father Lee Kuan Yew’s passing on 23 March, and many people (myself included) spent it in mourning. I also spent it in reflection of Singapore’s past and future. Without his vision and tireless dedication, this little dot we call home would not be what it is today: a metropolitan Garden City, as many call it. With that said, here are five things I love about Singapore.
While many outsiders label the Singaporean government as controlling and stifling, I truly believe that it is their work and everyday management of the country that allows us to live in a safe environment.
Crime rates in this country are far lower than that of many parts of the world. There is no civil war. For the most part, people are able to walk out on the streets in the middle of the night without fear of being robbed, attacked or raped. This is something most people tend to take for granted, especially if they have not been to countries that are more unsafe at night.
2. Green green green
There’s a reason why Singapore is known by many as the Garden City. The government has done an excellent job at keeping the country as green as possible. Did you know that over 60% of our little island is covered by some form of greenery?
When you’re out next, take a moment to really look at the streets – even on the highway, you are usually flanked by trees and more trees. There is shade almost everywhere you go. Even smack in the middle of the city, you are surrounded not only by tall buildings and skyscrapers, but also trees and shrubs. Not to mention plants are a natural air filter, which means the air is cleaner and clearer in Singapore than in many other metropolitan cities.
3. Material luxuries
As Singapore has developed from a third to first world country, the selection of goods we are able to buy has also expanded greatly. Look at how almost every person in Singapore has a smartphone, a laptop or computer.
Yes being materialistic is bad, and I agree that it is – but it is the fact that we are given so many options when out shopping for whatever it is we need that is important. We are afforded the luxury of choice, something that many in less fortunate parts of the world do not have.
4. Multiracial community
Singapore prides itself on maintaining a peaceful multiracial community of people. We are taught from a young age to practice not just tolerance, but acceptance. We accept and embrace the cultural differences of others, and we are encouraged to celebrate those differences. So much that there are national holidays carved out for each of the three main racial groups in Singapore. Racial harmony is something that you do not find in many other places.
Okay, here’s something a little travel related. Now it’s no secret that Singapore is barely even a dot on the world map. Sure we’re small, but there are advantages that come with that – the big one being it is incredibly easy to get from one end of the island city to the other. Can you imagine going from one end of Canada to another? That would take roughly two and a half months (and also A LOT of gas). We are blessed that it takes us roughly an hour, maybe an hour and a half on a good day.
On top of that, our public transit system is top notch. And I say this as someone who lived in Hong Kong for many years – their MTR system is excellent too. Look at the transit systems of other cities: in Toronto the TTC is known to have delays multiple times a day; in London the tube is randomly shut down on random days without prior warning; in New York it’s dingy and grungy, and I don’t know about you, but unclean public transit is not my cup of tea.
Of course, that is not to say Singapore is utopia. There are still many problems we face such as rising costs (housing and cars are two notable ones that seem to be discussed every single day), but that does not detract from all the good that Lee Kuan Yew and the government has done to make this island more inhabitable. If there’s a reason to be proud to live here, to be Singaporean, it is because of all that has already been achieved, and all the everyday comforts that we rarely acknowledge as privileges.
Rest in peace, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. Thank you for everything.