I grew up in SIngapore, thinking that I was living in a perfect land with infrastructure and surroundings way more advance and better than any other Asia countries. This was especially reinforced when I went travelling with my parents to countries like China, or when I went visiting my cousins living in Malaysia. The "my country is really great" notion stayed with me till I was 15years old, that was when I had my first stint of ëxperiencing life out of Singapore with my homestay and exchange programe in Japan, Sapporo which started to introduce a better environment than what I had. I realised then that there are better countries out there, a more considerate societies that I had grew up in. Still, I didnt fully digest what I had been exposed to. I only know that there are countries better than mine.
As I matured and wisen up, and made more trips to other neighbouring countries, it broaden my horizons and open up my eyes and mind. I realised that pretty infrastructure is nothing more than a shallow surface, it is the society and people that matters more. Poorer countries may not booast of number one airports, ports or top countries to do business in, but they have beautiful sceneries to compensate for, their people are better natured, warmer, and less materialistic contrasting greatly to what many Singaporean has become and that is starting to chill my bones. So in short, my country may have richen in monetary value, but the soul of my nation has certainly gone poorer, under the pretext of "better life", with the constant chase of material wealth cheapening its core values.
Dismal aside about the pace of changing landscape, it's a little disconcerting about the attitudes and behaviour of the general youth today in Singapore. I went back recently on a short trip and open the papers, are expensive premium brands ads splashing all over the newspaper, or 24years old girl proudly decked in luxury foreign brandwears and bags, denouncing the long held concept and values of saving for rainy days, and her sole belief that money is for spending and she has no qualms about spending every penny on brands that I had not heard of or dream of splurging on. Her spendthrift values were further reinforced by parents who bought her Mercedes CLK sport car or whatever accorded names that are as alien to me as the complete range of botanical plants in the world.
There is really nothing wrong with indulging oneself if u are living within one's means. But call me conservative but earning a meagre SG$2400 does not support the "spend it all because it makes me happy' notion. Sadly, she is not alone. I am sure many of the youth today are shunning hard work, saving up for rainy days and only eager to shine in limelight without working hard for it.
I rem a story I read when I was a little girl. A story about the ant and a grasshopper. Where the grasshopper would mock the stupidity of the ant for working all day to store food and grain, instead of singing and dancing in the sun. Comes winter, the ant are warm and snug with plenty of food to last thru the cold, while the regretful grasshopper died alone with much remorse. I used to question the logic of the story, as to who will be THAT STUPID not to prepare for rainy days, to just see the good times and enjoy every moment with no thoughts of possible bad times? I think in modern days, this wise old story is coming back to haunt out current youth.
As I sat down for tea with one of my fren still living in Singapore, she confessed that Singapore is changing so much that even it is too fast for her that she find it hard to cope with all these changes. She misses the familiarity and some old spots that have been demolished, only to have another cold building in its place.
My friend drove me through town and I saw this school of art. Nobody seem to know what it is about, nobody cares, and what's more, the building is so non spectacular and I think it is really ugly. The architects has no concept of landscape harmony. Sitting down the road is SJI - converted museum, and further down Raffles hotel. Instead of retaining the colonial flavour that is a reminder of the historical value of the place, we have brainless architects that is slowly stripping the area of its beauty with a literal concrete jungle. By that, I meant a visually non appealing concrete building overflowing with hanging green plants to try to look wannabe-green building. I asked everyone in the car, which do they think look nicer? The ugly piece of shit SMU and school of art, or the former SJI boys school building and the Raffles hotel? The votes were no brainer. The colonial designed themes won hands down. Question is, who approved all these "modern" buildings smacked right in town, designs with no soul nor any linkage to the rich history of the area? Stupid stupid stupid. An opportunity to showcase any architectural talents is obviously lost on these people.
As I walked around local shops, eating at Joo Chiat local haunts, a feeling of resentment wells up as I am served by only China people. I stepped into 7-11, and 3 out of 3 staff are mainlanders working there. I went to Dempsey Long beach, and I was served by either only Mainlanders who barely could speak a word of English, or by Filippinos. The only local was the one collecting money. I went to coffeeshop in Changi village, I got another bunch of Mainlanders. I went to a Japanese restuarant and only 1 in 6 were was local, with 2 Japanese staff. Japanese staff I can understand, but what happen to the other half? I went to Mandarin Gallery to Thai restaurant, I was served by a bunch of people who again didnt look or sound local. I hopped over to Jones the Grocer opposite, was served by 2 chinese guys with an American accent and mannerism (prob by products of international schools). So question is, what are happening to the local people? Dont they have to work anymore or everyone is too busy becoming their own bosses, or busy buying parangs to chop up one another?
I went to the public toilets and I was disgusted. In East coast beach, the minute I opened the main toilet door, the smell hit me soooo bad that I backed away immediately. All thoughts of peeing vanished as the pungent smell assaulted my senses. How on earth can local people stand that? I havent smell a smelly toilet for years since I left Singapore. In Singapore malls like Takashimaya, the toilets still stink though not as much as that in east coast beach. There is a sickly smell masked by the disinfectant. In Hong Kong malls, I never ever had that problem. In HK, I never had to push open the door in fear of some disgusting toilet habits greeting me, nor have used sanitary pads discarded all over the place except inside the bin like people in singapore do. In Singapore, you never know what filth is lurking behind those doors. Its a utter disgrace and yet after 40over years, this awful toilet habits still have not improve one bit. Why?
When I was leaving Singapore to come back to Hong Kong, I decided to do a quick visit to the loo. Singaporeans after washing their hands, wet the sink area all over and fling the wet water from their hands all over without a second thought. Then I saw this little Japanese girl, maybe about 10-12yrs old. She washed her hand and dried her hands with tissue. She paused. I could sense her confusion. I didnt know what she was pondering on. Then she tip toed and grab a few more tissues, and she wiped the sink dry. When the local woman next to her wet the sink as she was drying the sink, the little girl just take more tissue to dry the sink area. Her mum, also a Japanese let her do it because it is a POLITE NATIONAL HABIT IN JAPAN that you clean up after yourself when u wet the damn toilet sink. The local cleaner didnt give a shit if the pads were spilling from the top of the bin to the ground, or that a tourist is drying up the sink for her. I felt embarrassed for my own country, that a Japanese little girl had to show us what is the correct behaviour even in a public toilet. And my god, this was in Changi airport.
Should it be sad that I felt more at home now in Hong Kong? That there are more things I like here especially in the service industry ? I no longer think very favorably of my own country. Not that I hate it, more it is more like a sign of frustration that we were once good but we lost that vision and now we are just mediocre, or worse, lagging behind in our social and basic etiquettes despite our annual bragging of GDP growth or toppin surveys rankings. What is the point of being number one in so many other things but we have forgotten how to behave as a civilised nation, that is if I can still call it my country and not an island known as China-town?
If going by Wikileaks published in Australia's SMH, with the leaks of some top officials thinking its great for SG to be assimilated by China, and if that day do happens, if we do get assimilated, then I think that will be the day that I will finally stop holding my red passport with any last shred of loyalty and pride.