This was written while I was away, and I haven’t had a chance to post until now.
The strange thing about being on vacation in a country where my phone doesn’t work and I don’t have set plans, is that time becomes very vague. It’s light out or dark out, it’s time to eat or not. Yesterday, we stopped by the market and it was so neat to see all the different kind of fruit, though sadly, lycees are not in season. We got some longans, which are apparently cousins to lycees. Then we walked by the shoreline where all the container ships were stacked up. There’s a nice park where sometimes Malaysian visitors will camp out on the weekends – so they can come to Singapore for a weekend and not have to stay at an expensive hotel.
There are housing flats subsidized by the gov’t for the Singaporeans that are fairly affordable – maybe $100,000 to $200,000. (Singapore dollars are pretty close to American dollars, so the conversion is comparable). This is much, much cheaper than buying a condo, where the average might be $3 million. But a previous gov’t wanted to encourage the women not to stay home with their kids, so many of the gov’t housing flats have no kitchens. Instead, you go to the market every day for fruits and vegetables and eat at the food stalls near the housing flats. You can have breakfast, lunch, and dinner for $10 a day. So each set of housing flats has a market and bunch of food stalls nearby.
Having a car is also discouraged – there is approx. a ~$110,000 fee to simply own a car, and then cars themselves might be 5x the price a car in the US. So a $60,000 Lexus in the US is $300,000 here. Knowing that, I was not surprised to see that most of the cars are fairly high end – after all, if you’re going to pay the car tax, might as well make it count. And then some of the high-end condos have their own car elevators so they can keep their car IN their condo. A different kind of life, indeed.
Since S. works at the University, he gets subsidized University housing, and the flat is pretty nice. Many people take taxis or the bus to get around and the streets are flanked with beautiful trees and greenery. Apparently, this is not by accident and after midnight gov’t workers from the Ministry of Trees come by to prune and beautify.
There are also different schools for most of the main expat countries. Singapore’s population is about 40% foreigners, so there are Japanese and British schools for the children of those nationalities. Of the other 60%, perhaps 80% are Chinese – often with a lot of money. Singapore, financially speaking, is a lot like an Asian Switzerland – it’s an excellent place to park your money. Then there is the worker class – Malaysian maids and prostitutes and male construction workers from Pakistan or Bangladesh on 3 month visas. They all get Sundays off so Little India and the Muslim quarter get pretty busy as people spend whatever part of their paycheck they didn’t send home.