Singapore: Cultural differences

Singapore is an interesting place. There are a few striking cultural differences:

  1. Surveillance. Everything – and I mean everything – is surveilled. There are cameras everywhere. And they are obvious – not subtle like we have in New Zealand. There are signs with rules everywhere, threatening exorbitant fines if you break them. The trains have announcements about how you should report any suspicious looking person. It all felt a bit Orwellian.
  2. Safety. The flip side is that Singapore is very safe. On our last day, we passed a sign near our hotel with a ‘Crime Alert’ that someone’s car had been broken into. The suburb we were staying in was quite poor. In Lower Hutt there are probably dozens of car break-ins every day.
  3. No one smiles. Even when you smile at them. Symptom of a big city, perhaps?
  4. BYO napkins. Serviettes are not provided by default at restaurants.
  5. Keep left on escalators. So that people in a rush can walk up them on the right. We quite liked this one.

6. Durians. We’ve worked out the source of the sickly-sweet smell that lingers in Singapore. The smell is from durians – spiky melons that seem to be quite divisive – you either love them or hate them. They are banned on the trains! We tried a durian iceblock and I thought it was pretty gross. Matt seemed ambivalent.