Singapore, Writing

Siao ah, go back to Singapore for what?


It’s been slightly more than a year since I blogged about why I decided to leave Singapore and I’ve recently been reflecting on this new life in China.

In a nutshell, it’s good. To me, that is. I cannot claim to speak for all the Singaporeans living here in Shanghai because we all have different priorities. But I’m pretty sure most of them feel the same way.

For starters, I may make only a little more than I used to but I actually have a lot more spending power, primarily because your money goes a much longer way here.

I take an Uber to work everyday, not because I’m loaded but because, well, I just like sleeping in. The 20-25 minute ride costs me about 25 RMB  (S$5.35). The same ride in Singapore would probably cost me around three times more. In fact, the only time I paid more than S$20 for a ride in Shanghai was when I took an Uber to Pudong International Airport. And that’s a one-hour drive away.

When I head home after work, I usually take the subway (because peak hour jams are crazy) for 6 RMB. It’s not a lot more cheaper than Singapore but it’s surprisingly more efficient. I’ve never seen or heard of a breakdown in Shanghai and at peak hours, the next train promptly arrives within 3 minutes, hardly ever more.

Like most other Singaporeans, we hired an ayi to help with the household chores. Ok fine, she does ALL the household chores. I mean, at 30 RMB per hour, that’s a real steal. I used to pay S$35 PER HOUR for a helper back home.

That particular auntie from Malaysia was awesome (like really, really awesome) but our current ayi from Gansu nevertheless gets the job done. This ayi is also an awesome cook and seems to really care about our well being. She once told us not to eat instant noodles because it’s unhealthy.

She then made 80 dumplings and chucked them into the freezer just in case we felt like having a snack. Talk about being over enthusiastic.

I used to hate cocktails because they were simply not worth the money in Singapore. An average one costs about S$20 in Singapore. A GOOD one costs about S$17 in Shanghai. There’s this place I frequent in Shanghai called Union Trading Company. It’s not the cheapest bar in Shanghai but it’s probably the best. This kickass barrel-aged cocktail called the Dead Man’s Gun costs S$30. It comes in a little bottle that fills about 2.5 glasses. Their other cocktails are pretty rad too, and any discerning drinker will tell you that the tipples here make those in Singapore look rather unrefined.

I love my beers. A large bottle of Tsingtao at the supermarket is S$1. A large can of Asahi from the convenience store is $2. Exotic craft beers at this awesome place called Jackie’s Beer Nest is about S$10 a pint. All without service tax and GST.

Tangible stuff aside, let’s talk about the weather. I get four seasons here in Shanghai. I love autumn. Winter can get really, really cold, but I don’t mind it. We experienced the coldest day in Shanghai in 35 years back in December when temperatures dipped to about -7 degrees. Yeah, I know, -7 doesn’t sound all too cold, but here in Shanghai that translates to about -15 because of the windchill.

There are four seasons in Singapore, too. Hot, pretty hot, very hot and crazy fucking hot. I hate the heat, probably a result of all those days during national service when I was cooped up in an armoured carrier. I cannot stand perspiring the moment I leave the shower. I mean, what’s the point of showering then?


Singapore’s hawker food is phenomenal. It’s good and it’s cheap. There’s nothing here in Shanghai that can beat it. But when you depart from the context of the hawker centre, one quickly begins to realise that everything else, from our cafes to restaurants and fine dining establishments, are simply not worth the money.

You see, you can shell out S$50 for the “best” brunch at a swanky venue near the waterfront in Singapore, but chances are the quality just isn’t as great as a humble cafe here that offers the same fare for just S$18. Most Singaporeans here in Shanghai will tell you that we actually enjoy a more value-for-money culinary experience here.

Of course there’s the whole issue of food safety. Is that egg I’m eating fake? Is that slab of steak I’m eating real? I’ve never eaten fake food. Even if I have, it definitely didn’t taste like it.

My most common response to queries about food safety in China these days is: “Even if it IS fake and hazardous, I’d be dead before I know it.”

And I’m cool with that.

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And then there’s the issue of how many Singaporeans think. Or if they even do.

I’m still struggling to understand that “Majulah” concept that went viral recently. While the underlying intentions are commendable, it surely is naive and superficial, to think that going around saying that word to people is going to induce a greater sense of national pride and identity.

Singapore lacks an identity , I agree. I have no answers as to why this is so.

But maybe, just maybe, it’s because we’re simply too caught up with trying to be who we aren’t. I’ve always felt that there is an insidious superficiality to everything in Singapore. It’s as if the country just wants to be No. 1 at everything for the sake of being No. 1; as if Singapore is over-compensating in every department because we’re nothing but a speck on the map.

Of course, Singapore is a financial powerhouse, no question. We rock in making money. We are admired by countries that are hundreds of times larger than us because of this.

And I think we lack soul because we’re all about the money.

The local arts scene has never thrived despite the fact that Singapore likes to position itself as a creative hub in the region. It frequently holds art expos, film festivals and the painfully hipster Laneway every year. It has amazing infrastructure to host such events. Everything looks awesome.

But just on the surface.

And the scene will continue to stagnant in this nascent state thanks to the sort of censorship guidelines we have and the myopic people who champion it.

I cannot believe people are having a discussion about whether to boycott Madonna’s concert. I cannot believe that Eric Khoo’s erotic movie is deemed too erotic.

Can a circle be deemed too round? Some people seem to think so.

People need to be able to think for themselves, as opposed to being told what to think. The former is what being human is all about. The latter should only be reserved for mindless drones. 

That’s exactly my beef with Singapore right now. It’s too much of a well-oiled machine. Too many of its people have been conditioned to think what they think and do what they do. 

And this is the part where people switch on their flamethrowers and say: “ROFL. Fuck off you twat. You’re in goddamned China. Pot calling the kettle black. Do you even realise what you’re saying?”

Of course I do.

But I’m not saying that life is better here because it has a more creative and liberal environment that enables me to grow and flourish in my craft.

Life is better here primarily because it’s much more affordable. And also because, as uncouth as some of the Mainlanders (to be honest, it’s mostly just those from the villages) are, life is more colourful here. Not in the “Wow there are glitzy luxury malls everywhere!” kind of colourful, but there’s just this inexplicable energy that courses through the city.

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I went home to spend the Chinese New Year with my family earlier in February. Just for fun, I tried very hard to view Singapore in the eyes of a foreigner.

Compared to Shanghai, Singapore is very, very, very, very, very clean. So much so that it feels almost like a Photoshopped job.

Actually, it’s so damn clean it feels sanitized.

In comparison, Shanghai looks filthy. But therein lies its beauty – imperfection. It’s as if all the grit, grime and unsavory behaviours you witness on the streets serve to imbue this place with a soul that duly fascinates Singaporeans like me who have spent most their lives living on an impeccably sterile island.

Living in Singapore is like living in a hazmat suit. Sure, it’s a safe place to be in but it’s oppressively hot and your view of the world becomes obscured.

I’ve told many friends that there’s absolutely no reason for me to return to Singapore now. Because apart from the fact that I stand a better chance at getting a more challenging and lucrative job, there’s just nothing else back home for me.

My perfectly manicured homeland is just, ironically, too damn perfect. And too damn expensive.

One of my pals bought a new car recently. It cost him in excess of S$100,000. For a Honda Vezel. One that he could only drive for 10 years.

“Don’t come back to Singapore, dude!” he said.

Well, I’m not. Not yet anyway.


























112 thoughts on “Siao ah, go back to Singapore for what?

  1. Aik says:

    Having lived in Portland, Shanghai and of course growing up in Singapore, I would say that every place has its pros and cons. I don’t think there’s a perfect place because if there is then everyone should move there right now.
    It really depends on what the individual likes, be it stability, unpredictability, 4 seasons, sunny, etc.
    We can all discuss till the cows come home and there will still be no right answers.
    Let’s just enjoy our lives wherever we are and make the most out of it:)

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Joslyn says:

    Whats the point of writing this post? We also don’t need people like you. Please don’t come back and spoil the harmony. If you were to ever come back, please don’t bring back the china culture too. Its disgusting.


    • Disgusted says:

      I am a Singaporean (three generations there in that hilarious dot in that third world brown brown backwards hot gross region) who will be renouncing my citizenship (I have US greencard, once minimum 5 year is up will get US citizenship) and I laughed so hard at your comment. I really did..LOL. You froggers are so deluded. You have no frigging culture on that small ridiculous place what have you produced for the world?@!. What drugs are you on?! I am laughing so hard this is so funny how SOMEONE from SINGAPORE dare to talk about CULTURE and bash China of ALL places, seriously CHINA? Did this Sinkie moron just drop out of ITE? LOL you were only settled about 150 years and China is bursting with history and culture, no one can find anything of Bing Ma Yong’s scale in Europe. You are such a frogger retard and your comment is soo typical of the frogger Singaporeans with zero knowledge of culture and history of the world. TYPICAL RETARDED FROGGER DIU LIAN SINKAPOREAN hahahahhaa I am so glad I ate the Red Pill and know the truth about your froggers in Southeast Asia that loser region.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Disgusted says:

      @Your Mom

      My Mom who is waiting for me to sponsor her Greencard says:
      No one cares about the wonders or croaking of a frogger in the brown brown third world that is completely irrelevant.

      Suck it and suffer in that pathetic place.

      Love your Lao Peh who eff your mom

      Liked by 1 person

      • Your mom says:

        Eh mai step angmo want to get green card all when you can’t type proper grammer. What frogger all… So posh. Sponsor me that oh so MAGICAL greencard i also don’t want la. I’m doing wonderful here only card I need is atm card. Green card so what. Can’t do shit.


  3. Eunice Annabel says:

    You be hating the weather not because of singapore. And if everyone migrates like you, what will Singapore have left? More foreigners and no local talents for the art scene. Likewise, we should all work together to help make Singapore a better place. We are protected, but is that not a good thing? Or isit better to have the blackrule in china? To run down people as and when they like. Poop as and where they like?

    Trains breakdown doesn’t mean singapore did not try to further improve right? You are only looking at bad points and any good points? NO. Because you are shallow af. And cars in singapore, it is expensive because we are such a small country. Plus everywhere is so convenient. But glad you are living in Shanghai or wherever in china. Please don’t come back and embarrass us.


  4. Disgusted says:

    Your piece of shit island is what size don’t think I don’t know. After all I lived in that gross place for decades and I certainly know how you people live, you can fool gullible Ang Moh with pang sai drummed up GDP per capita figures sure you can’t fool ex Singaporean quitters. I bet you reply me every day from your third world looking, grotty communist HDB flat and I bet you take public transport like a lame third world peasant. Just like all the froggers stuck there. Your island is tiny and the region is some Third world backward brown raced shit zone. Even your sad retort evokes pity and envy but so poorly delivered. Singlish style I suppose. Your ATM card is prob a POSB one. SG is lame and pathetic and unimportant in every way. Lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. amransan says:

    actually anywhere is better then living in sigapore!!!
    and the best part is u can retire!!!

    i used to be a sgrean but no more now a proud Aussie 🙂
    those who already leave and adapt to the new environment will stay on 🙂



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  7. Anonymous says:

    There is so much that is wrong with this,from the comments to the actual post. I just like to point out that those who bash the sg arts scene probably never worked in it(because I have and its not as limiting as the hype. And no, I was not with the goverment but actually invovled in theatre).Its easy to make sweeping statements. And I am a singaporean living in shanghai. Living here doesn’t make me hate my home country but gives me a different perspective. Also just because some enjoy the way of life back home does not equate to them being unthinking. There is much elitism displayed in this post by the bloggger and dare i say it, characteristically singaporean? *you can run but you can’t hide*


  8. Anonymous says:

    You should give up your Singapore passport and apply for China citizenship. Oh, and make sure you know the 10 commandments from The Communist Party.


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  10. Singaporean says:

    Grass is always greener on the other side. But once you get there its not always easier. True enough singapore is expensive and people are working hard to have a better life but not everyone is like you. You only complain that singapore is without a soul, that Singaporeans do not express creativity, so why didn’t you join the local arts scene and make it more vibrant? It’s the people who make the place but instead you chose to leave, to take the easy way and who was the one that fed you? Allowed you to grow up safely and get an education? Instead you bit the hand that fed you. Just get Chinese citizenship and forget about the life you had before instead of humiliating yourself online.


    • Enlightened says:

      It does not matter what you say because you are just sore, and the fact is Singapore also does not have democracy, you are ruled by under one party dictatorship of that evil power-hungry and self-serving dead dictator. Someone who harmed more people than the average leader of a country. There are so many *infinite* times more mainland Chinese who made it and got PR in developed countries than Singaporeans. It shows that your Singapore passport has no power. The end result is all that matters, and the end result is that . If you are from SG and never got the chance to get out to know that you have alternatives, you are basically stuck. SG is just SG. There is no difference in your life in living in Ang Mo Kio, Bishan or Jurong. It is the same unlike citizens/residents of big countries eg US, China (being the two extreme examples with the most choices). I mean you don’t even have a bird cage to retire in when you’re 70. The life that you are forced to lead is simply unimaginably bad and hectic to your death and you don’t even know, living in your fool’s paradise and bought hook line sinker by your PAP propaganda. Good luck with your struggles and hope you enjoy card board collecting.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. RT says:

    Love what you wrote here. Haters gonna hate because they are blind in the first place to even shit all over this article. There’s only a handful of people in SG who can feel what you wrote simply because we have experienced true living beyond this terrible and screwed up place. The people who feel that they are superior simply because they are in SG are the magnificent end product manufactured by this dysfunc society that strives on superficiality. When I read what “Joslyn” wrote, I feel so sorry for her because she obviously thinks the world of where she is staying in right now and I think Singapore deserves people like her as much as she deserves Singapore.

    Liked by 1 person

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    • Anonymous says:

      You are so fortunate that yr circumstances allow you to leave. There are many S’poreans whose family ties, job commitments just are not conducive for them to leave.


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  14. एक्झॅक्टली.. माझ्या आधीच्या पिढी मधे बऱ्याच स्त्रिया टिबी ने मृत्युमुखी पडायच्या- एक प्रकारे त्या चुली पासून सुटका झाली हे बरंच झालं म्हणायचं. अ‍ॅव्हरेज वय हे जवळपास २० ते ३० वर्षांनी वाढलंय स्त्रियांचं..


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