Touchdown. After an arduous three months of extracting myself and our life from the US, I’m finally back in Singapore for good! Arrived on Friday at noon. Miraculously, the storm door in Tahoe held shut until I was safely off the mountain and on my way over the Pacific — and just since then, two feet have fallen. Thank you, universe, for snow-free moving and renovations. What a gift, seemingly just for me. Now everyone else can finally get on with their winter.
So, Singapore. How very happy I am to see the sun, the husband, the flat I left behind. Noodle bowls, swimming pools, flip flops and subway rides — all of which I have joyously reconnected with in the last five days. I think I’m gonna like it here. And where is here? Where is Singapore? And what’s it like? I’ve been asked this question more than a few times in the past few months. So let’s kick off this Asian adventure by revisiting our geography and the context of Singapore with a list of fun facts about The Lion City:
> Singapore is not in China (“When do you leave for China?” I’m not going to China.)
> Singapore is less than 100 miles north of the equator, has a tropical rainforest climate, two monsoon seasons and consistent temps throughout the year between 74 and 90 degrees
> The area of Singapore is tiny at 272 square miles (to put it in perspective for my California friends… Lake Tahoe is 191 square miles, so the country is a mere 1.4 times the size of Lake Tahoe)
> Singapore is an island (actually 63 islands in total) at the end of the Malaysian peninsula, and enjoys a spectacular location amidst Southeast Asia — within one to six hours by plane you can be in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Maldives, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Japan and yes, China.
> Due to this fantastic location, Singapore is one of the five busiest ports in the world (see photo from my arrival!) and the busiest trans-shipment port in the world
> Thomas Stamford Raffles brought Singapore under British possession in 1824
> Singapore has been ruled by the British, occupied by the Japanese, part of Malaysia — and yet fully independent since 1963
> Singapore is one of the Four Asian Tigers (along with Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan)
> The World Bank ranks Singapore as the easiest place in the entire world to do business
> Singapore is consistently ranked as one of the top three least corrupt countries in the world
> The population is 5 million, with approximately 3 million born locally
> Singapore is home to more millionaire (USD) households per capita than any other country (15% of the population)
> The government is a parliamentary republic, although quite regimented with rules and restrictions and no trial by jury (and a mandatory death penalty for some crimes)
> Singapore has the highest trade to GDP ratio in the world
> Singapore’s diversified economy is based on exporting, refining imports, manufacturing, tourism, oil refining, ship repair, foreign investment, financial sector, service sector
> Singapore is the second largest casino gambling market in the world (yet there are only two casinos); fourth leading financial center in the world
> Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew is largely responsible for Singapore’s development and success since its independence
> There is no welfare system — the government encourages earning and saving
> Home ownership is 87%
> Unemployment has not exceeded 4% in the last decade
> There are four primary languages: English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil with English being predominantly used; citizens are expected to be bilingual in English and one other language
> Primary religion is Buddhism
> Life expectancy is 15th in the world; adult obesity is below 10%
> Only one in ten residents owns and drives a car as the cost of vehicle, duty and Certificate of Entitlement is often is excess of $100,000 USD. The government sells a limited number of COEs at auction twice per month, so that price is determined purely by supply and demand. Among other fees, there’s also an “Additional Registration Fee” that is a whopping 150% of the vehicle’s open market value. *Gasp* We won’t be owning a car here. Ever.
So there you have it, and here I’ll be! I think I, and the US, can learn a lot from this country!