After returning home from studying in Singapore, the most common question I was asked is this: Why are you not staying in Singapore? This question reflects the amount of respect people in China have for Singapore. They believe Singapore is a heaven for Chinese, and the Chinese Singaporeans are rich, westernized, speak English and even produced a star like Sun Yan Zi. They asked why am I not staying in Singapore since I have already studied there.
In the recent survey conducted for Chinese in China, Hongkong, Taiwan and Singapore, everyone including Singaporean Chinese themselves perceive Singaporeans to be the happiest Chinese among the 4 places. So is Singapore really the utopia for Chinese?
The first question is very personalized. Aside from the occasional grumblings, I have never thought of staying in Singapore. From my point of view, the air here is clean and Singaporeans are just average folks like people in China. Of course the clean air was overshadowed by the haze problem about the time I left Singapore. Everyone’s rose-tinted perception of Singapore is largely due to ignorance or incomplete understanding. Many people have never been to Singapore, they just know that Singapore has a very high GDP and is a garden city. There are tourists who are just in Singapore for half a day, thinking the merlion is unique and the streets are clean. In actual fact, very few people assess the validity of these first impressions. The merlion is actually just a “fart” compared to China’s Le Shan’s Buddha.
Singaporeans are indeed richer, but not as people think they are. They do not bleed cash. In this country with a great income gap, the quality of life here is not higher than the one from a top China city. Back in China, I have two properties of which I rent one out. In Singapore, most people have only one property and they rent 2 rooms out while they stay in 1 room. This is very common, and the daily living with strangers resulted in a lot of conflicts. For the period I am studying here, I have quite a number of disputes with several owners. It also begins with owners welcoming you to rent from them, then they started making house rules, and you started feeling unworthy for the money you are paying then the quarrels start.
Singaporeans are not westernized. From my point of view, most of them dress ugly. There are many international brands here, but as the weather is hot all year round, there isn’t any change in fashion. The common dressing is a T-shirt, shorts and a pair of sandals, or the office wear. Many overseas China students want to marry a Singaporeans for different reasons. But I think they need to be prettier.
For the standard of English, Singapore’s English is similar to India. You will not understand their English. What I could not accept is that even if my English standard is poor, most of these Chinese Singaporeans’ English are not understandable by others as well. I have a Chinese Singaporean friend, every time he speaks, I don’t know whether if he speaking in Chinese or English. My China’s Dong Bei(North East) accent of English is even more superior.
Singapore is a very small country, everywhere is boring. Unlike China, it doesn’t have many LAN shops, massage shops, hotels, KTV or billiard shops. Their life is quieter, and not filled with entertaining activities. You have to be accustomed to this quiet way of life. For a China national like me, I don’t understand them at all. Be it English or Chinese, they always leave me befuddled.
I am not trying to debase Singapore, nor am I trying to levitate my status by criticizing them. It is just that happiness should not be measured this way. We will always believe if we are unhappy in China, other places will be happier. This is not true, happiness is a self-determined sentiment, not decided relatively nor via votes in a survey.
Singaporeans believe they are happier than others, and this is largely because they are ignorant of life in other countries. Most Singaporeans have been to South East Asia countries and even Europe and US, but they have never been to China. All they know about China is those grumblings by unhappy overseas China nationals living in Singapore, and as a result, they believe they are happier than the China Chinese. Singapore likes to boast because they are ignorant of other countries. Like the Singapore food here, compare them with China Chinese cuisine, these are nothing. Like the night scene in Clark Quay, compare them with Shanghai and Hongkong’s Victoria Bay, these are nothing.
The survey result is largely attributed to overseas Chinese thinking they are inferior and Singaporeans thinking they are superior. Happiness is a result of these incomplete perceptions. I believe not being so happy is a good thing after all because it makes me see others’ weaknesses, not over dabble in my own weaknesses and makes me grumble less.