They might look straight-laced, but Singaporeans can be a pretty zany bunch. If you don’t believe me, just visit any Singapore Pools outlet the day before the yearly Chinese New Year Hongbao draw, or witness them standing in a 6 metre long queue for an overcrowded shopping mall toilet.
While increasing pressure on the common folk thanks to the escalating cost of living is causing many people to tighten their purse strings, that hasn’t stopped many Singaporeans from spending on these three things which, to the lay observer, makes them seem totally bonkers.
1. Fortune tellers
Singaporeans are a superstitious bunch. I think that because we’ve had so many things fed to us by the government, helicopter parents and a rigid school and work environment, many of us tend to disregard the power of human agency. Have you ever heard someone shrug at a failure and mutter, “Not fated?”
Because of the above attitude, some fortune tellers in Singapore do a roaring trade, charging $188 and above for a single consultation. Still others charge lower fees but are rewarded with long queues and the need to make appointments. I’m not discrediting the honesty of these practitioners—there are some that are blatant frauds, but I’ll leave it to you to decide whether others are carrying on a genuine endeavour.
Many prominent businessmen in Singapore have their own private fortune tellers/astrologers/feng shui masters, and many of the nation’s wealthiest swear by their personal cosmic advisors. I’m willing to bet that at least a few of your local friends are wearing Thai amulets. And just go to any durian stall in Geylang and look out for the antiquated-looking children’s toys discreetly placed in a corner in the back—just make sure you don’t ask the stallholder why they’re there.
Bear in mind that such services usually don’t come cheap. On average, for a full consultation you can expect to be charged at least $50. There are card readers and the like who will conduct a session for $10 or $20, but these typically last just a few minutes. A feng shui audit costs much more as the feng shui master will have to go to your home—and you’ll still have to factor in the cost of purchasing the feng shui cures he recommends.
And while in the West you might get a weird look for admitting that you’re a believer, or at least be asked to justify your beliefs, here in Singapore you’re more likely to be asked for the contact details of your fortune teller.
2. Toto and 4D
Most countries have their own form of the lottery, but in Singapore, Toto and 4D are serious business.
During the Hongbao Draw every Chinese New Year, it’s not uncommon to see friends and colleagues pool together hundreds of dollars for their shot at winning $10 million. I admit I’ve been guilty of this too—I once spent $150 on Toto tickets (the least out of my friends in the pool) during the Hongbao draw and was actually surprised when I only managed to recoup $20.
When there’s a traffic accident, watch as drivers crane their necks to take down the licence plate number of the vehicles involved so they can buy 4D.
Once, I chanced upon a motorbike accident on my way to work. Two other motorcyclists had stopped by the side of the road to help the guy who had been knocked down. When I asked if they needed help, the two guys helping out said they had got everything covered—called an ambulance, called the police, and taken down the licence plate number to buy 4D.
Some people I know actually have a lottery budget. I know people who deliberately allocate 5% to 10% of their monthly salary to 4D and Toto. If you’ve read our article on the math behind Toto and 4D, you’ll probably start to realise why this isn’t a good thing. Oh well, I guess they’ll have the last laugh when they finally hit the big one.
3. Overseas Pre-wedding Photoshoots
Getting dolled up and posing for pre-wedding photos is one of those things that many Singaporeans on the brink of marriage do without a second thought. After all, it’s just something that’s “done” here, right?
Well, you might surprised to find that many foreigners don’t even know what a pre-wedding photoshoot is and are baffled by the concept. In many countries, you take photos at the wedding and that’s it. Dressing up in your wedding attire months before the wedding and posing for dramatic, staged photos seems a little bizarre.
It is unclear where the practice originated, but they do seem to do this a lot in China (or rather, I’ve seen many Chinese entourages on overseas photoshoots), so this so-called tradition might have trickled down from there to the rest of Asia.
Because Singapore is so small, nobody wants to take their pre-wedding photos in all the same old places—Botanic Gardens or Gardens by the Bay. Yawn. So couples are taking to the skies and hitting up popular overseas destinations to get their pictures taken, the most popular amongst Singaporeans being Taiwan and Bali. Those who are willing to spend even more think nothing of heading to Europe or the US, photographers and wedding paraphernalia in tow.
The craziest thing is that these photoshoots cost a ton of money. Overseas shoots cost a few grand at least, and the price of even local shoots can skyrocket because of all the accessories and add-ons the photographer is obliged to provide. I’ve seen wedding photos on Facebook featuring Volkswagen buses and actual white horses.
We might complain about never having enough money, but if you look at how some Singaporeans spend theirs, it’s clear that many of of the people around us do have quite a bit of disposable income. And boy do they dispose of it.
What other crazy things do Singaporeans spend on? Let us know in the comments!
Jnzl’s Public Domain Photos