3 Common Lies About Money Singaporeans Say Openly in Public

Joanne Poh


Eavesdrop on a conversation between two Singaporeans and you might discover a few shocking things. Other than casual racism, people seem to be totally okay with openly talking about things like their desire to marry rich or the fact that with money they’ll have the world at their feet.

Now we’re not here to judge people’s life choices, but just making an observation that things it would be totally taboo to publicly declare in many developed societies seem to be socially acceptable here. Here are some of the darnedest things Singaporeans say.


Women should all aim to marry rich men

I like to think that Singaporeans are in practice not as pragmatic as they pretend to be, but there’s no denying that in social situations they do nothing to dispel the stereotype. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have, either offhand or in earnest, advised me to marry someone rich. So many people from my closest male friends to my colleagues at work have said to “just” marry someone rich, as if that would be the end to all of life’s problems. Guys I’ve met for all of 10 minutes have confided in me that women should actually just try to marry well instead of doing, well, anything else.

I often hear Singaporean men complain about how materialistic women here are. But perhaps it’s time to take stock of the things we say. I note that many of the people who are proponents of marrying rich are men themselves. If this is what men are going around telling their daughters and friends, can they really point fingers when these very women exhibit materialistic mindsets?


If you have money, you can do whatever the hell you want

To be fair, Singapore is nowhere near the level of some of our regional neighbours, where money can buy you a whole lot more power. But still, many people here seem to have the sense that with money, you can do anything—or have anyone—you want. And they’re not afraid to say it.

I often hear people say things like “Damn, if I were a millionaire I would totally buy that yacht/book the whole club/spend a year in Paris/never have to worry about anything ever for the rest of my life.” When my male friends see an attractive woman on the streets, they often lament that they if they had money they would have her eating of their hands.

There is no doubt that having money puts you at a huge advantage in many areas, meritocracy be damned. But to compulsively lament the fact says more about you than the system.


If you don’t spend lots of money it means you’re not enjoying life

Ah, this little myth comes in many guises, the most common being the belief held by too many Singaporeans that you absolutely need to spend tons of money to enjoy yourself in Singapore, and that doing otherwise means your life is not worth living. You’d be surprised how many people really and truly believe that they would turn suicidal if they couldn’t drink at the Marina Bay waterfront every Friday night.

Conversely, if you decline a second (or third, or fourth) drink, or tell people you’re taking a night rider bus instead of a taxi on Friday night, you are met with disbelief. People shake their heads as if you’re crazy and mutter, “You really don’t know how to enjoy life.”

Sure, many Singaporeans will defend themselves by saying they’re happy to eat at hawker centres or take the MRT. But the overall tone of most conversations about money tends to show that most people aspire towards the high life—that they see money simply as a means to fancy cars and designer bags.

It’s true that most of this stuff is said tongue in cheek, and I still like to think that the average Singaporeans really isn’t that blinkered by the trappings of a material world just out of reach. But by saying things like this, we reinforce in our own minds as well as the minds of those we come into contact with attitudes we don’t really want to adopt deep down.

What shocking things have you heard Singaporeans say in casual conversation? Share with us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.