As Singaporeans, we spend so much of our time complaining about how expensive things are that anyone outside of the country would think we were all living in card board boxes and eating rats caught with our own hands.
Sure, most things in this country are hideously expensive, but take a peek into a random MRT cabin on any given morning and you’re sure to see a shocking number of designer bags and all the latest smartphones and tablets. The truth is, the average Singaporean enjoys lots of luxuries that his counterparts in other developed countries don’t, such as the following.
The ability to eat out often
Socialising in Singapore is usually done over a meal. And we don’t mean a home-cooked meal, either. Six in ten Singaporeans eat out at least four times a week, and we’re some of the biggest spenders on eating out in the Asia Pacific.
We take it for granted that a plate of chicken rice is never more than ten minutes away. Thanks to the availability of inexpensive hawker food, we’ve not bothered to cultivate our cooking skills, finding it easier and cheaper to let someone else sweat it out in the kitchen for us.
We might have some of the world’s most expensive homes, cars and alcohol, but at least we’ve also got some of the cheapest meals available in the developed world. It’s still possible to sit down to a decent meal for $3 to $4 so long as you’re willing to give up air con.
In Paris, a McDonald’s meal costs about 6 (9.20 SGD) to 8 euro (12.27 SGD), and there are few other dining options that cost as little. In Melbourne, be prepared to pay at least 10 AUD (10.23 SGD) for a plate of fried rice.
Take a stroll at Orchard Road or Raffles Place, and within 5 minutes you’ll spot at least a handful of Chanel and Prada handbags—and real ones at that. The irony is that in France and Italy, where these high fashion brands originate, regular people don’t buy such bags.
“To middle class people here, the Longchamp bag (retail price about $200, as opposed to the $3,000 to $5,000 a Chanel or Prada would cost) is considered an expensive bag. If a woman were to carry a Chanel bag, people would definitely notice and assume she must be very wealthy,” reveals our French correspondent. “Normal people would never spend thousands of dollars on a handbag.”
The average Singaporean seems to shop for fun way more than the average person in most other developed countries. Crowds throng shopping malls each weekend, and shopping has been dubbed a national past-time. Other than the Japanese, there are few other developed countries who can complete with Singapore in terms of shopaholism.
There is a reason Singaporean students in Melbourne (at least, the ones without trust funds) never take a taxi from Tullamarine Airport to the city. The 20+km journey, equivalent to travelling from Raffles Place to Changi Airport, costs a whopping 50 AUD (51.15 SGD). Travelling the same distance by taxi in Singapore costs about half the amount.
We might have an MRT network that leaves much to be desired in terms of accessibility and maddeningly unreliable bus services, but at least taxis, when you’re absolutely desperate, are a more affordable option than they are in other developed cities.
Constantly going on overseas holidays
One of my friends aims to take a plane flight every month. She says it’s the only way she can keep herself sane by getting away from the work-induced stress. And for the past few years, she’s kept to her word. Some weekends she flies to Bangkok for a shopping spree, Penang for the food or Sabah for diving. Other months, she uses her annual leave to take longer trips to Melbourne, Seoul or Tokyo.
One of the advantages of Singapore being so small is that it doesn’t cost a lot to get out of there. We’re surrounded by Southeast Asia’s most popular destinations, with Bali and Bangkok less than two hours away on a budget flight that often costs less than $200. Best of all, these destinations are a good deal cheaper than Singapore in terms of food, shopping and accommodation.
9 in 10 Singaporeans have travelled for leisure in the last 2 years, and on average we travel more frequently than our regional and global peers.
While our friends in the USA might be able to take long road trips all over the country, and our European counterparts are connected to other cities by train, there’s no denying that travelling within Southeast Asia is cheaper, and that Singaporeans do it with alarming frequency.
No matter how much we complain about Singapore, the great thing is that we can and do take frequent breaks from it.
What luxuries do you take for granted? Tell us in the comments!