Monday, July 05, 2010

The Bizarre Behaviour of Singaporeans

Since I'm on the topic of blogging about my Singapore trip, I felt it fit to leave some observations made by a German national who has lived in Singapore for 9 years.

44 years of economic and material success have spawned some very strange behaviours among Singaporeans.

They spend so much to buy a house or flat, furnish it up like a palace, but spend their time outside, most of the time at work. And the maids are the ones enjoying the million-dollar or multi-million-dollar assets..

Then they pay so much, the highest in the world, for a car only to park at home. Too expensive to drive, too many ERPs and car park charges to pay. And they are encouraged to park their cars at home and take public transport, being cheaper and more convenient.

And when Singaporeans travel, instead of seeing the places, they went shopping. The best part is that they would head for the cheapest bargains, buying stuff that they could get in Chinatown or pasar malam, at even cheaper prices. But they are still happy that they got a bargain.

And while the heartlanders are busy trying to make a life here, being told to bust off if they are not happy, which they could not, the rich and presumably very happy and contented citizens are buying up properties overseas just in case they need to make that escape from this paradise.

While many Singaporeans are thinking of jumping ship, or preparing to jump ship, hoards of new immigrants are rushing in to take their place in this paradise.

And to top it all up, they keep complaining about the govt and all the policies that they found unpalatable, but come every election, they will vote and return the govt to power.

Strange Singaporean behaviours !

What do you think? I've had to nod my head profusely at a couple of the comments!


Anonymous said...

"They spend so much to buy a house or flat, furnish it up like a palace, but spend their time outside, most of the time at work. And the maids are the ones enjoying the million-dollar or multi-million-dollar assets.."

It is a fact that housing in Singapore is expensive compared to other EU countries but not with HongKong & Japan. Good thing about Singapore is that after investing to stay, the Government ensure that our asset increases over time. For instance, within 10 years, the value of the government housing increased 350% and I profited it after selling! Where do you see such % increase in asset in EU?

Most couples will have to work to supplement income just like most of us do over the world. We do not spend out time outside doing nothing of no value. But instead, provide work which could stretch depending on your working hours.

Our domestic helper is great in providing cheap and reasonable rate as they stay with the families and provide all domestic activities so that we could raise our kids safely without the burden of parents, parents-in-laws; relatives or even Child Care Centers in which you would have known that they could not offer all the need as compared to someone at home all the times.

In EU or U.S., hiring of domestic helper is so expensive, many times more than in Singapore. Probably 10 times more expensive! So in the nutshell, they do not have the luxury of hiring such domestic helpers...

So far, all families with domestic helpers would be able to attest that with their presence, it gives us peace of mind and they really work to our satisfaction...

Just a Singaporean perspective to share about all the great housing strategy and provision of domestic helpers which is probably equivalent to bultlers in U.K. type of services...

So glad to be a Singaporean...yeap...

Pris said...

Hey Anoymous

Wow, that's a long entry! As a foreigner in Singapore, he's entitled to his own opinion about Singapore as much as I'm entitled to mine when I live in Germany.

Plus, I don't think the author meant those comments in a depreciating manner, but as a matter-of-fact way.

I agree with you that housing prices are really high and that's why people earn a huge profit upon selling it at the opportune time.

On the other hand, I do think it is a huge property market bubble and its a matter of time before it bursts. May take a couple of years or even decades, but its impossible for the prices to skyrocket infinitely.

Domestic helper - That's another issue altogether. I always had domestic helper at home when I was growing up. And I know for sure that I would rather be a stay-home mom and have to make sacrifices, "standard-of-living-wise" than to hire a domestic helper.

I wouldn't want a domestic helper to bring up my children, nor would I want to share my roof with an outsider. Not to mention personal unpleasant experiences my family's had with a couple of domestic helpers.

No doubt that Singaporeans have to work very long hours cos of their jobs. But then again, it is a vicious cycle. Expensive housing - need dual income - get domestic helper. If I choose to live in smaller but more affordable housing, I can still have the option of being a stayhome mom, rather than having to make decisions based on my financial liabilities.

Auntie Grace said...

Hi Pris,

I beg to differ on some of the statements. I guess yr German fren is a work permit holder or a PR hence r unable to enjoy citizen's privileges. Very few countries I know provide its citizen's with subsidized housing. Spore is one country where a high proportion of its citizens own their homes. Abt 70% of Singaporeans live in HDB flats which are largely still affordable and of decent size. Make hay while the sun shines. I don't see the problem of working hard to pay for yr home when one is young and at the end of the day, the home belongs to u. Better than having to continue paying rent even after retirement. Nowadays, Singaporeans value their free time. Most companies including govt dept have 5-day work weeks.
Workers have a choice whether to stay home or go out on weekends.

Haha. It is also not true that Singaporean pays for a car only to leave it at home becos it is too expensive to drive. If that is the case, I will be rejoicing as the roads would not be so congested. The cars yr fren sees parked at home are the second or third cars belonging to the non-working wives who use the cars for ferrying children to/from school.(My ex owns 3 cars for his own use for different occasions).
As for travels, the more matured singaporeans likes to go sight seeing and do less shopping. The younger ones who are on smaller budget tend to go to cheaper places like Bangkok, Phuket, Vietnam, HOngkong where there is less scenic spots and therefore they do more shopping, eat and go for massages.
There are also various reasons for wanting to jump ship. Those that I know of whom have migrated were unable to find jobs here, have children who are unable to cope academically or rich enough to take on additional citizenship.
More people r complaining abt the govt becos nowadays singaporeans are better educated and think they can do a better job than the govt.
But I am not complaining, where else can I feel safe to go out late at night, own my own home (not a mickey mouse unit unlike HK or Jap), have affordable convenient public transport,cheap hawker food, free education for my kids, freedom of worship, low unemployment rate,high rate of savings. I am proud to be Singaporean. I guess yr German fren would not mind spending more yrs in Singapore.

Pris said...

Hi Auntie Grace

I actually don't know that guy. It was an Email that I got a Singaporean friend of mine, which I thought was food for thought.

I agree mostly with what you say. I am very proud to be a Singaporean, with all its quirkyness and all.

Unfortunately, the housing issue is different in other countries. In Singapore, it def. makes more sense to buy your own place. But in Germany, it doesn't because housing pricing doesn't increase over many years and one might even make a loss upon selling.

Plus you incur a 15% charge just when you buy a house, so one has to be really sure that one wants to incur all that charges, cos you can't recoup your expenses by selling your place.

Car-wise, I do agree with you. I was a bit puzzled upon the "people don't drive their cars" comment. And you're probably right about having more than 1 car...ohh, your ex must love having cars! How can he afford 3 cars?!?

I think it is a generalisation of typical Singaporean behaviour - that they would rather go shopping than sight-seeing. I have to attest to that because that was really the case when my SG frens and I were in Canada! The Europeans were heading for the tourist attractions while the Singaporeans headed straight for the stores!

Of course its just stereotypes, but 无风不起浪。- there's no waves without wind. So I do laugh along with the stereotypes while acknowledging its half-truth! Its like saying all Germans wear leather trousers and eat sauerkraut everyday.

Aunty Grace said...

Hi Pris,

A recent newspaper article reported that South East Asia has higher number of millionaires compared to Europe or the States. I guess Singaporeans and Asians like to go shopping becos they have higher disposable income. My observation at shopping centres in the recent years has been that the the mainland Chinese have been swopping up high end branded stuff but Westerners tend to go for cheaper but practical things like t-shirts,fridge magnets and shot glasses as souvenirs.

As for my ex, he made it good during the recent upturn before the global financial crisis. He is semi-retired. Yah he loves cars. Audi and Porsche.

Just wondering, in Germany if it is too expensive for the younger generation to own their homes, what happens when they are old and too weak to work. Where do they stay? Out of curiosity, how much would yr place (which is in a convenient location)be worth?

What is the personal tax rate in Germany? Do workers enjoy a pension scheme or social welfare after retirement?

Pris said...

Hi Aunty Grace

I can imagine that the growth of millionaries is higher in Asia than Europe, since there is an economic boom there.

But I don't think the reason why Asians shop more is based predominantly on a higher disposable income. Its more of a cultural issue. Growing up in Singapore, where we aren't exposed to "culture, arts" etc, we don't really know how to appreciate that aspect when on holiday.

I had to learn how to cultivate enjoying the architecture of old buildings, history, art etc. when I started living and travelling in Europe. People here are in general more interested in culture in the above aspects compared to their Asian counterparts.

Our place is pretty much as expensive as those in Singapore. If you buy a new apartment in a central location, you can be ready to pay almost half a million euros.

But that's not even the main issue. Its ok to buy it and pay back the bank IF the prices in the future are high enough to justify the additional interest expense, lawyer fees etc. But they are not.

As I said before, prices of housing is stagnant and they might even decrease in the future. So why would I buy an "asset" that might most probably turn out to be a "liability" when I sell it?

Eventually most people buy a place either when they decide this is where they want to live until they retire, or when their kids grow up and they no longer need a bigger place.

Actually I'm not entirely sure how that is, but most of the time, one does repay the housing loan before one retires.

We do have a social pension scheme, but the government pension is going downhill because of the greying population.

That's why Stephan decided to be self-employed, because then his pension is private and he gets to "save up "his money in a pension that gives him a higher rate of return when he retires.

Anonymous said...

Hi Pris, Funny article.
I guess the email you received was half truth. Having lived in France for many years, I agree with you that S'poreans shop too much for bargains. I see that in my friends, my mum and my aunties. When I brought them sight seeing, they were always looking out for bargains and then commenting that things were too expensive in France.

They worked hard like all of us but sacrificing many more hours. My bro works for the govt and has to sacrifice his weekends. He is hardly at home.

As for housing, it's true that we can earn money with the increase of property price. My mum's flat has increased in value but where can she stay if she sells her flat? Everywhere else in Sg is expensive. The govt helps with subsidy but what's the use when the price of public housing is market driven and not by building cost.

If you don't mind, I would like to send this funny article to a friend who would appreciate them.


Related Posts with Thumbnails