Why Living In Singapore Isn’t As Horrible As You Think

We’re still pretty angsty when it comes to whether Singapore is the place we wanna stay in or not.

I know many people who hate Singapore, fellow Singaporeans and the whole shitty system here.

I also know many people who love Singapore regardless of the imperfections they encounter, and count their blessings every day that “Heng Ah!” they live here and not in some ISIS or militia-controlled region in other parts of the world.

Sometimes it’s by comparison that we know what Singapore is sorely lacking in, and what Singapore isn’t that bad at.

Watching these series of videos by VOS was actually quite eye-opening, because normally I can’t be bothered to sit through any video more than 3 minutes long, unless it’s Descendants of the Sun or similar.

Country comparison

Source: Hong Kong vs Singapore vs Taiwan

I daresay many of the insights VOS got from Singaporeans, Taiwanese and Hongkongers give us a better flavour of how it doesn’t make sense to see only the bad stuff in our own countries, like how this Nicholas Tan just did.

Let’s take housing as an example. Nicholas said:

As a young person in Singapore, I’ll never be able to afford a freehold landed property because the gini coefficient is just too big here and the rich have snapped up all the good private houses. So we can only look at public housing or HDBs. Not only are they small and expensive, it’s also difficult to ballot for the good ones in great locations, meaning that you have to settle for those that are inaccessible and ulu. Also, your HDB doesn’t belong to you totally. You’ll have to give it up after 99 years. You even need a permit to hack down walls to do up your HDB so don’t even think for a moment it belongs to you completely. #truestory

Firstly, the majority of people here live in public housing, which isn’t as elite as having a private landed property, but we have the choice of the cheaper “Housebrand” HDB option if we can’t afford private property.

Singapore housing

Source: Where do Singapore residents stay?

Secondly, most of us paying off HDB loans don’t have to fork out much more than what our CPF can cover, which is different from what the Taiwanese and Hongkongers experience.

Why don’t the majority of Hongkongers go for public housing? Because there isn’t enough public housing in Hong Kong.

HK skyline


What if you can’t get a public flat, would you pay S$730,000 for a 3-room private flat?

Housing HK

Source: Hongkong cost of flat

Here in Singapore we have to wait quite a few years to get our BTO flat or just go for resale, but the possibility of getting our own HDB flat is still there (unless your income is higher than the income ceiling).

We may bitch every month about how much the monthly loan costs, the rising loan interest rates and lift breakdowns. But talk to some of your Hong Kong friends, and see how they live cramped up in such tight conditions that you literally breathe down each others’ necks.

Source: Per capita living area comparison per country

The point I’m making is, in every criterion you benchmark Singapore against the rest of the world, there will some criteria which Singapore performs better, and others which Singapore lags in.

Every country is a basket of goods, some are better, some are worse.

I bitch about Singapore too especially on areas which we can definitely improve on, but I’m happy to have a reasonably-sized roof over my head that I can finance the monthly loans just using my monthly CPF contributions alone.

And my biggest housing worry isn’t about being tied up with a plastic bag over my head at knifepoint by burglars, like what my Malaysian relative experienced.

Instead, it’s about how to ensure I can keep on earning enough to pay off my loan quickly and save up enough for my retirement, and have a better my work-life balance.