Singapore skyline


Alina Iterman2023, Begegnungen, Länder & Sitten Leave a Comment


One of the safest and cleanest cities in the world - but at what cost?
11. Februar 2023

Curiosity, excitement but also fear. Those are the only emotions I felt the days before diving into a completely different world seven thousand kilometres away from my beloved and familiar environment.
How will it be? Will I miss home? How long will it take to settle in?
After a 12-hour flight all those questions suddenly didn’t matter anymore. I am here and this new life chapter is actually happening… there is no turning back now.

Im leaving the cold and cloudy Germany to spend a whole sunny semester abroad in Asia’s biggest financial center. Tropical Climate, a multicultural population and a scenery that one usually sees in movies. All feelings of fear have vanished and only pure excitement is left.

Alina in front of MBS
Skyline Singapore
Skyline night Singapore

Late night mango sticky rice cravings

Three days have passed since the arrival in Singapore and my friend and I still didn’t recover from the jetlag, in other words, sleep before 4AM is basically impossible.
Being huge fans of the Southeast Asian cuisine and additionally not being able to sleep anyways, we both suddenly have immense cravings for mango sticky rice (a sweet dessert that consists, as the name implies, of sticky rice, mango and coconut milk). To our surprise many little shops are still open at 3AM, so we don’t think much about it and leave the hotel to walk to the closest Thai-diner. Being outside at this time as a young woman always makes me feel uneasy, especially due several experiences I’ve made in Germany. But for some reason it felt way different here in Singapore. I was actually able to enjoy the 15 minute walk without checking my surroundings in panic, without pretending to be on a phone call and without clinging on my keys in case I have to defend myself.
A dessert has never tasted as good as today.

A safe environment with illegal chewing gum

Did you know that the sale of chewing gum is officially banned in Singapore since the early 1990s?
This ban was implemented with the intention to prevent chewing-gum litter in public places and the high costs that are involved in cleaning those up. This is just one of several laws to improve the cleanliness of Singapore and it really pays off. Littering, for example, counts as a criminal offence, so you will very rarely find trash where it doesn’t belong. The cleanliness never fails to amaze me, especially in comparison to Germany.

I’ve spent the whole semester living in a shared apartment not far from the red-light district. At first, I was very concerned about my safety, as every woman would, but there wasn’t a single moment I’ve felt unsafe in my neighborhood or the Lion City as a whole. The crime rate in Singapore is so significantly low, that I never really had to worry walking completely alone to the grocery store at 11pm or go clubbing with friends. Additionally, it was nothing unusual leaving all your belongings on a bench to go grab a snack – no one will touch it anyways!
It was so strange being able to turn off my fight-or-fly sense, this euphoric feeling made me never want to leave this city again.

Farewell, upsetting return and wanderlust

The most shocking and disappointing contrast was by far leaving from Singapore's Changi airport and arriving at Frankfurt. Changi airport was named the best airport in the world for seven years running. From botanical gardens, sky nets 80 feet off the ground, dozens of shopping opportunities to the tallest indoor waterfall in the world – it feels like another dimension. The airport truly reflects the city's cleanliness and makes your jaw drop. I promise, you have never seen a cleaner airport than here!
Therefore, arriving in Frankfurt I experienced a heavy cultural shock. Unpleasant smell, very unorganized crowds of people, spilled drinks and trash everywhere on the ground – it was a horrific sight. A wave of sadness overran me. I am back at my old environment but it doesn’t really feel secure anymore. Do I have to go back to living in fear again, every time I leave the house after 9pm? Walking through a city that is filled with trash?

But why exactly is that so? What does Singapore do differently to manage being one of the cleanest and safest countries in the world consistently?
Singapore's Changi Airport

First impression of Changi

first impression of Singapores airport

First impression of Frankfurt airport

trash bins

a small insight from a local

To get more insight into this topic I messaged my Singaporean friend named Nathaniel. I asked him some questions regarding this matter and he agreed to me sharing his answers in this blog. Thanks Nat!

1. Do you personally see Singapore as the clean and safe country it portrays to be?


2. What would you describe as the reasons for such a clean an safe environment?


Expensive fines sign for breaking laws

3. Do you see Singapore's government as a democracy or a subtle dictatorship in this matter and overall?


With Nathaniel’s qualitative input and a little bit of further research it is crucial to remember, that Singapore’s low crime rate and extreme tidiness primarily comes from the strict and efficient law implementations, as well as the resulting harsh consequences and punishments if you violate those. Singaporeans have been taught to be more responsible for their actions. They are conscious of the fact that committing any kind of offense, even those that are perceived to be rather small, will either get an expensive fine, physical punishment (e.g. caning), a prison sentence or even worse… such as the death penalty. To ensure quickly catching criminals, CCTV cameras are installed in nearly every place complemented by the fast action of police officers. Big brother is always watching, so there is no point in committing any offences, right? Leaving Singapore all safe and clean for locals and tourists.

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