While I knew that petty crime was almost unheard of in Singapore, I was nonetheless surprised at how trusting people are. If you want to reserve a seat, you just reserve it by plunking down your backpack or laptop, or by placing your smartphone on the table. Below is a picture of a friend of mine who thought nothing of leaving his iPhone X at the table to indicate that this seat is taken. I noticed that when I returned to the table, so it wasn’t the case that he left his phone there in the expectation that we would watch it. This happened in a busy food court with no visible security.
Looking around, I spotted something quite similar, a young woman reserving a table by simply leaving her bag on the chair:
You should not think these were singular occurrences. People simply have the expectation that their belongings will still be there after returning. In the West, we would view this as gross negligence as a grab-and-dash — it probably says a lot that we in the West have a term for that kind of phenomenon — would be almost guaranteed.
Here is the same, just scaled up, in a picture my girlfriend sent me:
This rack is used by students at the National University of Singapore for charging their various electronic devices. Even though there is a sign telling them not to leave their belongings unattended, possibly a concession of the university administration to various habits foreign students may enrich the locals with, people generally don’t seem to worry at all that someone could steal their things. At first I found it quite baffling. Then it slowly sank in that I’m not in the West anymore. [EDIT: I made a mistake. That picture shows a public library, which makes this even more remarkable as anyone can just walk into those, while university libraries are not open to the public.]
I have to admit that I was quite fascinated by this phenomenon. In this post I only highlight a few noteworthy cases. However, I’ve seen quite a few people just reserving a seat by putting their wallet on the table. This even happens at a place like McDonald’s. The mere thought of doing that in the West would be completely ridiculous. You could as well give your wallet to Ali right away.
Another great example is the following: a group of guys played some game outside, and fifteen to twenty meters away from them I saw an unattended guitar and an expensive camera:
It’s not just people. This habit is even ingrained in business. For instance, you will see crates of fresh food unattended, or stacks of supplies outside of a store. At a conference, you may see some business representative leaving his laptop or tablet on a table while he’s away for lunch. Here, at some conference I attended, an iPad was, um, up for grabs, and nobody cared:
I observed this for a few minutes and walked back to this stall once or twice. It seems the guy manning that booth just went to lunch. Well, it seems that the idea that someone could steal something just does not seem to register among Singaporeans. People don’t steal, so it’s no problem. This is not due to overbearing police presence, however. In fact, I rarely saw any policemen at all. In my almost three weeks, I counted six policemen: four unarmed traffic policemen and two armed policemen at the airport. Otherwise, the deal is that people just follow the laws. I know, it’s a revolutionary concept!
All of those incidents should not be easily dismissed. It is very difficult to build trust, and very easy to lose it. Thus, the experience of having something stolen from you must be exceedingly rare in order for that kind of habit to manifest itself in society. With a few bad apples, things could quickly change. Well, in the West women used to jog on their own, but all it takes is a wave of rapes committed by illegal immigrants to make them stop. People tend to quickly adjust to reality. This also applies to all those lefties who clamor for open borders and flooding their country with “doctors and engineers” from Somalia (look up their average IQ!). Yet, they go to great lengths to not send their kids to a school with a high degree of racial diversity.
What I found most startling was that Singapore taught me how much I have my guard up, and how little trust I have in my environment. Well, in the West you just have to. I wouldn’t leave my phone or laptop anywhere, and the thought of reserving a seat by putting my wallet on the table while I walk off to order would be enough to be declared clinically insane. I didn’t behave like a Singaporean would. However, I quickly grew to appreciate that I didn’t have to actively watch my belongings all the time. Nobody would steal my backpack. Yet, in the West, I experienced two attempts. Once a leftist dipshit at a German university tried grabbing my backpack and run off, the other time a Middle Eastern cultural enricher launched himself at me, trying to get a hold of the strap my backpack and run me over.
Overall, I felt secure wherever I went. This includes the Singaporean red-light district. Arguably the only crime the people commit is littering. The hookers there didn’t accost men, there are no drug dealers, and nobody tried pickpocketing me either. The feeling of personal safety is in a stark contrast to the West. Heck, I even lock my personal valuables away when I’m at work because I don’t trust the cleaners. Also, the building has no internal security. Once you’ve made it past reception, you’re in. I used to think having to have your guard up was normal. As it turned out, it is not. It’s just that Western society has been decaying.
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4 thoughts on “Experiencing Singapore (10): A Culture of Trust”
And, did you get reactions from the locals when it became apparent that you have your guard up?
In other words, did they make remarks about your vigilance?
Yup. I did. Haha! From a local’s perspective it just seemed unnecessary for Aaron to keep eternally vigilant by carrying his backpack on one shoulder, given that pickpockets are almost non-existent.
The more you talk about the west, the more it sounds like my native Latin America.
I recently visited Germany. In the Frankfurt airport, the voice on the loudspeakers constantly reminded you to not leave belongings unattended. I cannot remember hearing that on my previous visit.
When I took a long distance bus, the driver mentioned luggage sometimes being stolen out of the lower compartments. That seemed new to me too.