Experiencing Singapore (17): Remarks on Singaporean Culture as well as Working Culture

As strange as it may sound, I quickly felt at home in Singapore. Yet, there are some downsides you should also be aware of. One is that the young generation gives rise to worries. You find increasing numbers of men and women with tattoos, even though it is a far cry from the West. Obesity numbers also seem to be increasing. That being said, you’ll have no problem maintaining an erection from morning to evening as you go about your day, so high is the quality of the women. While many of the women are slim and attractive, they may have attitudes that you’ll find rather off-putting. Of course, not all women are like that, but it is certainly the case that materialism is rampant. You will find plenty who insist on you having “five Cs” in order to date them, which stands for “cash, car, condominium, country club, and credit card”, albeit country clubs are no longer that popular and credit cars have become an almost plebeian item. However, cars have since then become a lot more expensive. The Singaporean female mind was quick to adapt to that, so you now hear of the four Cs instead: “cash, career, car, condominium.” Who knows, maybe careers have become more elusive since the Five Cs, as that shorthand seemed to have viewed it as a given. The flipside of materialism is delayed childbirth or foregoing to have children altogether. Singapore has one of the lowest birth rates in the world. It is 1.2 right now, but you have to take into account that the Malays and Indians pump out many more kids than the ethnic Chinese. Their numbers are around 0.8 if I recall correctly.

There is also the perception that Singaporean women don’t like to put out. Among my girlfriend’s friends, there are many women who are still virgins despite having had a boyfriend for years. Some of her male friends are happy to have sex once every three months. Their girlfriends seem to view sex as a chore, which they have to engage in every few months to keep their boyfriend happy. The latter is, of course, also due to the fact that quite a few men are rather cucked indeed. I have met a fair share of Chinese men whom I considered masculine — call then “alpha” if you will. Yet, there are a lot of really meek men around as well who look and act like complete pushovers. For instance, they feel uncomfortable just presenting their opinion. Some can’t even make eye contact, so meek are they.

You furthermore may not like the working culture. In particular in companies with a strong Asian tradition, there may be very inflexible hierarchies in place, and of course you have to defer to your supervisor instead of challenging them when their ideas can be shown to be suboptimal. I was told that if I wanted to work in Asia, I should make sure that my boss is a bit more enlightened, i.e. focussing on results as opposed to face time. On that issue, you may end up working for a boss that wants you to arrive before he does, and then you can only leave after he has left. People working 12-hour days is consequently not uncommon. Overall, in rankings of hours worked per year, Singaporeans have one of the leading positions. That’s arguably not great if you’re an employee. However, you have to take into account that Singaporeans may be inclined to work hard, but not smart. I certainly encountered staggering examples of bureaucratic inefficiencies if not incompetence or outright stupidity, such as application forms that take hours to fill in, or employees in both the public and the private sector who do not seem to be able to think outside the narrow categories of the various standard procedures they face over and over when dealing with a situation in which those categories clearly don’t apply. Well, I’ve met moronic public servants everywhere, so that comparison may be moot.

On the note of working hours, I should also point out that I had lunch with an acquaintance in my field who said that in his roughly ten-year long career he normally only ever worked from 10 to 6, with an hour-long lunch break. In Europe, your lunch break is not part of working hours, so that guy is working fewer hours than me. Another acquaintance of mine, incidentally a long-term reader of my blog, only very rarely works overtime. If you want to explore the Singaporean labor market, I’d suggest you do your due diligence. If your contract states that you are supposed to be in the office until your work is done — obviously, in many professions, the work is never done — you may want to probe a little bit. Also keep in mind that various legal protections regarding maximum working hours may not apply to you, and even if they are, your employer may not care, at which point it may irk you a little bit that your working visa is tied to your employer. To get out of that quandary, marry a Singaporean, or make so much money that you are eligible for a special working visa that is not tied to your employer.

What you may also find off-putting is the strong focus on academic credentials. I’m not in general against degrees, but when you have people with b.s. degrees and an attitude of entitlement, you start to wonder. It’s arguably as bad as in the West, if not more. There are already too many university graduates, and there is societal pressure to get a degree no matter what. Thus, you have underemployed degree-holders who seemingly were oblivious to the fact that their Bachelor’s in Mass Communication does not properly qualify them for anything. Sadly, the government wants to increase the percentage of graduates, thus following the West in its follies. After all, from observing that people with good careers tend to have a degree it does not follow that you’ll have a good career if you have a degree. The market can’t properly absorb all graduates already. Also, people don’t get smarter by attending university, as the many graduates from mediocre institutions clearly demonstrate. By pumping out more graduates, the average quality of graduates will only get worse.

A phenomenon related to the inflation of academic credentials is the inflation in job titles. You will now find entry-level positions with titles such as “Manager” or “Senior X”. You’ll be officially an “executive”, but one with little to no power, and without reports. Make of that what you will. I find it ridiculous.

In particular those who want to snag themselves a sexy Asian woman with traditional values and the body of a sex doll, you should know of the concept of filial piety. In Asia, children are generally brought up to defer to their parents. This includes supporting them monetarily, even if they don’t need the money. For instance, you could have your first job at 24 or 25, and give a quarter of your income to our parents, month after month. If you wonder where this comes from, then consider that no or only a very rudimentary welfare state exists in many Asian countries. Now, if you marry a woman and you live together in a separate household, filial piety is not in any way canceled. She may still be expected to pay up, and if she doesn’t work, you’re supposed to pay filial piety money to her parents instead. Thus, you are not going to just marry a woman, and neither are you marrying into a family. Instead, you are marrying an entire family (!) and one who may expect you to chip in.

The legal situation is problematic as well. Divorce laws are arguably worse than in many Western countries. The laws don’t even know the concept of awarding alimony to the husband, while alimony paid to the ex-wife is for life. That’s of course complete bullshit. A potential silver lining is that there is no no-fault divorce. But that only applies until you start looking into this issue and realize that the bar for divorce may be higher than in the West. Yet, it’s not particularly high either. If there are no objective reasons, like deserting your spouse, there is the catch-all justification of “unreasonable behavior”, which is open to interpretation and can essentially mean anything your spouse finds unreasonable at this particular point in time, even though she didn’t view it this way before. It’s the female double bind elevated to the status of law.

Lastly, and more specifically related to Singapore as opposed to many other Asian countries, is the fact that some Singaporeans are incredibly naive because they’ve grown up so sheltered. For instance, my girlfriend used to carry her expensive iPhone in her back pocket, and it was sticking out about halfway. She was completely oblivious to the fact that there are pickpockets. In general, Singaporeans who travel to the West tend to assume that other societies are likewise built on trust, and that they would be safe, at all times, no matter where they go. Nothing could be further from the truth. One of the most shocking examples of this a female friend of my girlfriend who wanted to spend a few months on her own in an African country with a sky-high rape and murder rate. She didn’t even bother to read up on crime rates and issues of personal safety as she was unaware that those were even issues to look into. It boggles the mind.

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