Just a quick and excited note here..
Contrary to the Tiger beer billboard below, the game DOES end..and it ended for England! Finally, Germany got it’s revenge for the bitter Wembley defeat of 1966.
Ihr könnt nach Hause fahren, Ihr könnt nach Hause fahren..
Sorry, TIGER! You bet your money on the wrong horse (pls forgive the pun)
NO NEWS TODAY…
Early Tuesday morning (25th May 2010), two vessels collided some kilometers south-east of Changi in the east of Singapore. One of the ships apparently lost about 2500 tons of crude oil over this incident. Obviously, the oil quickly made its way towards the East shores of the island. Aside from the ecological impact, I made one strange observation on the particular day of the accident..The slowness of news agencies to respond. Just imagine that the tanker collision actually took place at 6.11am in the morning on that day. When I left my office building for lunch at around 1.30pm, the strong Petroleum smell hit me like a wall (yes, in offices one is absolutely insulated from the outside through aircons and filters; most people must have found out only during afternoon coffee). Was there anything on the famed StraitsTimes Website? nada. After a bit of digging in twitter, I found the only article that had mentioned the spill so far..a short paragraph on channelnewsasia (it has been extended by them since) that felt like it was written just after the editors were surprised by strong smell during a recent coffee break as well.
(this picture shows cleaners yesterday [28 May] at East Coast Park…laboring to pick up and store oily debris and sand into loads of plastic bags)
…BUT GREAT ACTION TOMORROW
Fair enough, news must have been difficult to obtain, but I was consternated about how long the Singaporean’s main source of news (the StraitsTimes) took to bring this on their online front page. Could this have anything to do with the fact that the Straits Times does not have to fight the healthy war of competition with other local quality newspapers, when it comes to explaining the Singaporean world? Is having news once a day in the morning good enough and Internet not so important? Wild, wild speculation…I would have certainly appreciated more info, especially when the smell of Petroleum was so strong in the streets that you wonder about health risks.
Naturally, the subsequent days brought broad, good coverage about the effect of the oil. Some famous beaches were closed, but the East Coast Park was as busy as ever. I even saw plenty of people still sunbathing and camping just meters away from where the chocolate-colored slick was picked up by workers. ‘No one’s gonna mess with MY holiday plans’ Huh? Quite impressed by so much determination to relax at the sight of the chocolaty mess.
A LATE SPRING CLEANING?
As a last note, it also seemed to me that some people were not too unhappy about the fact that this would finally bring about a proper cleanup of the beach area…which had accumulated a bit of garbage over the time. This is just something I was wondering about a lot when I took the picture above. How on earth would a oil leak suddenly lead to so much rubbish on the beach? Well, well..more speculation here. Anyhow, the good news seems to be (according to local news) that most of the spill could be dispersed on the sea and that the remaining oil that comes in gets thinner and thinner. This localized (meaning Singapore) spill is of course far away from the magnitude experienced off Louisiana in the US right now, but it feels like a live reminder that oil spills are not just faraway news.
(Friday, 28th was a public holiday in Singapore. Vesak day is one of the main Buddhist holidays that mark the birth, enlightenment and passing of Buddha. My German eye and intuition is now challenged with even more Swastikas on street decorations. According to this source, the swastika in Buddhism signifies auspiciousness and good fortune as well as Buddha’s footprints and the Buddha’s heart. How wonderful it is to be in an environment that first associates swastikas with a peaceful religion instead of letting it be dominated by manic Nazis. This is truly odd from my own cultural background..as showing this symbol is a criminal offence in Germany. but very refreshing indeed here)
(A bird’s view on Singapore’s wonderful Marina Bay..including the National Day Parade platform on the left..the Singapore Flyer (Ferris wheel) somewhat in the middle and the three iconic towers of the SANDS Singapore Hotel…with the fantastic skypark area that will only open end of June 2010)
STILL GOT SOME CASH LEFT?
Then let’s have another look at the casino. I managed a casual walk with a good friend into this new attraction a week ago and feel like just leaving a few visual impressions on this site. As one can imagine from my previous post, I strongly resisted the urge to spend a dime on any gambling, but had great fun just observing the area and people. As for ‘observing’..just by counting a few of the small black hemispheres on the ceilings, we guesses there must be thousands of cameras just on one floor. Better behave and sneeze gracefully..there is no hidden corner in this whole building.
WHY GAMBLING IS NOW GOOD FOR SOCIETY
Walking to the entrance, I had to wonder again how Singaporeans feel about the levy of 100$. Does it provide you with some sort of protection from yourself? Or does it actually lead to more risk-taking during gambling in the hope to recoup the levy at the roulette or black jack table? I am not sure about this..but possibly many local gamblers see it as I would…spend the 100 bucks to enjoy a different sort of entertainment (aside from movies or clubbing) with some friends for a night, with the healthy expectation that you will lose a few hundreds and just file the loss afterwards as something that cannot be avoided in such an establishment.
After all, all the collected levies from the Sentosa Resort and the SANDS casino go to the Singapore Totalisator Board and are meant to fund projects that benefit the community. Fair enough and certainly a great way to use this money. On the other hand, to me this sounds strangely familiar to a political stunt in Germany a while ago, where politicians invented the hilarious idea to use increased taxes from smoking directly to fund the states’ ailing retirement balance sheets. This was then rightly ridiculed by many people as ‘Rauchen fuer die Rente’ or ‘Smoking for the Pension’, the sort of weird incentive only some German politicians could have come up with. Here in the casino case, one could equally dub it as ’Gambling for the Community’, as the good local gambler can really enjoy the fuzzy, warm feeling of supporting his/her community by going to the casinos even more. A fantastic win/win, isn’t it?
As a last note on the levies, the press published a few days ago that so far $70m in entry levies were collected by the two Casinos as of 10 May. When I calculate that quickly with my ten fingers, it would mean that the two resorts drew on average about 8000 Singaporeans/PRs in per day. What do all these people spend? How much do they win? Not sure whether there will be any public data on this, but it would be absolutely interesting.
(A look from the entry level 1st floor to the ground floor, where smoking and drinking at the tables seems allowed. Nice, impressive architecture…but despite the warm, golden-red colors, the whole surrounding still felt a bit technical and cold to me)
MONEY AND REASONING
Walking around the aisles, it became apparent that on most tables only small money is played. One could say, the lower and the first floor are somewhat the ‘staple’ of the casino to fill up the place with normal folks. Stakes are usually in 10$ chips for the Roulette tables and each game with the money wheel will not drain more than 5 Cents from you. Not too much money can be made here (I am of course talking from the Casino’s point of view), which is why there are two upper floors with more than 30 private rooms. Surely, the real action takes place here..and I can only imagine the stakes…which are supposedly higher in Singapore than in Vegas, but I have no data to support that.
I want to close this post with a quick reference to an article in the Economist Newspaper on the 6th of May (Link). In it, the author describes recent findings on the addictive nature of ‘near misses’ in gambling. “Gamblers apparently often believe that games like roulette, picking lottery numbers involve some degree of skill, even though they do not.” As opposed to Football, where a near miss (almost striking a goal) can mean a valuable lesson and lead to improvement for the player, a ‘near miss’ in gambling is meaningless as it does not involve skill but a set of known probabilities. Even worse, it then produces the fake, rewarding feelings (and increased dopamine levels) that eventually can lead to addiction.
What to do? Just play, have fun with friends at a night out, but we aware of your own insignificance as a player in this system. You cannot game the casino and even if you win once on the evening, the law of big numbers is threateningly hovering over your head. Greed will almost ensure that you will lose out in the end and fall victim to the designed probabilities.
As Wilson Mizner (American Dramatist) wrote:
Gambling: The sure way of getting nothing for something.
A NEW GAME IN TOWN
It finally happened…the Sands Casino Singapore opened its doors with about 4 months delay or so on 27.April, 3.18pm. Why that particular time? This is due to Chinese beliefs that certain number combinations are more auspicious than others and will promise prosperity and luck. Lucky for whom? I guess mostly for the casino, which is already the second attempt of luring even more foreigners into Singapore to spend their money away on slot machines and roulette tables. Luckily enough for locals (Singaporean citizens and PRs), they are well protected from temptation and impulse gambling through a mandatory entrance fee of daily S$100 or yearly S$2000. This should keep all the (ahem) weak minds away. Understandably, this policy was and is quite in hot debate here as it gives a strong feeling of being patronized; I guess that this is one of the cornerstones that allowed to establish this sort of business on the large scale in Singapore in the first place. After all, it easily allows the officials to declare that they follow through with their ambition to keep harm away from the locals, while making sure that foreign money finds no obstacle to arrive and stay in abundance.
Will this work out? Can you introduce a morally fragile business on a large scale in prime areas to make big profit without abandoning your own moral compass? Obviously this could send the message that foreigners need not to be protected from the same human flaws and are free to wreck their own balance sheets. Fair enough then. Let’s get the games started !
TAXIS EVERYWHERE? NO MORE
One detail around the Sands opening is way more important to locals. The fact that Taxis now start to impose an additional S$3 surcharge for Marina Bay Sands from May 13th onwards is creating another wave of debate. Taxi prices and their continuous rise during the last years have always been a fun, good source of small talk in Singapore…it is just a wonderful topic everyone can complain about together and therefore feel in unison. I noticed a substantial rise of fees myself since I first arrived in 2005. More importantly, the pricing has evolved into quite a complicated monster that only real number-crunchers can fully appreciate. The plethora of extra charges depending on day, time, company, car type and starting place is astounding…all in the name of flexibility but in the end it’s just another way to raise prices.
Personally, I find the prices still in the ok zone and can keep up with them. What is more important is that the new attractions in the south (especially the Integrated Resorts on Sentosa and the Sands Casino) seem to lure away many taxi-uncles with the promise of a 3$ extra earning. I do experience that it is getting more difficult to find cabs to flag down these days and am just guessing here regarding the cause. The additional surcharge for the Sands Casino is likely to drain the Marina Bay area of cabs very soon. After all, this is just rational for the cab drivers. Why pick some passenger up who flagged by the street if you can get more just around the next corner?
(this is interesting…so was the original reference to the shape of DNA too complicated and awkward? Did no one get it? Maybe some people just thought there should have been two bridges. anyway, the ‘new’ name is more catchy. surely, there will be a bar/club with that name coming up)
CAN YOU WIN IN A CASINO?
Obviously, this is very unlikely. Even if you win occasionally, human flaws and Casino business design will ensure a handsome profit for the business. Why do people still go and try? Why do they spend their hard-earned money on 4D or gambling? Because they think they expose themselves to luck, to the one chance in their lifes to win big. The bitter truth is however, that casinos and lotteries have nothing to do with uncertainty. They are well-established businesses, where games and probabilities are designed to ensure the exact target profit margin of the entrepreneur. This is well-put in the book ‘The Black Swan’ by Nassim Taleb, who says “The casino is the only human venture I know where the probabilities are known, Gaussian (i.e., bell-curve), and almost computable.” How true and how sad for some people who may even lose their livelihoods or just set aside a good regular amount of money for gambling, believing that the big win is just around the corner when the odds are actually designed against you. Better expose yourself to crazy real-life probabilities, to those fantastic ‘unknown unknowns’. There is definitely more chance to win by putting your money into a new business in Singapore or even gambling with stocks (I don’t advocate it). At least here, one is exposed to what Taleb calls a ‘positive Black Swan’, an unlikely, high-impact event that may really change your life. Not so with a Casino, which will just empty your wallets through entrance fees, greedy black jack tables and heavy taxi surcharges to take your no-win home.
(Taxis turn bigger these days. The old days of pure Toyota Crown dominance should be over very soon. New car types show up everywhere…some of which always charge extra just for the car type, even if flagged down. With a higher base of fare of $5 and more transport fare, those cabs are often ignored by locals at taxi stands)
Hey everyone out there…
Long time no see…where have you been?
After just a quick creative hiatus, I restart this blog with a very unspectacular impression…that of bamboo scaffolding. I saw it near International Plaza in the CBD the other day and was again so surprised that this can actually work. It looks shaky and improvised at best..but apparently proves very useful. The material is obviously light, flexible, easy to transport and very durable….the first three definitely would not apply to steel, which is mostly used in the Western world to support structures of that kind.
To (my) Ang Mo eyes this sight may be a bit disturbing at first…one naturally comes to think that it will come crashing down the next moment and this just represents the dirt-cheap alternative to ‘proper’ scaffolding. But again, this is the typical trap of an ethnocentric view and disregards all the advantages of this ancient Asian technique. Using this scaffolding makes just more sense in an economical way..and if the set up is done right, it will be as stable (or better) than anything else. After all, I’d also prefer bamboo over steel to crash down on me in the unhappy event..
More new observations to come
SANTA IS BACK IN SUPERMARKET
Exactly 1 month ago something changed. A familiar taste of lifestyle was back, at first not fully noticeable, but that blurry moment passed quickly. The music was self-explanatory and the red hats with bells marked the familiar decoration that can only come with Christmas, which usually starts now beginning of November (here in Singapore the wide agreement seems to be that decoration before 8th Nov is not prudent). Santa seems to be in good agreement with the local stores to brand public life around that time now with his distinguishable colors, artifacts and (especially) the ubiquitous Christmas songs.
ABOUT COUNTING UP AND DOWN
This is the third time I actually spend Christmas in this tropical metropolis. There are two particular things I’d like to highlight. Counting down: It is common to do a countdown in pubs even on midnight to Christmas Day (24th to 25th December), a practice that caught me totally by surprise 2 years ago when I shared drinks with a German friend at Chijmes when the croud suddeny got loud shortly before midnight; who would imagine that a venerable, supposedly rather quiet family event gets the people to celebrate it in the same way as New Year’s Eve or Chinese New Year? The normal answer: ‘Well, Singaporeans like to count down on everything’. Fair enough then.
The second and much more important ‘counting issue’ is that the concept of Advent Calenders is unheard of here. While kids all around Germany anxiously open a new door on their Christmas calender each day from 1st to 24th of December to find some piece of yummy chocolate or toy (it supposedly makes the waiting period before opening presents more bearable), most of the Singaporeans I met are not even aware of their existence.
Why is this so? Christmas as an event has conquered Singapore almost fully…if it was economically and scientifically possible the country’s leaders would surely try to let it snow a few times to give its people also some taste of White Christmas. But we are limited to hearing ‘Rudolph the Rednose Raindeer’ all around Orchard Road and enjoy the endless buying spree plus one public holiday on the 25th of December. If every possible economic niche has already been exploited, why then are there no Advent Calenders around to be sold kids?
AT THE MELTING POINT
Well, after finally receiving 2 Xmas calendars from my family in Germany via post I found out quickly why it is a hopeless venture to find any in Singapore…Letting a chocolate filled calendar hang on the wall for more than 3 weeks is simply no fun because:
1) the chocolate remains in a constant, but semi-melted physical state, where it is impossible to dig it out of the seperate ‘windows’ without causing a sweet little mess. No way to retrieve every last nugget of chocolate without forcefully working into the plastic form with the available and (supposedly) clean and hungry fingers
2) Due to 1) it is understood that it is virtually impossible to clean out a window completely from chocolate. What will inevitably happen to the gracefully hanged calendar? An army of well-trained Singaporean ants is going to spot an incredible feast, attacks the new target by quickly laying out a perfect supply chain between calendar-chocolate and wherever-the-nest-may-be. Singaporean ants are of course as efficient as the rest of the country and sniff such a ‘free lunch’ opportunity (gracefully provided by an ignorant German) in an instant, to be mercilessly exploited.
Especially fact 2) is not really desirable and should be avoided, as the ensuing ant party would spread the word quite quickly within the ant kingdom and the small guests are not likely to wait before the 24th of December to penetrate the door with the same number and the biggest piece of all.
The bitter but for Singaporeans self-explanatory solution? Off you go, to the fridge or freezer. Which takes all the fun away for me who just wanted to have a little piece of childhood back. No big red Santa hanging around in the home giving away a piece of sweetness everyday. What is obvious to the locals, is of course painful to me. Somewhat gone the previous naive feeling of excitement, replaced by one thought: Can it be that I just looked in the wrong places previously? Maybe I should go back to the stores and look in the frozen-food areas of the supermarkets…?
Wishing an enjoyable 3rd Advent!
(The Singapore flag – Red color standing for universal brotherhood and equality of man whereas white signifies pervading and everlasting purity and virtue. The crescent moon represents a young nation on the ascendant. The five stars stand for the nation’s ideals of democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality. – Shame on me, but when I first saw it in high number during the advent of National Day 2006, I thought there was an ‘invasion’ of Turkish people in Singapore…no comment)
IS THERE SUCH A THING AS A BETTER WORLD?
“We, the citizens of Singapore,
pledge ourselves as one united people,
regardless of race, language or religion,
to build a democratic society
based on justice and equality
so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and
progress for our nation.”
This is the pledge every Singaporean knows and (according to what a friend told me a few days ago) is used to perform on every single day during school career. As I am about to move permanently from Munich to go back to the place I grew so fond of, I take the chance to revive this blog, which was always meant to illustrate the small, little anecdotes and facts I found worth mentioning from my Caucasian point of view in this ‘Asian Switzerland’ (as read on FT recently).
Let me therefore start by dissecting the pledge above a bit and looking at every line from a very subjective German pair of glasses.
(The pictures in this post all belong to one huge, beautiful wall painting which is open to the public at Raffles MRT station; this part depicts nicely how unity is lived in Singapore among different culture groups…Malay in the background, Chinese Singaporeans and an Indian Lady can be seen)
“We, the citizens of Singapore,
pledge ourselves as one united people,
regardless of race, language or religion,
It is still very interesting for me to see that a heterogeneous society such as Singapore, where the citizenry has every skin color imaginable, can work out without clashing into some sort of violence. It can be regarded as one (maybe the most) important achievement of this tiny place that it manages to integrate most culture groups and races without producing hatred and racism. My simple guess is that a society that is based on racial variety (such as Singapore or the United States) has to enforce strict rules in law and public culture to enable a spirit of tolerance; in comparison, the mostly homogeneous society of Germany with a lived so-called ‘Leitkultur’ (leading culture of the majority) of Christian-Caucasian-Western heritage has a hard time integrating a good number of immigrants (for example from Turkey) and struggles finding a way for many years.
to build a democratic society
based on justice and equality
Obviously, Singapore found its very own way of leading its people into at least economic prosperity. Some things such as the defacto rule of the People’s Action Party (PAP) and certain aspects such as freedom of assembly (missing) or freedom of the press (well under control) do not match Western understanding of how things ‘should’ be run and draw regular attention and criticism in the Western press. Certainly, Singapore built a society that is based on justice (one very stable piece of infrastructure that contributes to the steady growth of Singapore) and equality especially across the culture groups and races. Would Germans or other ‘Western’ societies call it a democracy though? Most likely not, but it can be easily overlooked that in this grown-up, but young society people don’t want to be educated by the West to become like them, but instead actively seek their own way to establish ‘order, stability and security’…things Singaporeans clearly value much more than living with more ‘freedom’ to self-express or facing the higher uncertainty of very liberal societies. The classic trade-off between freedom and security has found a different, stable equilibrium in Singapore, I would say.
(clearly this picture depicts the sides of progress, [military] strength and solidarity…all intended pillars of society in Singapore)
One thing I found out by talking to many Singaporeans over the past years is that people in this country often see it rather as the place where they live…without necessarily having the deepest emotional bonding to it. From my perspective there is quite a ‘utility view’ present towards state and government…’Dear PAP: Give me a good place to live in, a safe environment, my yearly tax payouts then I will not bother you and you can live in peace with me’.
This means in essence that Singaporeans are quite a pragmatic people who expect from their government mostly to ‘deliver’. However, if this kind of unspoken arrangement works quite effectively using a 1-party-rule which can provide economic prosperity without the nastiest corruption affairs, why the hell not? ‘Never change a running system’ is probably what many people think and live…and which gives them no serious reason of ever supporting the opposition which would only add an unstable (unknown?) component/variable to daily life.
so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and
progress for our nation.”
Singaporeans clearly achieved more prosperity and experienced progress in many ways during the past years. Does this have an effect on happiness though? This is the troublesome part…as we all now, having ‘something’ finally will only induce happiness itself for a short time and then will leave you back wanting more. As anywhere else, prosperity and progress can provide for a foundation of happiness, but it’s up the people to make the best out of it within the framework they live in. It’s those same old values of friendship and family…well-placed in a modern society which can round up the package and turn it into something ‘whole’…
Thomas Jefferson once said: “The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government.” From that perspective, Singapore is doing a good job and I am HAPPY to come back!
Enough of politics today
(Singapore’s MRT….Mass Rapid Transport)
ASIA’S WORLD CITY
HongKong branded itself as ‘Asia’s World City’…designated to strengthen the already good name it has grown into a very powerful financial hub in Asia and found its place in the big world out there. Using the bus to go into Kowloon (which is north of Hong Kong Island, but is itself integral part of this so-called special administrative region in China) I was astonished by the never-ending, quite run-down skyscrapers that were placed into the rugged landscape of Hong Kong merely to house all the people. The better part of Hong Kong’s surface is hard to cultivate as it represents hilly and rugged landscape, so one can see big houses all along the way into the city, apparently built everywhere the land was flat enough to allow housing. This keeps me wondering where this enormous city plans to expand into. Also, a few years ago Hong Kong and Shanghai outstripped Singapore as the world’s biggest ports, giving it even more clout than it already has. We spent a few days just stretching our legs in this city and in nearby Shenzhen…Let me lose a few words on some things that passed on the way.
After arrival in our hotel, we were upgraded right away to VIP class without even asking..giving ourselves the splendor of a much better room than in Singapore (who would have thought…supposedly, Hong Kong rooms are smaller most of the times than anything you would get in Singapore) and even wireless Internet (although nothing to use it with). Was this another instance of Ang Moh (‘Red hair people’ widely used Singaporean expression for caucasians) superiority that can be so often observed in Asia? I do not know, as I did not dare to confront anyone. A good contrast and good start indeed. Next important item on the list is of course the food, whereas Hong Kong has a cuisine that quite differs from what you would get in Singapore. Some things appear outright wrong to me in the first place…such as mixing coffee and tee together with lemon into one drink, or boiling coke with ginger. There are however numerous desserts everywhere in town that have to be tried, as well as such wonderful things as ‘hairy crab’ (not this time) or a kind of humongous prawns that take some mastery to open and cannot be found in Singapore in most places. My favorite dish became a simple fish soup whereas the noodles where made of fish themselves…therefore the easy name of the dish..’noodles made of fish’
EXPENSIVE OR CHEAP?
I tried to buy a gadget …a hand phone that is sold widely in the world, brand SonyEricsson. Not wanting to endeavor in something like a Chinese ‘Sang Ericsson‘ (no joke), I wanted to have something I can even use back in Germany. Hong Kong’s prices are competitive, but why oh why does their warranty only apply locally to HongKong and China through their only distributor of choice? This smacks very bitterly and strangely..and gives me reason enough to mention an article that I have read on German news a while ago. Feelings aside, China is very well-versed at copying things and not caring much about copyright infringements. Cases documented earlier that whole factories have been copied by Chinese which produced for example Canon cameras at the same quality as the originals, but were not supported by the original vendor’s warranty as they were never licensed to be produced. I don’t want to say here right away that most of the products in Hong Kong are counterfeit. Maybe there is even a law that the local dealers have to follow, so not to harm more expensive markets around. Will try to search further..
WINTER, I ADORE YOU
One very noticeable thing about Hong Kong people: Fashion and outlook. Especially the fancy female population craves to be individualistic, which shows itself in daring hairstyle and actually incompatible clothing combinations (miniskirts, winter coat and flipflops worn on the same person). Summers tend to be very hot and winters only mild. Still, one can perfectly distinguish locals from tourists as the tourists will go around in December wearing t-shirts and shorts, while the locals must feel determined to show off their fancy winter clothes…coats, nice cardigans to snuggle into, branded jackets and so on. This is quite funny to see as there really seem to be two worlds existing side by side and one can easily see people in shortest summer look (dressed according to weather) standing besides arctic-dressed and bundled up people (dressed according to calender) waiting on one traffic light to be shooed over. This is apparently perfectly fine and expected behavior..also in Singapore I see that sometimes young people pack out their cardigans as soon as the temperature drops noticeably below 30 degrees to fight any possibly upcoming goosebumps.
Faster Faster! More Singapore Sling!
Finally back! Now that is the third hot december I experience in a row in this lovely part of the world. It is nice to get the chance to spend a whole month at the place of choice. This town has me back for a little while and i am amazed by the buzzing development of this tiny Asian corner. What has been going on?
A famous news was to hear that the city will get the chance to host the first and only Formula 1 night race in September 2008. Fancy lighting in a metropolitan area will allow the race to take place without any compromise. Not surprisingly, hotel prices have rocketed around the track and can reach many thousand Singapore Dollars (roughly 2 Singapore Dollars = 1 Euro) per night, while the Singapore government takes the liberty to eat a considerable part of it as a special tax at the same time..
The city now really is covered with free wireless lan (‘wireless@sg‘) almost all around the city. This comes together with the announcement to start the rollout of highspeed internet around the city from 2010 on…which will be about 10 times faster than todays fastest available DSL. Of course the rich city is subsidizing this to a good extent (700m SG dollars of a total estimated cost of ~2billion)….after all, here one really can see the advantages of being a small city, which has a lot of cash and lives a metropolitan monopoly in the region.
Also, one huge casino will be built just along the nice view of the Singapore river as the city clearly cannot see all that gambling revenue going away to cities like Macau. At the same time Singapore copies the famous london eye and places a huge skyline-changing ferris wheel (the ‘Singapore Flyer‘) also near the river. Last but not least the proudness of the people here should be noted when the A380 took off for its maiden flight to Sidney this October, bearing the symbols of the national icon of Singapore Airlines. Singapore economy is of course also buzzing as usual (~8-10% growth a year)….so is there a catch in all that beauty?
FREE LOVE IN EXPENSIVE HOUSES
All the buzzing goes along with a steep increase in anything that has to do with property. Offices space rents increased by 80% only during the year 2007. Private housing also sees steady increase of at least 20% per year…This does of course not entirely apply to state subsidized housing such as HDB (Housing Development Board), but means that living in this city becomes more and more expensive and many locals cannot keep up just like that. The official inflation rates (1.0% for 2007 and 0.4%) are a joke and must be based on a basket of goods from the year 1980, which can be a reason why they not increase. Everything gets more and more expensive and the people generally get very snuffy when that happens (despite contrary announcements by government).
So what do the people do to counteract? They conduct another national sport besides ‘extreme queuing’, which would be ‘Extreme Job-hopping’. Generally, salaries in Singapore seem to increase by more than 10% per year, but this is rarely payed out when you stay with a company. What do the people of course do? Constantly observe the market and own value, then run off to the the next best offer as soon as the current year bonus is paid out. That’s understandable human behavior I think, but this makes the local job market for professionals unpredictable and volatile. Companies seem to find it increasingly difficult to establish a continuous and stable environment where their company can flourish. Can this be negative? Singapore experiences quite a remarkable buyer’s market regarding labor and some foreign companies might think twice before investing in a place where infrastructure prices are doing quantum leaps every year and your employees can jump off the boat at every second just to not miss another one which runs even faster.
Last thing I want to mention here is that despite a lot of worth-mentioning uproar against section 377 of Singapore’s Penal Code, this not-so-shiny part of traditional society has not yet been abandoned. What does it say? 377 states “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” which includes even consensual, private, adult homosexual acts (377A). The penalties are either life imprisonment or imprisonment for up to 10 years with or without a fine. Interestingly enough, 377 itself has been repealed in October 2007, so that now consensual anal and oral sex is not been seen as mere bestiality by law anymore and not treated as such. It has been replaced by a law criminalizing sex with dead bodies, which was apparently not punishable before.
377A however still remains, which means that homosexuality in Singapore still happens outside the law. Facing the modern world, Singapore has announced to not follow through with criminal prosecution in these cases, so the law shall not be actively enforced. However, this still does shine an odd light on this city as the law has apparently be kept due to widespread discontent with its impending abandonment (heard a number of 70% on the news). Therefore, I personally think it’s a step in the right direction with respect to public sentiment in this Asian society. This is again typical Kaizen…gradual improvement using small steps. Let’s see how this progresses further…
Lost in Bavaria’s metropolis
Munich’s slogan to greet people has apparently recently changed from ‘world city with a heart’ to ‘München mag Dich’ (Munich likes you). Does that mean you have to like it back right away? I guess it’s like with every relationship: some click right away, some do after a while and with some you just have to realize where your limits are.
One can think what he or she wants…Munich, as beautiful and livable as it is, remains strange to me, even after more than 8 months in this Bavarian island of good food, best beer in the world and unheard-of life quality. Salaries are high here, so comparatively high that whole convoys of cars and weekly commuters travel from their distant homes in the rest of the country (predominantly the East, I guess) to work in Munich for the week and then head back to their homes on the weekend. Indeed, according to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, the best salaries are paid in Frankfurt, Munich and Wiesbaden (all deep in the West), the worst in Zwickau, Cottbus and Schwerin (all ‘famous’ East German cities). Even my wider family and countless people in my home village live this odd ritual…leaving family on Sunday night to go on your weekly journey into the golden cities of West Germany, especially Bavaria’s capital to earn a decent living.
Let’s talk about the weather
Why strange? why odd? It could be that you have to be Bavarian and grow up here to really fall in love with this city. Or do I lack the attitude? Maybe I just don’t take the time to look around and see the wonders around, maybe work keeps me too busy. Why did I not fill these pages continuously in the last year? Because the one thing happened that was almost expected and is quite typical to Germans to I guess: Going back home from a long time abroad, it all is so familiar that there does not seem to be much noteworthy. Although there would be…
Life in Germany does to great deal take place behind doors, anyway. Weather makes it impossible to have all-year open restaurants, food stalls etc. on the street, to sit around outside all the night as in Singapore. Germans only have that experience for a few precious months in the year, usually from around June to August, when people seem to suck in life, sun, especially the gorgeous beergardens and the blue sky…everything to make up for freezing months earlier in the year and to prepare for the terrible moments (my personal view of course) when you have to take the big jackets out of the wardrobe and the season of cold feet starts again. Mood generally swings a bit around in October and November when days get shorter and colder and night seems to follow you throughout the whole day the shorter the days get.
The famous German cosiness just cannot have a place outside, but has to be lived inside. Maybe that’s also why privacy and the holiness of your own homes are so very sacred here. One has to be protected against the odds out there…
The Undiscovered Land
What comes next then? After a crazy, almost finished first year of work in a new job, it seems to be finally time to start breathing and to look around in this city of quite homogeneous beauty and attractiveness. This all sounds stupidly melancholic? Welcome to the German soul…no wonder, the word ‘Weltschmerz’ has been invented here. It describes perfectly the state of mood of many people in autumn and winter, but also lays the foundation to the eventual and (my view) most beautiful time of the year..spring.
So this post was very much only about weather, a topic one could say is not worth intelligent talk. But coming back from Singapore, it showed me that the mere fact of changing seasons and unreliable weather does not only provide for constant source of smalltalk-babble, it is much more: constant complaining about the weather is part of the German soul, mood swings, desires (give me palm trees and a beach and I am happy) and even enough reason to move away.
To answer Wilhelm Busch’s famous question whether the educated cannot talk about the weather anymore without any inhibitons?…yes, in Germany they can! Everyone can!