Singapore

At the start of 1994 we moved from Taipei to Singapore. We lived there for almost 6 years.

The whole thing was related to a rather complicated company situation. A venture capital company bought and merged two companies that made devices that attached to ultrasound systems: Freeland Systems and TomTec. My employer, as a Freeland distributor, was part of the deal. The office was relocated to Japan and I moved to Singapore to open an office to support South East Asia. I became an employee of TomTec Inc.

TomTec gave Cassandra a job and we worked out of an office in the warehouse of our Singapore distributor.

Singapore was good to us. The controlled environment was a big contrast to the free wheeling energy of Taipei. We were in striking distance of lots of good places to visit. And we made some good friends there.

Notable things about Singapore.

Firstly, the political system is rather strange. They are a young country having only come into existence in the sixties. Ever since then they have been controlled by the same political party. The People's Action Party (PAP) owns huge chunks of Singapore's property and industry, they dominate politics and the media. Political discourse seems to be characterized by some member of the PAP suing a member of the opposition over defamation and the compliant judiciary convicting them and fining them for astronomical sums. Thus opposition members are routinely bankrupted and barred from further politics. I admire Singapore opposition politicians for their pluck and dedication. They haven't a snowflake's chance in hell of making a difference. And on the rare occasion that an opposition member does get a seat, the government doesn't hesitate to punish the "offending" voters by cutting services and redrawing electoral boundaries so it doesn't happen again. But for all that, people are fairly happy and things do work very efficiently. People are slowly getting more freedoms, long hair is now allowed! and its a pleasant place. People call it a benevolent dictatorship and I am inclined to agree.

Living in Singapore is unlike living anywhere else. Nearly everybody lives in an apartment, and most of them live in government sponsored high rise apartments called Housing Development Board (HDB) flats. Towns are planned and build around these buildings. Its not legal to rent these to foreigners, but lots of people do and we lived in them for our whole time there. Even though it was a bit like being a battery hen, we liked HDB living a lot. Its clean and comfortable. Everything works (unless you voted SDP!). And there is always a supermarket, hawker center (more on this later) and rapid transit/bus stop nearby. I think it showcases a lot of the advantages of high density living.

There is lots of good food in Singapore. It has good Chinese, Malay and Indian food. But in our opinion the best food is a kind of fusion between these distinct food styles. I could go on and on (and on) about Singapore food. Really good dishes are Chicken Rice, Laksa, Fishhead Curry(yes, really!), Roti Prata, Pepper Crab, Durian...... Hawker centers came into being when the government banned street food hawkers. They all got moved into big buildings called hawker centers. They are a bit like food courts, but usually only partly enclosed with a roof and limited or partial walls. There can be hundreds of little food stalls in one. Most of the really good Singapore dishes can be found at Hawker Centers and if you know some locals or live there for a bit you will learn where really good examples of each are. There is always a hawker center nearby.

From Singapore you can be in Malaysia within a very short time (you can drive or even bus, then walk) and you can be in Indonesia pretty quickly too. Even the whole wider South East Asia is not too far away. We spent quite a bit of time in Malaysia especially. We had good trips to some Malaysian islands, Kuala Lumpur and quite a few other places on the Malaysian peninsula.

Singapore is host to our all time favorite sporting event: the Singapore Rugby Sevens!

There are a lot of expats in Singapore. During the last couple of years there we got to know a lot of them because our office was in the German Center so we had lots of German friends. And we started going to the US Embassy party too. Towards the end of our time in Singapore we had a very active social life, embassy party, German center beer night and our home brew circle were all very regular events. It was a lot of fun and we made some good friends there.