Angmoh’s View of Singapore: I will choose Singapore again in a heartbeat.

New York

Angmoh’s View of Singapore: I will choose Singapore again in a heartbeat.

by Dr. Theodore Shawcross

I’ve read all the answers here and I’d just like to give my opinion on Why People hate Singapore, as a “foreign talent” as an “angmoh” and as someone who grew up in England, eventually moved to the US for my PhD, and then chose to raise my family in Singapore.

As a person who grew up in the west, there’s nothing that gives more credence to the phrase “the grass is greener on the other side” than when a caucasian chooses to move to a predominantly Asian country. It gives me great pride to say that I could somehow travel 10 years back in time to that moment I made this decision to move to Singapore with my wife and 5 month old boy, I will choose Singapore again in a heartbeat.

Singapore is an amazing country. That sentence is perhaps more of an understatement than any of the understatements in history, because although many Singaporeans like to rant about its imperfections, Singapore is the closest you can get to a near perfectly run country. I’m saying this objectively, because amid all the freedom, the welfare, the “quality of life” that Singaporeans seem to admire about Scandinavian countries, or for some odd reason, the US and the UK, I sincerely doubt that any person with the desire to be in a competitive, fast-paced, ultra modern, yet clean, safe and economically solvent country would have any other options other than Singapore.

Singapore has lived up to all my expectations of enabling my children to receive a world leading education, to grow up in a country bereft of violence, misconduct and disorder, and enabling me to work alongside one of the most highly educated and skilled pool of talent that happens to speak in my native tongue, to enable my wife and I to mingle with people from all around the world in a tight knit environment, to live in an essentially equal country without overt racism because to be Singaporean is to accept that anyone can be Singaporean, regardless or race and religion, now that’s priceless. The US has always claimed to be an inclusive country where people of different walks of life can live freely and ironically “safely”, it might be a surprise to some folks because they never really found out how to get that done.

Racial Equality

This country has its flaws, but I’m an economist, therefore I know firsthand that whatever you choose, there is always going to be something you give up. Freedom of speech is something that has become very controversial in recent Singaporean history given the persecution that Amos Yee had to face by posting a seemingly “harmless” video. It has become a theme now that young Singaporeans are becoming increasingly enchanted with Western ideas of freedom and yet they’ve not actually lived in those countries long enough to get an idea of what that sort of freedom is about.

Singapore is undoubtedly multiracial, and to maintain this heterogeneity comes at a huge price, it’s a price that the founders of this country felt it was worth paying, and it did pay off. I come from a country riddled with hate crime. Although I’ve never really experienced it firsthand on the tube or on buses, but everyone in England will always have that friend with a story to tell about racial conflict in public places. I’ve also lived for more than half a decade in the US, essentially a country still deeply ensconced in racial tensions, especially in southern states. Singapore is a country that has essentially solved that problem.

Cost of Living

I understand through volunteer work and community service in Singapore that there are people choking under the increased stress that Singapore is becoming too expensive for the poor. I don’t like to dismiss this as a problem we cannot solve, but I would say that it is a very difficult problem to solve. Singapore is an entrepôt nation, add that to the fact that it is one of the most densely populated modern metropolises in the world. Being born in this country has its disadvantages if you weren’t born into a well-to-do family, I get that.

To keep any economy stable, solvent, and growing, there will be positive selection from other countries, it’s inevitable. The rich, the highly qualified, the highly skilled will always find a reason to get their asses to this island. I’m a living breathing example of that. People will always move to the place, the job, the field or the country they feel they can be most productive in, it’s just economics. Now the only way the government can solve this problem, is to increase spending in welfare, how? Well the only way is to increase taxes isn’t it? But wait, isn’t the only thing keeping Singapore such an attractive location for startup businesses and highly skilled professionals is the relatively low taxes? Singapore is too small a country to be dilly-dallying, that I can assure you. It needs to stay competitive, it needs to keep growing, otherwise it wouldn’t last long, and I do mean, the country will crumble if its economy falters.

There are many things keeping this country economically strong, many components, many attributes, I believe the current government understands that and it’s difficult to compromise those components to improve the cost of living. The cost of living of any metropolitan city is bound to be high, Google the rent on flats in New York, or London, or Tokyo, or Sydney, and I’ll find something to keep your jaws from dropping. With the exception of Tokyo and maybe Sydney, most of the capital cities in the world are filthy, dangerous, crime-infested and their public transport systems are failing ALL THE TIME. And I do mean “all the time”, not the once a month kind of deal that we have to deal with SMRT. I will not in a million years expect Singapore to be any less expensive to live in than any of these cities, and yet it holds up pretty well. Singapore can be affordable, which is one of the great triumphs of the Singaporean government, which is to make relatively high quality public housing available and provide financial aids to afford them. It’s impossible to go out for a proper meal in London without having to spend more than 50 SGD on your meal, whereas I can take a train to any shopping mall with a food court and spend less than 10 SGD on a full meal, sitting in clean seats and an air-conditioned environment.

Singapore has a lot to give, and I can imagine being in the shoes of the government, because the people never seem to be satisfied with what they have. It’s a really tough job.

Cost of Cars

Something that’s linked quite closely to the Singaporean notion of “quality of life” is car ownership. Yes cars are bloody expensive in Singapore, more expensive than any other country perhaps. The government seeks to solve this problem through making public transport a viable option, by constantly expanding their coverage and making it very affordable. Barring the relatively infrequent breakdowns. In America car ownership would be something of a necessity, because it is virtually impossible to travel without having a car. I drove an hour from where I lived to the Stanford campus every day for 5 years. However, you can only imagine the traffic congestion I have to deal with on the I-80 every day. Making cars affordable in Singapore is just going to make the roads more congested, at which point it’s not going to make sense to own a car anymore.

Freedom of Expression

I believe I touched a little on this topic, so now I’m going to clarify that freedom of expression has never meant freedom to say anything you want without consequences. You may think there is freedom in just about any modern developed country so why can’t Singapore have it, but you have to also take in account the laws that these countries have against racism such as the Crime and Disorder Act in Britain. There is absolutely no country in which you can just say anything to incite violence, disorder, or possibly terrorism without being persecuted. The US is a very unique situation wherein everyone can practically say anything they want without being held for trial, but that doesn’t mean you can defame anyone you like without being sued.

Yes, the US probably has the freedom of expression that most young, naive Singaporeans are asking for, but look at the state of the country, and look how they were able to regulate racism. I really wonder if that is what Singaporeans want, the freedom to go on any MRT train and call an Indian or a Malay person out based on the colour of their skin. This toxic right belittles the very equality that the founding fathers of this country fought for.

I thought Singapore left Malaysia because they weren’t able to promise the sort of racial equality that Lee Kuan Yew had asked for. People may argue that this wouldn’t happen, and that education is the only solution to racial tolerance, but how many people in Singapore are actually educated to the level that would make them impervious to racial hate? The last I checked, the leader of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke is a university graduate. Humans cannot realistically be given the ability to run their mouths in hopes that education can be an effective restrictor, because it is obviously not. Only the law can protect the rights of the people from being offended, racially or religiously. The question on whether the right of being protected from emotional harm or the right to be able to express our ideas freely has an obvious answer. People want to be able to say what they want, but they aren’t willing to bear the consequences that being emotionally fragile human beings, violence is just one step away from offensive remarks with racial or religious undertones. This brings us to the question of “is prevention better than cure”. Do we want to let loose the darkest sides of our psyches in hopes that Singapore will continue to be an inclusive society?

I’m not going to sugarcoat the bad things about Singapore, because there are some pretty strict laws that must be changed, like laws against homosexuality, which I think will, in time, be abolished. But people need to understand one thing, if you want to demand the government to do something about your problems, please make sure you’ve done enough academic research about whether or not your problems are essential problems, or are they problems that are just characteristic of a modern metropolitan city, for if they are, there’s really no solution to many of those problems. No country has been able to keep housing affordable in their capital city relatively to their suburban or rural areas. Singapore has no suburban areas, the closest thing we have to a countryside is Malaysia, where houses are by the Singaporean definition, affordable and cheap. As I have said about freedom of expression, there’s a huge price we have to pay for it. Not everyone is educated, not everyone is inherently tolerant. If we allow that to happen, may I refer you to the countless of videos on UK, US and Aussie racism that happened regardless of the laws imposed against racial remarks in the UK and Australia. If Singapore starts to lax its laws against freedom of expression then the fundamentals of what made this country great will crumble.

So why do people hate Singapore you ask? Well my only answer is blame Hollywood, and blame ignorance. Young people are a pain in the ass, we’ve all been through that phase. They just need to grow up and realise that you cannot always get what you want, you should not always get what you want.

Singapore is in good hands, and I’m proud to stay on, contribute to the economy, create jobs for Singaporeans, do community and volunteer work, all in the name of preserving my choice to come live here.

Majulah Singapura.


I’ve received a lot of abuse on the internet these past few days, so I felt that I had to clarify that I do not claim to know all about Singapore, or any at all, everything I said here are based on my observations living in the country. I’m very new to this whole internet thing so I’m starting to get the sense that it isn’t quite that hospitable, I probably should go back to commenting on Brexit and UK questions on here. It has never been my intention to overlook any of the problems that I didn’t bring up, or introduce sweeping solutions of how freedom of speech is mutually exclusive to racial harmony. I based my responses on my experiences in the US and UK, so it’s not mental to come to the conclusion that you have to have some level of control otherwise they can be no harmony. It’s nice to have so many people show their appreciation for my answer, but this whole questioning of my identity malarkey is getting out of hand, I do not work for the PAP, nor can I vote in elections, I’m sure if I was writing this as propaganda, there would be much more I should’ve said. Have nice life everyone.

About the Author


21 thoughts on “Angmoh’s View of Singapore: I will choose Singapore again in a heartbeat.

  1. Yes! Why Mr. Shawcross got heat is simply because Singaporeans have never lived in Malaysia and have to go through the pile of crap called Ketuanan and that Camel dung of a religion, and they are forever ungrateful lot because they do not know that a government would handicap a citizen simply on their heritage. But then again, such a place will make you sterile, and watching UMNO and the stupidity at home at least makes us feel a little better than God did make us all different after all and that the most religious and pious are the biggest bastards in the world. Says much for their religion I suppose!

  2. “There is absolutely no country in which you can just say anything to incite violence, disorder, or possibly terrorism without being persecuted”.

    There is at least one exception i.e. UMNO Baru-BN’s 1Malaysia.

  3. History tells us that one man can change the future of the nation. Hence, never take the eye off the ball. The construction of a nation has no sunset clause. At a blink of the eye things can change. Eternal vigilance is the name of the game of nation building.

  4. What is the author’s socio -economic status in a ex colonial country. If you factor in reverse racism, with a maid thrown in ( a luxury in western world) and the inherent pre conceived presumptive view of the “angmoh” by the locals of course the author would prefer Singapore , for a life style that he would not get in his own country.

  5. James, have some respect for the religion of Islam and dont call it Camel Dung. You have to be able to differentiate between the religion (Islam) and the adherent or followers (Muslims) of which you abhor.

  6. Singapore came up in growth as it allowed the lower classes to rise. As in any capitalism system this somehow gets left behind. There has to be safety nets and opportunities for lower classes to keep rising . The problems of not is too evident.. the expression bit is.creativity to thrive. You cannot curbe expression without curbing creative juices. So you get great execution without much innovation

  7. Dr. Theodore Shawcross (the Angmoh) is a high talent and the door is always open in Singapore for people like him. His singing of praise for the country is understandable though some of the features he has hightlighted reflecting good and efficient governance is a living truism. I only hope he has not become an Economist at the expense of an equally qualified Singaporean.

    Xenophophia is a condition that infects the most vulnerable of the locals. I recently met a marine surveyor who told me that he is going through tough times. 20 years back he would charge $4,000 to 5,000 for every survey assignment. But now he has been priced out because the market is flooded with foreign marine surveyors who charge $1,000 to 3000 per job. Many mid-level jobs have been taken over by foreigners from Singaporeans leaving the latter jobless or become taxi-drivers and security guards.

    Surprisingly Singapore finds itself in an enviable position. Brexit can come and go, Donald Trump can be the next US President, political upheavles can take place elsewhere, but Singapore is poised to suck in a good portion of the flowing out funds of big businesses from home turf looking for save haven.

  8. The, in the past you’ve written very good comments and have contributed excellent points. I thought very highly of you. But your last comment finally reveal your true character, one that lacks civility.

  9. Orang Malaya

    With all your years of wisdom,I am surprise you cannot read the true nature of people like The,Shou and James.There is nothing civil about them at all.In fact they are the replicas of Jamal ikan bakar .They hide their Islamophobia behind their more polished discourse.

  10. Indeed Abdul Jalil, I guess my fault is to give everybody a fair chance and not prejudge them till they show their true colors. I am just observing what the bloghost had mentioned in his welcome note.
    “Please refrain from making remarks or comments which exceed the bounds of common decency.” Din Merican

  11. Abdul Jalil, it is funny that you should accuse me of Islamophobia. I am an equal opportunist – I am against all the silliness that are contained in the 3 Abrahamiac religions. The camel urine quote is a good example – please read it in context:

    In fact, there’s a video and news report of a a Saudi man arrested for bottling camel urine and adulterating it with his own urine and selling them.

  12. The
    Only a cultured and civilized man can differentiate between the moronic and fraudulent acts of some of its adherents against the concepts of the ideology itself but unfortunately you are not one.Being atheist doesnt give you the right to be contemptible toward other people beliefs.

  13. You are so civilized and cultured that you took one phrase from me and labelled me an Islamophobe. You don’t even know me. Just because we disagreed on previous issues, you lumped me with James and Shiou. How does mentioning camel urine become contemptible. You are reading too much my friend.

  14. Singaporeans love to complain about everything in Singapore.
    Some young punks even complain that their E P F has being
    mismanaged by the Government of Singapore. I have no knowledge
    of who manages C P F funds. I used to be like these young
    Singaporeans complaining all the time. Slightly off topic but
    needed to be said.

    Mr. Shawcross has many valid points that Singapore is good
    good place to live, raise your kids & opportunities to
    advance through education etc. I agree with him there is no perfect
    country to live in.

    I am going to receive much criticism in my next statement.

    Singaporeans may proudly claim in their pledge “we the
    people of Singapore” but I think Malaysia is really going to affect
    race relations between Chinese, Malays & Indians.
    What happen in Malaysia will eventually affect Singapore.
    The resurgence of Islam in the world & Malaysia has led
    to many statements from religious people like the mufti
    of Pahang said it is legitimate to kill non Muslims who are against
    Islam & ISIS claiming the bombing of the club with people
    watching football is their work.
    Now I see many young Malays doing National Service & being
    train to handle weapons. What happen if there a a lone wolf
    Muslim fanatic among them like in Ford Hood where the lone
    wolf killed many American soldiers. Lee Kuan Yew has said
    in 1970s where is Muslim Malay men loyalty when there is
    trouble in Malaysia & he is holding a sub machine gun
    behind our non Muslim sons. There have been many
    arrests of fanatics in Singapore.

    My take Mr. Shawcross your happiness in Singapore will
    be affected by events in neighbouring countries &
    you sir will definitely leave Singapore & go back to
    England. You have most probably retain your British
    passport & maybe your children as well.

    Your idealism will come to an end when the
    basics of life in this region is still very much race
    & religion.

  15. The and the other folks mentioned to the best of my knowledge (considering their posting history) do not suffer from Islamophobia. Sometimes when the issue of Islam crops up, we tend to emphasize the negative because the negative is official national policy.

  16. Conrad, I can understand when you say when the issue of Islam crops up, they tend to emphasize on the negative but what I cannot agree is to belittle the Religion instead of the followers. To comment on any religion, the commentator needs to be able to differentiate between the religion and the followers. The action of some Christians does allow anyone to call Christianity names such as Camel Dung or Camel Urine, neither do the actions of some Myannmar Buddhist in mass killing Rohingyas allow Buddhism to be called some deragotary names.

  17. Fair enough Orang Malaya.

    I think it is important to make the distinction you mentioned and sometimes people do not do that especially on message boards where one line answers are common.

  18. orang malaya – my apologies to you as I have not made myself clear.

    Conrad is spot on about one liners. It was silly of me to assume readers know the context and the subtext, and that they are aware of the background knowledge that I was referencing.

    But I take objection to Abdul Jalil labelling me an Islamophobe. I have been even more critical of the other organized religions, but never have I been accused of being a Judaeophobe or Christianophobe.

    Note to self: refrain from one-liners – it is susceptible to be misunderstood. I think Din can vouch for this fact.

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