The Complaints Choir of Singapore

I’m a big fan of Singapore, here are some of my favorite things Singapore.

Many Westerners complain that Singapore is too much like home for them, that it somehow isn’t “Asian” enough which says more about their own biases I think than it says about Singapore.

It’s small, it’s clean, people in general speak English. Certainly it’s accessible for a first-time visitor. And for many it’s “just a stopover” but to me I actually enjoy spending time there.

Of course, I’m not a local and so I don’t experience Singapore the way that locals do. And here are their complaints about life in Singapore, set to song, the Singapore Complaints Choir:

We get fined for almost everything
Drivers won’t ‘give chance’ when you want to ‘change lane’
The indoors are cold, the outdoors are hot;
And the humid air, it wrecks my hair

Singapore apparently doesn’t permit foreigners to participate in performances by the Complaints Choir, Singaporeans only or else they can’t get a performance permit, at least that was the case in 2008.

When a pregnant lady gets on the train
Everyone pretends to sleep

No, Singapore may not be perfect. But there are complaints choirs around the world. In my own home town, we have a rap.

In a strange sort of way, my suburb of Washington DC has a lot in common with Singapore. Maybe that’s why I find Singapore to me so much like home, but with better food.

(HT: Tyler Cowen)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. My biggest problem with Singapore is that it’s a rather fascist state pretending to be liberal, free and western. It cannot be compared with for instance Japan or South Korea, which are democratic countries. Most visitors are unaware of this.

  2. Lucas: Thanks for posting that. Kind of reminds me of Dubai, with all the Westerners frolicking around without a care in the world, clueless to the actual state of the Kingdom 🙂

  3. I love Singapore!!! Would I want to live there permanently? Probaly not, but I concur with you in that for me it’s a lot like my own “hood” with better food & a bit more culture.

    Of cours after watching your Arlington rap (which was absolutely hilarious) I think we basically live in the same place…..except my “ganster hood” is Santa Monica CA.

    Thanks for the laugh!!!

  4. As someone that spend 12 years in Singapore during my teenage years and now reside in the US, I can definitely see and understand the humor in the Complaints Choir. I agree, it’s a great place to visit (headed there again in Dec to catch up with high school friends, etc) but I’d think twice about living there again.

    But then again, to keep things in perspective, there isn’t any country that’s perfect. Everyone had their own gripes about the countries that they live in, even at the most happiest countries like the Scandinavian nations.

  5. Also, even the street food in Singapore is far superior to any restaurant in the People’s Republic of Bland that is Arlington.

    Now excuse me while I duck Jim Moran’s flying fists.

  6. Lucas: I’m Singaporean, temporarily residing in Canada. Honestly, I do not know what you mean by “pretending to be liberal, free and western”. It is simply the way the country has evolved. Most Singaporeans would not consider our society liberal (of course, that is subjective), but we do have freedom (again subjective depending on where you’re from).

    Yes, voting during the elections is compulsory (maybe you won’t consider that freedom), but that would mean that our electorate is truly a decision made by the citizens of the country. A 50.1% win is still a win. Made in comparison with other countries where voting is not compulsory, then it only means that the electorate is decided by people who actually bother to vote, or feel involved.

    So if we know what to expect with parliament being “that way” (or undemocratic as some may feel), then it certainly says a lot when people still decide to vote for the same people.

    I love Japan and South Korea, though politically a lot more unstable. Having a turnover of 5 Prime Ministers within a span of 5 years … well, perhaps most visitors are unaware of that too.

    Take the Complaints Choir in good fun. The authorities may sometimes be too overcautious, but there have been a lot of other acts that poke fun at ourselves too – on stage and even on primetime television.

    As much as I have my grouses like the Complaints Choir, I do appreciate being a Singaporean… because I’ve found that getting around the world is such a breeze (I don’t have to apply for visas in many countries). I don’t think many people realize that.


  7. I lived in Singapore as kid and loved it there. Thanks to Gary and other similar bloggers, next year I’m going back for the first time since I was 11, about 20 years ago. It’ll be interesting to experience it as an adult. I’m sure Singapore looks nothing like I remember too.

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