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7 Singaporean things we take for granted when we are overseas

Cheap and good hawker food, efficient public transport and being able to walk the streets safely at night — these are common things in Singapore that we are thankful for, but it takes living overseas for awhile to discover some of the more unusual things only Singaporeans would miss when away from home.

1. The consistently hot and humid tropical weather

Photo by Lady May Pamintuan

This picture looks exactly how I feel when the hot sun is blazing down on me. Photo from Flickr by Lady May Pamintuan

For all the complaints about our hot and wetter weather — one minute it’s blazing hot sun and the next torrential tropical downpours — the general predictability of 25-32 degrees Celsius temperature with the occasional downpour all year round is surprisingly comforting. Having actual seasons is overrated — winter is gloomy, less fluffy snowflakes and more slippery ice patches and much less amazing when you have to put on three layers of clothing just to go outside.

2. Being able to break into Singlish without judgement

Photo from Flickr CC by Mike Elleray

Singlish isn’t bizarre, it’s… efficient and emotive! Photo from Flickr by Mike Elleray

“Eh bro, this place ho jiak boh? Queue so long, must be got standard right?”

Kit Chan’s “This is home” rings through your head fondly as you hear the distinctly Singaporean accent cut through a sea of unintelligible foreign languages.

“Yah, shiokest!”

It’s like having your own secret code — there’s something so satisfying about not having to explain the nuances of ‘lah’ and ‘meh’ to people who inherently understand, and don’t question the existence of any actual English in that sentence.

3. Slippers are acceptable footwear in public

Photo from Flickr by Walter

Slippers go with everything! Photo from Flickr by Walter

Slippers, flip-flops, thongs (snigger). Whatever you call them, you can wear this flimsy rubber footwear just about anywhere in Singapore (that doesn’t have a strict dress code) sans judgement. In most other countries, slippers are strictly for the beach or your backpacker showers. Some call us sloppy dressers; we like to think of it as just being practical in our kind of weather.

4. Dustbins Everywhere

Photos from Flickr by Zhao, BerniceCB, William Ng

Never realized how important dustbins were to my daily life until they took them all away from MRT stations and shopping malls post-terrorist attacks. Photos from Flickr by Zhao, BerniceCB, William Ng

You don’t realise just how prolific the dustbin is in Singapore until you’ve been overseas and had to stash dirty food wrappers in your purse because there just don’t seem to be any trash receptacles in the vicinity whatsoever, and ‘clean and green’ is too well-ingrained in your psyche for you to start littering.

5. Not having to hold your bags while eating

Photo from Flickr by Stinne Ertmann

Presenting… a tempting target for snatch thieves! Photo from Flickr by Stinne Ertmann

Don’t even think about leaving your iPhone on the table for just a second when you are in some cities overseas, because one minute it’s there, the next minute it might be on its way to China to create another Brother Orange celebrity.

Singaporeans probably could afford to be more vigilant, but there’s a nice feeling about trusting the people around you not to take your things.

6. Flowers along our expressways

Photo from Flickr by Ravenblack7575

Pretty flowers really brighten up our roads. Photo from Flickr by Ravenblack7575

The ECP is a beautiful expressway to drive along when the flowers are in riotous bloom, especially when foreign dignitaries are about to descend upon Singapore for major international conferences — it’s a great welcome to the famous Garden City. You don’t realise how much you miss the bougainvillea lining our overhead bridges and roads until you’re faced with dreary or graffiti-ed expressway walls in other cities, nary a shrub in sight.


7. Being half an hour away from most things when you’re running late

Photo from Flickr by Nicolas Lannuzel

Ka-ching! If you’re taking a cab to CBD during peak hour – consider whether being on time outweighs all the extra surcharges… Photo from Flickr by Nicolas Lannuzel

Overslept your morning alarm? Hop into a cab and you can get from Jurong to Changi in about half an hour if traffic isn’t too bad. It generally takes around an hour on average, even by public transport, to get to most corners of Singapore. The convenience of being in a rather small country is more apparent when you have to go to a neighbouring town a few hours’ drive away just to get your administrative work settled.

Singaporean readers – what do you miss about home when you travel overseas?

Read more about exploring Singapore, my home country. How about sightseeing via our subway line, or finding some of our hidden gems as recommended by a local?

This article first appeared on, a Singaporean community news platform where I am a contributing writer.

Cover Photo of Singapore Skyline from Flickr by Mike Behnken

Zenja | Bearly Here

Monday 29th of October 2018

Haha such a great list! I love #4 and #5. I cannot believe how hard it is to find dustbins in some countries!!

Jaclynn Seah

Tuesday 30th of October 2018

Thanks Zenja! :)


Wednesday 1st of July 2015

Really useful content, thank you for sharing this useful info.