Is Singapore too sterile

Singapore: the legend of the sterile city

The advice for travelers is that you shouldn't spit chewing gum on the floor in Singapore, you would be holed. But: The high-tech city-state is not that flawless either.

Don't spit the chewing gum on the floor! ”Conjured me by Facebook friends after I posted that I was on my way to Singapore. Singapore - Asia's cleanest city, yes, maybe the world, where purity is enforced with draconian punishments.

“Are you insane?” It said. Spit on the floor once, not flushed the toilet, flicked away a cigarette, maybe a few grams of hashish with you, and you'll find yourself hanging on the rope at the Friday execution in Changi Prison! This is how myths arise and persist.

The first impressions confirm clichés: the tirelessly friendly stewardesses seemed to have sprung from a Singapore Airlines commercial, the arrival halls of the airport near the execution site are flooded with light and planted with palm trees, no waiting time at the conveyor belt or customs control, wide, lush and clean boulevards leading into the Center lead.

The first doubts about the legendary Singaporean efficiency emerged there, because the safety fences from the Formula 1 Grand Prix in autumn are still in place many weeks later. And only slowly disappear over the next 14 days. Is the regime that was once so strict about being sloppy? Is Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, son of the authoritarian ex-president, even a liberal softie?

In any case, the city-state with five million people in the south of the Malay Peninsula is massively affected by the first-class panic because of the boom in the larger states of Asia and wants to catch up or stay at the top. The latest "enemy model": Shanghai. So a huge Casinocity (which is called “fully-integrated complex” in the local Newspeak) was created at the central port basin - including a bridge stylized into a botanical garden connecting the daring skyscrapers.

Singapore, which means “lion city” in Sanskrit, wants to mutate into an amusement and amusement park, but at a top level, and get rid of its reputation as an accumulation of shopping malls. And today there is massive investment in culture: the Asian Civilization Museum was chosen as the focal point for Asia, the avant-garde Museum of Contemporary Art and the monumental Esplanade Center at the marina were built. With its theater and concert halls under distinctive twin domes reminiscent of the delicious but smelly durian fruit, it is the focus of artistic and social life and a new landmark in Singapore.

Where there are sidewalks for people. On the way home, one succeeds in escaping the local mania of wanting to cover the shortest distances in the car and walking. Fortunately, Singapore is almost the only country in Asia that has implemented the principle that sidewalks are there for pedestrians. Now you could secretly spit out a piece of chewing gum. But who should arrest you? No police officers are in sight. They are said to be in civilian clothes. But you are alone on a long corridor. It is said that the city is monitored by satellites. Possible. But unlikely. And: because of chewing gum? But you don't do the test yet.

There is real life here! But a shock around the next bend: Instead of strolling along the sterile Singapore River, which has been transformed into a drinking water reservoir, you are suddenly at the back of his colorful, Copa-Cagrana-like restaurants and are amazed: There is full, dirty life! One street bar after the other, open until five in the morning. Teenagers with battle make-up in hot pants, tattooed old Chinese in underpants, boozy self-help groups that leave a lot of garbage, bearded sandlers on the steps of five-star hotels. Isn't Singapore different?

Well, you don't have to stumble across dead rats on the way to the high-tech shop like in India, and there is nothing wrong with sparkling clean, graffiti-free subways and mobile toilets with cloth towels and scented bags. But could it be that a new balance will emerge between filth and sterility, capitalism and socialism, authoritarianism and democracy? The government is still campaigning for or against the third child, for or against the use of Mandarin, but nobody takes it seriously anymore. There is still censorship, but it is mainly concerned with covering nipples. 85 percent of the people live in affordable social housing. Isn't that the socialism of abundance that Marx dreamed of?

Where even Muslims rock. And then there are those dance bars in which the ethnic groups ordered to show mutual tolerance tick off (inflammatory statements are really punished immediately!), Chinese women in “D&G” fumbling, Indian women in cropped saris, and in which foreign Muslims with headscarves perform public movements for them they would be punished in their homeland: isn't that the multicultural society people talk about in Europe? Isn't that the society of prosperity and freedom, tradition and progress that many peoples of Asia strive for?

One accepts that with chewing gum: By the way: Its sale remains illegal. Mohamed Osman, State Secretary in the Development Ministry, said recently that it will continue to prevent chewing gum filth from becoming a problem.

Singapore is a republic of 710 km2 (Vienna: 415) and around five million inhabitants. It is located on one large and several small islands on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula; two bridges lead over Johorstrasse to Malaysia.

The economy The state-of-the-art country relies on trade, shipping, high-tech, tourism and Singapore's role as a financial center. The GDP / capita was recently around 29,000 euros (Austria: 36,000 euros), the residents are among the wealthiest in the world, especially in comparison to Asia.

Sir Thomas S. Raffles, Agent of the British East India Company, established a base on the island inhabited by fishermen in 1819; it became a crown colony in 1867 and independent in 1963, but remained in a federation with Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak, which it left in 1965.

("Die Presse", print edition, March 21, 2010)