Thursday, May 17, 2012


I make trips down to Singapore on a regular basis. I have family, friends and relatives who reside there. The city nation is a model of cleanliness, efficiency and age-friendliness. But it has become increasingly less so in the past years, especially since the huge influx of foreigners.

My biggest grouse is the overcrowding on the MRT. I used to enjoy leisurely smooth rides on the trains. Such rides are now distant memories. These days commuters are packed like sardines in tin cans, with barely any room to put down your shopping bags. Seats that are reserved for the elderly and the disabled are often taken up by younger commuters, mostly from mainland China. You can tell from the variety of Mandarin that they speak.

Shoulder to shoulder in the MRTs most hours of the day. Photo from Askmelah

If I, a frequent visitor to Singapore, have cause to complain, I can understand how Singaporeans must feel. Indeed, there is a rising tide of resentment against China nationals working and residing in Singapore. Unofficial estimates place their numbers at over a million, or about one in five people in Singapore. Singapore is a popular choice for these expatriates from mainland China because of its geographical proximity, cultural and ethnic similarities. So they come in droves looking for employment, business and education opportunities. Many of the women come over with the hope of marrying a local and settling down in Singapore.

Initially, Singaporeans complained about having to compete with the China nationals for employment. Their complaints have now widened to include almost every facet of life - from rising cost of living, lack of affordable accommodation, competition for places in schools and universities, overcrowding on buses and trains, dirty public toilets and eateries - the list goes on.

Lately, there has been a wave of criticisms levelled at China expatriates and PRs who flaunt their wealth. Many of them earn top dollar, live in high-end condo apartments, shop at up-market retail stores and drive state-of-the-art cars. Such open displays of expensive tastes and millionaire lifestyle do not sit well with the local citizenry who have to keep a frugal eye on their dollars and cents.

Straits Times 17 May

There is no love lost between Singaporeans and these China nationals. The recent horrific accident involving a Ferrari and a taxi could well prove to be the tipping point. It has led to the Chinese Embassy in Singapore issuing a letter to their nationals residing on the island republic to mind their conduct and observe the laws there. This is an unprecedented move, but whether it will have the desired results remains to be seen.


Pak Idrus said...

Lily thanks for narrating this. Somehow I knew it coming to this. Take care.

Simon Lau said...

Unfortunately, the prejudices of any locals against any foreign groups in thier mist are usually based on isolated incidents by the black sheeps of the accused community. For example, here in Malaysia the reputation of the African community working or studying here are similarly tarnished by a relative small groups of them.

seniorsaloud said...

Simon, while I agree with you, the fact remains that the African community here is very small, whereas the China nationals make up close to 20% of the people now residing in Singapore. They impact every aspect of life for the Singaporean, including breaking up families. There are China nationals everywhere you look. They don't integrate well with the locals. I can empathize with the Singaporeans, based on my personal observations for the past five years. It has come to a point where the China Embassy had to step in to advise their nationals to behave and respect the culture and laws of Singapore.