If you’re dreaming of visiting Singapore, then you’re not alone. The tiny island-state just welcomed a mind-boggling 19 million visitors in 2019. The country is also home to hundreds of expats and races like Chinese, Malay, and Indians, so you’re less likely to feel left out. Many of its attractions and services have the word international in mind.
But before you head there, it will be cool if you know the country by heart. Here are three facts to start with:
1. Its Healthcare System Ranks First Even in the Midst of the Pandemic
Singapore has one of the best healthcare systems in the world—that’s a fact. However, it seems to be so good that it beats other developed nations even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recently, Bloomberg ranked over 55 economies in terms of medical spending and life expectancy while keeping in mind the health crisis and the gross domestic product of every country.
Using the information from the World Health Organization, World Bank, and Johns Hopkins, the city-state placed first with an index score of 67.79. In the previous ranking, it took second place.
Singapore also has one of the longest life expectancies at 83.15, with the United States paling compared to 78.54 and even China at 76. Even more interesting, it secured the first spot even if its healthcare spending accounted for only 4.4% of its GDP.
It doesn’t surprise that thousands of foreigners still travel to the country even if it no longer promotes medical tourism. But just how effective is it?
Although Singapore’s healthcare costs are higher than those of other Asian countries, they’re significantly cheaper than what you’ll likely spend in the United States or any country in Europe. For example, a heart bypass could be worth less than $30,000 in Singapore and over triple the price in America.
Further, it provides high-quality healthcare for everyone, including tourists. A dental clinic in Singapore can provide emergency services while you’re in the middle of Orchard Road, busy shopping.
2. It’s the Greenest Country in Asia
Despite having over 60 islets, such as Pulau Ubin and Sentosa, Singapore is actually a very small country. Its land size of less than 800 square kilometers is comparable to three times that of Washington DC! And yet it’s the greenest country in Asia.
Amidst the modern skyscrapers and aesthetic landmarks, the country boasts of a whopping 350 parks and four national reserves. It garnered one of the highest ratings in the Green View Index by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which means it has plenty of trees in the city.
The country also generates much of its water supply through recycling. Its NEWater strategy, which it launched in 2003, now supplies at least 40% of its present water needs.
Because Singapore values its environment so much, penalties for littering can be harsh. Once caught, you may have to pay S$2,000 for the first offense and up to S$10,000 for third and succeeding convictions. You cannot eat food or drink when you’re inside MRT stations and trains, and bubble gums are prohibited unless they are prescribed by a doctor (e.g., nicotine gum).
3. Mandarin Is the Most Common Language, but Many Also Speak Singlish
Mandarin is the most common language in Singapore, spoken by over 50% of the population. But the country is also famous for a unique type of English called Singlish, a colloquial version of English.
Contrary to what most people think, Singlish is not new. History says that it appeared around the same time the country gained its independence in the 1960s. The government’s primary goal was to make English more universal so that the different races can understand one another.
But languages evolve, and for Singlish, Singaporeans began infusing their cultures and dialects into conversations. The question is, can a foreigner learn Singlish?
The answer is yes—at least the basic phrases. If it’s also any consolation, English remains the standard language for more formal occasions and venues like schools and workplaces. But in case you want to know, here are some tips:
• Truncate or shorten words and sentences. For example, say no need for “I don’t need it” or dowan for “I don’t want.”
• Infuse lah or leh in your quotes.
• Learn the slangs, such as chope, which means reserve. It comes in handy when you want to secure a table in the busy hawker center, although you also need to leave a packet of tissue.
Singapore may feel modern and cosmopolitan, but it’s definitely multilayered. Peel each, and you’ll see how multifaceted and interesting this country truly is.