For the majority of us, the COVID-19 situation is a major inconvenience, largely because of the CB measures. However, considering the many uncertainties ahead, it is also important for us to pay a little more attention to our finances during this period.
For those whose income has been affected especially, it’s time to take a step back and look at ways to improve your finances. So here are some practical tips to help you get started amid the current global crisis.
Think of the CB as a pause button for you to revisit how you use your money. The best way to start is to list down all your estimated monthly expenses.
Look at how much you’re spending in categories like food, clothing, travel, entertainment, monthly subscriptions, loan repayments, or even the allowance you give your parents. And yes, while this may seem like what an insurance agent would tell you to do, it’s a handy way to break down your expenses and it gives you a better understanding of where you can cut back on.
At the same time, make sure that you have a ‘rainy day fund’ that you can access easily. Most financial planners would advise to have at least 6 to 12 months worth of your salary in your emergency fund. This is particularly apt in the current situation, as some of us may have lost our source of income because of COVID-19. Having this pool of funds ensures that we have enough money to survive through such situations.
Once you’ve detailed your monthly expenditures, you will find yourself with several fixed expenses which may take a significant chunk off of your income. These include any loans and insurance policies you may have.
To help free up your cash flow, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has launched measures that allows you to defer debt obligations. You can apply to defer premium payments on your life and health insurance for up to six months. If you are paying off your housing loans, you can also apply to defer your mortgage loans until the end of the year.
Many banks have also rolled out initiatives to further help their customers tide through this challenging period. For example, CIMB Singapore is offering deferments on its renovation and education loans, and OCBC is automatically reducing the minimum payments for its credit card to 1% of their statement balance.
If you are still struggling to juggle your daily expenses, find out if you qualify for any government relief and assistance here.
You may also want to consider a personal loan just to tide you through this period. There are several options available in the market, each with its range of benefits. For example, Standard Chartered offers a CashOne Personal Loan starting from an interest rate of 3.88% (EIR 7.67% p.a), and you also get a 50% off your first month’s instalment amount. (Terms and conditions apply.)
Besides keeping tabs on your spending, review your health and medical policies. This is prime time to ensure that you are sufficiently protected as you wouldn’t want your savings wiped out from a medical bill.
Know what you are covered for. This includes the extended protection you may be getting from your insurers. Many insurance providers and banks are offering complimentary protection plans for their customers. Be aware of these benefits as it will be a tremendous help should you contract the virus.
SingSaver has very succinctly compiled the list of extended and complimentary coverage from all the insurance companies in Singapore, which you can find here.
This CB period is the best time for accumulating your savings. Staying home would mean that you are already going to be saving the money you would have spent on travel or night outs.
Many brands are also running attractive discounts and promotions, but remember to spend wisely. Do you really need a new pair of sneakers during this #StayHome period or do you need groceries?
Chances are, food is the main aspect that you will be spending on this period, followed by other household necessities like toilet paper. All the supermarket chains in Singapore and smaller online grocers offer free delivery with a minimum order.
There’s even a comparison of the different online grocers available in Singapore, which will satisfy the Singaporean in you to find the ‘cheapest and good-est’ deals for your necessities.
Take this chance to bank on the best deals, bulk order your groceries online and have them delivered for free, and start saving on food by prepping your own meals.
Here is a list of over 30 budget-friendly meal prep recipes you can get started on.
Alternatively, if you need to order food, you can find a list of ongoing food delivery promos here!
Being forced to stay home frees up extra pockets of time, which is a golden opportunity to pursue all those things you have been wanting to do but could never find the time to.
Work on your fitness goals: Gyms are closed and fitness classes are all halted, but there is now an influx of online fitness classes which you can follow at home. This also means that you can save on gym membership or the usual paid fitness classes.
For example, Nike and Adidas have launched free fitness videos which you can follow at home. Gyms like Evolve MMA have also been holding live classes on their Facebook and Youtube channel.
Here’s more online exercise classes you can try!
Or perhaps you have always wanted to learn Korean, or improve on your photography skills, there’s no better time to pursue all those goals.
Pick up a new language with Duolingo, or take advantage of free online courses to learn a new skill. If you haven’t got around to using your SkillsFuture credits (which is $500 sitting there, waiting for you), take this chance to sign up for a course here.
Being at home 24/7 can get really stifling and dreary, but as with free online classes, there are many ways to keep yourself entertained (and sane).
Stay connected with your friends and family with Zoom, or play games together with social apps like Houseparty and Psych!. You can even get the KTV experience with this Chinese karaoke app, <a href=" Party.
For existing Netflix subscribers, there’s a Netflix Party Chrome extension that allows you to watch Netflix remotely with friends. The tool synchronises video playback and there’s even a chat bar for you to chat as you watch!
You can even <a href=" the Great Barrier Reef with David Attenborough if you want. There’s really an abundance of entertainment resources available online, and the best part is, all of these are completely free.
To help those who may need immediate help with their cash flow, SingSaver is also running an exclusive promotion with Standard Chartered regarding their CashOne Personal Loan. Each approved applicant will stand a chance to win a #cashcushion of up to S$10,000!
Simply apply for the Standard Chartered CashOne Personal Loan for a chance to win the cash cushion. The campaign runs from 6 Apr till 30 Jun and 3 winners will be picked every month.
Find out more about how you can win yourself a #cashcushion here!
(This article was written in collaboration with SingSaver.)
(Header Image Credit: Sam Dan Truong on Unsplash)
I am patient #347.
This is my story and how I would like to rally all young Singaporeans to take this pandemic situation seriously. Stay home and we will all tide this over together.
It’s been a month since I got tested positive. I’ve been warded at the hospital, taken a lot of different medications, shifted to an isolation facility, and done everything I can to keep myself healthy, but I still have the virus.
Being isolated and away from your loved ones for so long really gets to you, and every day, the only thing I can hope for is the day I get two negatives.
In order to be considered fully recovered and discharged, you have to be tested negative twice in a row, but I have never come close to that. After a while, this cycle of hoping for that and then being disappointed by the results takes a mental toll on you. What’s even scarier when you are a Covid-19 patient is that there is no cure for Covid-19. There’s nothing else you can do but hope your body is strong enough to fight the virus.
On 18th March, I came back from the UK with a sore throat, but it didn’t feel like just a normal kind of sore throat. I knew something wasn’t right so after a quick shower, I went straight to the hospital to get tested.
Everything was very organised there: I filled out forms, waited in a tent, did a chest X-ray and a nose swab test. The whole process took about three hours and by the time I got home, it was almost midnight. My throat was still sore, my bones were aching, I felt a fever coming, and I was just feeling generally very unwell.
By the time I woke up the next day, I got the call: I have Covid-19.
At that point, I remember thinking about how unreal it was because I never thought I would get the virus. And being told that you have it was like a harsh wake-up call.
It was then that I thought, “okay, this shit is real.”
Everything happened really quickly. I was first isolated in a single ward room at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH). That first night there was horrible. I still felt really sick. I had a fever and my backbone was so painful that I had to numb it with panadol pills.
At the same time, I was really worried that I might have passed the virus on to my family, my colleagues, and my girlfriend–the people I had been in contact with for the past two weeks. I texted all of them and advised them to get tested as well.
Surprisingly, I woke up the next day feeling like I’ve fully recovered. My sore throat, runny nose, and fever were gone, but it wasn’t safe for me to be discharged yet. The doctor came and shared about how because there's no cure for this virus, they could only prescribe medicine like malaria medicine to boost our immune system for our body to fight the virus.
Thankfully, I’ve been in a stable condition since then. I was transferred to a shared ward on the third day, where I spent a week at before being transferred to an isolation facility at D’Resort, where I am at now.
I’m lucky to have only had very mild symptoms, save for the bad pain in my backbone, but the emotional and mental pain, and the homesickness is very real.
Being taken away from your family so suddenly and not knowing when you can see them again gets to you. And when you are in a shared ward where people around you are all sick, coughing, and puking, it makes it hard for you to stay positive as a Covid-19 patient. I didn't have any motivation to do anything.
“I wasn’t in a right state of mind there at all.”
The doctors and nurses gave us utmost care, but in that environment where you don’t get sunlight and fresh air, it can get really stifling. All of us in that ward were just there, waiting for time to pass, waiting to be tested, and waiting for the day we can get out. It was very, very depressing.
Every day, I was just hoping to get a negative. I had that thing up my nose more than six times in the hospital and I tested positive for every single one. And the funny thing about this virus is that the other patients in my ward who were vomiting and showing more symptoms than I had got tested negative first before me.
I'm doing a lot better now. Here at the isolation facility at D'Resort NTUC in Pasir Ris, I have my laptop, my own personal space and toilet, and a view of the beach and the park. I have a roommate around my age as well, so it feels just Iike NS.
Time actually passes fast here but you do lose track of the days here. I’m lucky to have very supportive family, friends, and a girlfriend who have kept me sane through messages, video calls, and care packages.
I've been trying to be healthier as well, eating more vegetables, working out a lot, and taking a lot of vitamin pills that my mum has been sending me. I've been drinking a lot of water, drinking a lot of green tea, and pretty much doing everything I can with the hope that it can flush out the virus. Nothing seems to work so far.
All of us here are just hoping to get that two negatives, and it gets mentally draining and depressing when you get tested positive again and again.
I just want to go home.
With that said, I’m very grateful for the quality of care I’ve been receiving right from the start. All the healthcare workers at KTPH who have made my recovery process a lot easier, keeping me calm and always checking in on me to make sure I am fine mentally. The professionalism, attentiveness, and warmth have given me a lot of comfort and the confidence that I was in safe hands, and the human contact and affection that they gave is just top-notch.
Compared to other countries, our country is doing such a great job at making sure that we are being cared for.
There may be a few Singaporeans breaking the Circuit Breaker measures, but I'm very happy to see that the majority of youths are actually abiding by them. And it’s heartening to know that in a recent poll, the National Youth Council found that over 70% of youths want to do their part to stop the spread of Covid-19.
Personally, I’ve seen how a lot of young Singaporeans are finding little ways to help make this Stay Home period a little better for friends and family, be it through ‘Zoom parties’ or sharing content to help each other cope with cabin fever. We can also do more to help educate those who may not be as aware of the severity of the situation.
This virus is not something that should be taken lightly. Europe and America are in disaster but we are not in that state of panic because we are lucky to have a government that had plans in place to handle the situation. Which is why I sincerely hope that Singaporeans will continue to do their part as well. We should continue to care for one another during these challenging times and not perpetuate any racist or xenophobic sentiments.
Please don't break the Circuit Breaker measures. I overlooked some of the measures and I got the virus, and still have it. This is so important because you never know if or when you are going to get it.
Majority of people who have it don’t even show any symptoms. I haven’t shown symptoms for a while now and I’m still being tested positive, so the only way to not get this virus is to practice safe distancing, wear your mask, stay home, and abide by the measures. As a young Singaporean, I can understand the inconvenience, but as someone who has the virus, I’d do anything to be healthy now. The quicker we follow the rules, the quicker we'll go back to normal.
This story is written by Millennials of Singapore, as told to us by the featured individual. The individual has since been discharged on 22nd April.
"Prove to the others out there that Youth can do this, and do it well too. Show them that despite your years, you are tenacious and determined. There will be a few bad hats here and there, but we know from our polls that the majority of youth want to do the right thing and be counted in a time of crisis like we have never faced before. So stay home, stay safe and make us proud!" - National Youth Council Chief David Chua
Looking to try something new during this circuit breaker period?
You’re not alone! Visit MehGoWhere.sg, an interactive site that's been created to help keep you entertained during the Covid-19 period!
Get all the latest info and resources while having fun at the same time! It’s impossible to be bored with engaging videos and stories as you #StayHomeForSG with MehGoWhere <a href="
(This article was written in collaboration with the National Youth Council.)
‘Made in China’, but Singaporean.
For 30-year-old Ou Ningfei, who migrated to Singapore with his family when he was 7, this puts him in a spot where he was, in a way, stuck between two cultures.
Being a foreigner meant being an ‘outsider’ in a land foreign to him, and some of the things he experienced back then include being treated with prejudice, or “they would start to interact with you lesser because they see that you’re from another place.”
Such ostracising and marginalising behaviours towards migrants are ubiquitous, but it is also exactly that that often makes our society forget empathy.
Fortunately, those experiences only pushed Ningfei to pick up on the nuances of the local culture more quickly. And today, his identity as Singaporean is no less than any other born-and-bred locals, for he has spent almost this entire life here and also fulfilled the service of every Singaporean son.
However, for many other immigrants who come to Singapore in search for better livelihoods, the privilege of being accepted by society may not exist.
Besides personal experiences, Ningfei also had his share of interaction with migrants and the hardship that they face. His parents were migrant workers themselves and his mother, a regular volunteer at church events that support migrant workers.
“I’ve seen the spaces that [migrant workers] occupy, the issues that they face, physically and socially. And many times, they get exploited in so many ways.”
Migrant workers lack privilege and power of influence in a foreign society, making them more susceptible to being taken advantage of by errant employers.
“There are so many stories that are so hard to hear, so painful,” Ningfei added, as he shared about migrant workers who end up with injuries or even permanent impairment caused by their work, as well as the exorbitant agent fees and low salaries.
In an interview with another publication, Ningfei shared that some workers pay “as much as $3,000 SGD to $15,000 SGD to their agents in home countries like India and Bangladesh.”
Once, at a gathering he and his mother were helping out at, Ningfei met a Chinese migrant worker who was forced to do OT for 2 weeks straight without remuneration. Seeing that the worker had come at almost 10pm to collect the packet of Cai Png for dinner, Ningfei spoke to him to understand why.
Describing the grease, grime, and blisters that marked the worker’s arms and hands, Ningfei recalled, “You can tell how hungry and tired he was. He was crying and telling me how he hasn’t gone home for a long time. And I realised how even though we were around the same age, we lead such different lives.”
“You look at people like him, and you know that there’s really a lot of things you can do for the underprivileged.”
After having helped out at many welfare support events for migrant workers together with his mother, Ningfei decided to do more on his own.
In 2018, he started Labour Arty, a ground-up initiative that leverages various mediums like photography and digital media to promote appreciation and awareness for migrant workers in Singapore.
“The genesis of this is that I’m Singaporean but I’m from China. My parents are migrants themselves, which is why my heart goes to migrant workers.”
With the support of friends, Labour Arty shot and launched their first project: A humble photography exhibition titled Blind Spots. It captured a sight familiar to all of us but often go unnoticed.
Since then, Labour Arty have gone on to launch several projects. These include the Tap4You project, which encouraged NUS students to share a meal with migrant workers, as well as the Yellow Helmet Challenge, one of their earlier works, which aimed at increasing the visibility of and appreciation for migrant workers.
Just recently over Chinese New Year, they also partnered with sponsors like Impossible Foods and Dumpling Darlings to organise a Dumpling Party for migrant workers who were affected by the travel restrictions arising from the COVID-19 situation.
Besides championing for the migrant workers, Labour Arty’s work is also a subtle approach at increasing social harmony in a community. This is especially important in Singapore, as our society is such a diverse conglomeration of different nationalities, races, and cultures.
“We try to change the perspectives people have of migrant workers. By increasing awareness amongst those who aren’t aware, and by making those who are aware be more ready to stand up, so that [migrant workers] don’t get exploited.”
However, juggling full-time work and personal commitments on top of running a ground-up initiative comes with its share of challenges of course. For example, the lack of resources to do more.
Although Labour Arty has been fortunate to receive support from various parties and organisations including the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre, it is fully run by Ningfei and a team of like-minded friends on a volunteer-basis.
A full-time product and process manager himself, Ningfei explains the constraints they face in championing for change.
“It’s fun for friends to help out for one or two projects, but it’s tough to sustain an entire movement.”
However, the mission has always been very clear to him: Every little bit helps.
Citing several similar movements and initiatives like Migrant x Me and Sama Sama, he spoke about the inspiration he draws from them, as well as the sense of camaraderie in working towards a common cause.
He also emphasised the importance of collaboration and finding the right partners in achieving the mission, “good partners can give you support and help you spread the work you do.”
Besides Labour Arty, Ningfei also co-founded another groundup last year. Aptly named codeToLove, the initiative helps other non-profits with their IT needs.
In some ways, codeToLove is also a passion project and one that allows him to help amplify the good that others do while practicing what he likes (designing and writing digital/UX content).
“If I am to be labouring, it better be for good, and to have some fun out of it,” he explains.
“If it’s purely meaningful but not fun, it’s going to be miserable. But if it’s fun but not meaningful, then it’s not going to mean much at the end of the day.”
And yes, at the end of the day, Ningfei’s motivation is something that many of us can relate to, which is a desire to derive meaning and enjoyment out of what we do. It can come from your job, or it can come from starting your own groundup, but what he said will ring in our ears for a long time to come: “Do something that’s close to your heart.
Passionate about a social issue and wish to make a change, or keen to contribute towards a certain cause? Check out how you can get support from Groundup Central here!
(This article was written in collaboration with the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre.)
(All images credit: Ou Ningfei and Labour Arty)
Kiasu, competitive, impatient, and grouchy. These are traits that are often associated with being a Singaporean.
Despite this negative perception of our society, I truly believe that Singaporeans are highly compassionate people. We have had multiple awards celebrating the good that Singaporeans have done, and we have heard so many stories of the people who have dedicated their time and energy into building cities of good, where we give our best for others.
Just last year alone, people in Singapore had donated about S$30 million to one-stop giving online platform, Giving.sg, with $12.2 million raised during the Giving Week season. This is just one of the many examples of how Singaporeans are actually altruistic at heart. We just tend to be too self-critical to realise it, and it’s not in us to accept credit for being model citizens.
For some of us, it may even come as a surprise to know that Singapore is one of the top 10 most generous countries in the world. This is because on the surface, it seems like a lot of us barely do anything to give back to our society.
We’ve all had the mandatory CIP modules in school. Many of us have also gone on field trips or did personal projects where we headed out and interacted with the beneficiaries. We’ve experienced the sense of fulfillment and contentment from being able to make a difference in someone else’s life, especially someone less well-off than we are.
The same sense of gratification from giving is something that so many in our millennial generation seek for in life—meaning. The majority of us have an innate desire to give or contribute to making our society better.
According to the Individual Giving Study (IGS) 2018 by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) on individual giving habits and motivations of people in Singapore, they found that most people in Singapore have the intention to volunteer or donate in the future.
In fact, 9/10 people in Singapore have the intention to donate in the future and 7/10 have the intention to volunteer in the future.
Through the course of creating content for our (MOSG) platform, I am often surprised by the amount of public-spirited reactions on our posts.
When we ran a feature of Rahman, a migrant worker who suffered severe burns, we were so heartened by the number of people who left comments on their wish to help him. Private messages also came in enquiring on ways in which they could extend various forms of help to the individuals we’ve featured.
Despite our altruistic views towards giving however, many of us still feel that we are not doing enough to help the society, and we often feel bad about it.
In an article Vulcan Post wrote about five millennials’ track record in volunteering, almost all of them revealed that they are not proud of how little they volunteer in recent years. The reasons for that largely revolve around one issue, which is the lack of time.
Singaporeans are inherently pragmatic. As an independent adult, there are so many commitments in our life to worry about. When you only have 24 hours to make a living, spend time with family and friends, and to pursue any other personal projects or hobbies, you are forced to prioritise. And chances are, the priority will be for self before strangers.
Furthermore, we associate giving with having to plan and to put in hours into volunteering at an event or with an organisation. This will seem like a big commitment amidst our perpetually filled schedules and more often than not, we put it off simply because it seems like too much work. It doesn’t help that most of us find it intimidating or are too paiseh to volunteer alone.
The other kind of giving we usually think of is monetary donations.
In the same IGS study, Director of Knowledge, Marketing & Advocacy with NVPC, Mr Jeffrey Tan shared that financial security is among the top three life priorities for Singaporeans, so “in times of perceived economic uncertainty, more Singaporeans may hold back on cash giving.”
However, while there is that, and there is still a stigma against donating money for fear of it being exploited by fundraisers, we have also seen so much generosity from Singaporeans on the many fundraising campaigns on platforms like Giving.sg.
A friend of mine told me about how she used to actively volunteer at an elderly home. She eventually stopped volunteering due to the emotional toll of having to witness the sufferings of the beneficiaries, and the painful realisation that there were a lot more that needed to be done for them, but there just weren’t enough resources.
There’s also the question of whether one’s action does any good for the beneficiaries. In fact, besides the aforementioned reasons, the 2018 study found that 25% of former volunteers stopped volunteering because they found that the activity they engaged in created little impact or meaning.
The desire to make a difference is something that is growing on many Singaporeans. As mentioned above, we are constantly seeking meaning in what we do, and it can be very difficult for us to engage in something if it doesn’t seem to be making a notable difference.
With all that said, the spirit of giving certainly isn’t lost on Singaporeans. We just need to be more conscious of how we can give.
Giving really shouldn’t be something that is difficult as it is merely something that comes from one’s heart. It can be as simple as giving up our seat on the MRT or returning our food trays at hawker centres. These spontaneous acts may seem insignificant as we are already so used to doing this in our daily lives, but I take heart in knowing that these are micro-giving behaviours that make a difference and sets the foundation for a giving heart. This is in fact, the ethos of Giving Week’s belief: where little acts, multiplied by millions, can make a world of difference.
There are also plenty of other avenues in which we can contribute to charitable causes, especially during Giving Week 2019. For example, there are many events that are held in conjunction with non-profit organisations, and companies that have corporate social responsibility programmes, and supporting these events or companies are also ways to help.
From 1 - 7 Dec, be part of the Giving Week movement and join us at The Good Hubs and The Good Life as we celebrate the spirit of giving. Show your support by checking out the carnivals and flea markets held by various organisations at The Good Hubs here!
Businesses across Singapore will also be running special promotions and campaigns under The Good Life! Shop, dine, and live for good when you support the businesses here.
Every bit counts when it comes to doing good, so head on over to givingweek.sg for more information on the events and how you can share your time, talent, and voice to the people who need it. Together, let’s build a City of Good!
(This article was written in collaboration with the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre, organiser of Giving Week.)
(Header Image Credit: GivingWeekSG)
It’s a snide remark that Alan has gotten a lot of since young. It is not that he had anything against non-heterosexuals. It was simply a societal expectation to fit into the mould of a typical guy who'd do sports, enjoy computer games, and talk about the hottest girls in class, but he wasn’t that kind of person. And when you don’t fit into what society deems as ‘normal’ for your gender, it can be quite agonising as a young person trying to find a place in the world.
Growing up in a female-dominated family rubbed off of him because his mannerisms have always been quite effeminate. This, in addition to how soft-spoken and shy he is in new environments, yet expressive and overly-enthusiastic around friends, has often caused Alan to be mistaken as gay.
For the longest time, ‘gay’ has been a common label that people use to categorise guys who are too soft or feminine. For most men however, being called gay is an insult, not because it’s degrading, but because it’s a stab at their masculinity.
Despite the progressive and liberal beliefs that we are increasingly adopting, we still subconsciously subscribe to traditional traits that identify men and women. Men have always been expected to be masculine.
Masculinity and femininity has long been associated with men and women respectively. Femininity checks out for women, because the associated traits grant us the ability to be empowered and to be celebrated for our strength (as we are supposedly gentle and weaker creatures).
Masculinity, however, is a concept that has caused many men to feel the stress of living up to expectations.
Women are expected to uphold traditionally feminine values like being gentle, caring, sensitive, and nurturing. Men, on the other hand, are seen as the alphas. They are expected to be strong, dominant, and tough. These are all traits that we often expect of men, and they are also traits that we see as attractive and desirable in men.
And therein lies the problem, because the need to be masculine will easily become toxic for men.
For Alan, he has gotten so used to being mistaken as gay that it has become second nature to joke about it. Nonetheless, growing up with bullies picking on him for his ‘girly behaviour’ left a mark.
“Being mistaken for something that I’m not affected the way I think of myself as I grow older.”
The way his mother reacted to him contributed to his insecurity. Once, when Alan was watching Winx Club in the living room with his sister, their mother said:
“Can you guys change the channel? This is why your brother’s turning gay.”
Alan’s mother would also often make comments like “Can you be tougher,” and “Can you don’t move like that?” These made him feel embarrassed and ashamed of himself. All these experiences in his childhood have often made him mask it with boyish behaviours like spiking his hair or even cursing.
Over time, it caused him to question his identity. It took a long time before he finally got comfortable being himself. He is just a guy who is softer and more expressive than most guys.
However, Alan’s story is one of the many of our men have but hide, because toxic masculinity is just not something that men talk about.
As defined by Wikipedia, toxic masculinity is when we restrict boys and men to only expressing certain kinds of emotions, “including social expectations that men seek to be dominant, and when we expect them to conform to “certain traditional masculine ideal behaviors such as dominance, self-reliance, and competition.”
Whether it’s the need to suppress emotions or to maintain a mask of toughness, these are all beliefs that I believe many of our men have dealt with, as with what Alan had gone through.
We just aren’t aware of their struggles, because men don’t talk about it—how could they?
Besides Alan, I’ve had openly gay friends who have told me about how they have been told by family members to stop being so “娘” (loosely translates to mean girly). “They always tell me things like ‘men must learn to drive manual, not auto, and must learn to do DIY homefix nonsense cos next time you will be the man of your house, etc.”
Beyond mannerisms, there’s also a very real pressure for men to be a leader and provider, or the ‘man of the house’.
We may not always explicitly say it to our men, but it doesn’t take away the fact that men have always been expected to provide, whether it is for their ageing parents, partner, or children. And the stress of having to live up to these obligations can often be suffocating.
For 32-year-old George, the stress built up when he lost his father. As an only son, he saw it as his duty to takeover his dad’s role in the family in looking after his mother and looking out for his sister. At the same time, he also had a duty to his newly wedded wife and her parents. The pressure of having to be that manly figure to all his loved ones, while juggling his own obligations at work, led him to feeling exhausted.
People don’t expect men to be weak, but when you are at your lowest, it can be very easy to feel inadequate, which was what crept up on George. Men aren’t expected to openly reveal their fears and insecurities, which was why despite feeling lost in his struggle to be that manly figure to his loved ones, George felt the need to suppress the fragile side of him. Moreover, it is his duty to protect them instead, not weigh them down with his problems.
Likewise for 27-year-old Lester, the pressure to be masculine was always present. When he was growing up, he “had a hard time trying to look cool or be cool in school, which in my head, was synonymous with being manly.”
Although Lester no longer sees the need to intentionally portray masculinity, these ‘expectations’ will always return. For instance, he will be more cautious in front of his girlfriend's parents, because “there's a chance that they would think I’m not ‘man’ enough for their daughter, whether it's my job position or mannerisms.”
There’s also the pressure to excel professionally. 29-year-old John added, “in society, there's a lot of expectations for men to be more successful than their female counterparts and I think it's what's holding up a lot of norms that are seemingly out of place in the 21st century.”
He explained, “for example, if a couple needs to decide who to stay home for the child, chances are it is usually the girl. People get that it's unfair for women, but it is also unfair for men because we also have to deal with the expectations of others besides that of your spouse.”
This year, the Samaritans of Singapore reported a 10% increase in total suicides in Singapore. More importantly, suicide is more prevalent among young men.
There’s been articles written about how toxic masculinity triggers suicidal tendencies in men, and while I cannot speak for the men, I can imagine how difficult it must be to have to mask emotions and put on the front of a tough guy just because it is what society expects of you.
I can only imagine the kind of pressure that my male friends and family have faced or are facing. I only know their woes through the stories they are willing to reveal to me. However, judging by the stories I’ve heard and read, I’m pretty sure many Singaporean men have had similar predicaments at some point. They just aren’t as vocal about it because society doesn't expect them to ‘whine’.
We’ve always encouraged our empowered our ladies to speak up and celebrated women, but we often neglect our men. In light of International Men’s Day today, let us turn our attention to our men, and be a little more empathetic about the struggles that they face, and to also celebrate them for being the pillar of unwavering strength.
From a Singaporean female to our guys, kudos to those who have managed to fight the pressure of toxic masculinity, and to have emerged more self-confident. However, if you are still struggling with inadequacy or insecurity, do not be afraid to seek help. And like what’s been preached in the many movements and causes for women: Don’t be afraid to speak up just because you are male.
Also read: I Became A Dad At 22 – Our Parents Opposed But We Kept The Baby.
(Header Image Credit: TheHealthSite)
At 4.30am, Yong Yeik would have already left his home and began his daily commute to work, even though his work starts at 8am.
Every day, he spends more than six hours on the road, shuttling from his home in Johor to work at Tuas, and back home again after work. It would be 8.30pm by the time he reaches home, which leaves him with barely enough time for dinner and quality time with his family before he has to head to bed at 10pm.
If there’s any consolation, it’s in the company benefit he has of a direct bus service from Kranji station to his (previous) workplace at Gul Lane, which significantly reduces his travel time. Though, not everyone is as lucky as Yong Yeik, who told me about how many of his compatriots have had to endure even longer travel times.
For example, he knew of workers who would wake up as early as 2am to travel to work because they stay near the centre of Johor. Although, this is less common these days.
Nonetheless, there are many Malaysians like him who continue to sacrifice their time and energy in order to make a living in Singapore.
Singapore has always been a popular choice for our friends from across the causeway, and for as long as I know, there’s this long-running joke about Malaysians (or ‘FTs’ in general) coming here to ‘steal’ our jobs.
We are accustomed to teasing our Malaysian friends. We envy how rich they will be when they return home with their salary due to the exchange rate. And for the most part, it is true that Malaysians enjoy the advantage of earning three times more of what they would otherwise earn in their hometown.
However, what we don’t see is that this often comes with a price.
For Yong Yeik and several other Malaysians I spoke with, coming to Singapore to work is a matter of being practical, and those who choose the daily shuttle do so because it is simply more cost-efficient.
After sacrificing ten years worth of time on the road to save around S$500 (around RM$1500) every month, Yong Yeik has finally relocated to Singapore. This came after he got married to his long-time girlfriend, who is a Singaporean.
But for 27-year-old Louisa, who has been shuttling to and fro for four years, her daily commute is still a long and arduous one across the causeway.
Fatigue is a familiar feeling and while it may be something that she has gotten used to, there are other pain points, especially when traffic jams are becoming increasingly common these days.
“It does make me feel a bit dispirited, because we still have to endure hunger. It’s even worse when you need to pee.”
Besides the sacrifices in time and energy, it’s also a sacrifice on one’s social life because there is simply no time (or energy) for social activities at all. “If you’re lucky, maybe you can meet friends on Saturdays or Sundays,” but for Yong Yeik, those are precious days to sleep in and to pay off the sleep debt from work days.
Then, there’s also the unpredictability of the traffic and at the customs.
For example, in the 10 years that Yong Yeik had shuttled to and fro, he’s had several interesting encounters. In 2014, a strike by Malaysian bus drivers left Yong Yeik and many other Malaysian workers stranded at the Johor checkpoint, forcing them to continue the rest of the journey to Singapore customs on foot.
Yong Yeik was even once mugged by someone at the old Malaysian immigration complex, who threatened him with what looked like a used needle. He was lucky to have only lost S$10, because he has witnessed pedestrians having their bags stolen by snatch thieves on motorcycles.
Thankfully, security has improved since the new immigration complex opened.
While Yong Yeik’s reason for choosing the daily shuttle includes wanting to be around his family, both Yong Yeik and Louisa shared the same sentiments that ultimately, the main reason is still because it is a great deal of savings.
Louisa: “There is a big difference because the price of staying in Singapore includes having to pay for rent, meals, transport, and entertainment. You will unconsciously end up not saving money at all, although it also depends on your personal discipline as well.”
Of course, besides the higher income, there are many other factors that have enticed Malaysians over, in search of better opportunities. These perks include our nation’s safety, efficiency, and a better transportation system.
It is also for these reasons that another 24-year-old, Charles, relocated to Singapore. Fresh out of university, he recently started his first full-time job in Singapore as a video editor.
“Work, places of interest, and food are all accessible via bus or MRT, whereas in Malaysia, it is a necessity to have a car, which adds up significantly to daily spendings.”
Unlike Louisa, Charles rented a room in Singapore. It checks out for him as his girlfriend, who is also a Malaysian, would soon be relocating here and sharing the room.
However, for many of us who have spent all our lives in the comfort of our parents’ home, being in a foreign land alone can be overwhelming. For Charles, it’s especially tough knowing that he “would not be coming home to home-cooked food by my grandmother.”
Nonetheless, such feelings of separation is something everyone goes through if we were to study or work abroad.
Likewise for those who have chosen the daily shuttle between Johor and Singapore, it is all a matter of getting used to the exhaustion.
Yong Yeik explains, “Family plays a very big part in the decision. At my age, most of the Malaysians have a family in Malaysia so they will still go back. If I didn’t meet my wife here, I will probably still be travelling to and fro. It’ll just become a way of life.”
Much like any foreign worker, all of these struggles are familiar to our Malaysians friends, who have no choice but to persevere in order to make a living.
“The only thing that is really pushing me to persevere is still the 3 times salary,” Louisa admits.
“It’s definitely because of the exchange rate. Especially for the JB people, the prices for local food and products have increased so much because Singaporeans visit often. So, it’s becoming more and more unsustainable for our generation of Malaysians. If we don’t come to Singapore to work, it is going to be very difficult to survive.”
Also read: Work Till We Die? – Why The New Retirement Age Isn’t Just Important For Retirees.
(Header Image Credit: The Star Online)
“Do you really think this will help or change anything? At the end of the day, the children are still going to go out to a world that doesn't accept them.”
This was a harsh wake-up call for Jean Loo when she ran an inclusive art show in 2016 involving more than 80 children and youths. It was meant to be a happy experience for participants and the public to learn about special needs. After all, it was a showcase of works created by children from Special Education Schools like Pathlight School and Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore School.
Yet, after toiling for three months, having a special education teacher walk in and criticise the team’s intention was like being thrown into cold water.
“For us it was like, oh yah, ouch.”
“It makes you question the relevance of your work and the tough realities many families with children with special needs deal with on a day-to-day basis.”
Arts and creativity have always been a way of expression for Jean. But beyond that, she sees it as a responsibility to use her ability in creative arts to share stories and messages for a greater good.
After running her own content creation studio for a decade, the Singapore Youth Award winner from last year co-founded Superhero Me, a non-profit arts organisation that harnesses the creative arts to empower children from less privileged and special needs communities. It also serves as a platform to allow children with different abilities to socialise.
Her inspiration to grow Superhero Me can be traced to the first 15 children she worked with in 2014.
The first Superhero Me project centred on the theme of ‘Becoming’. Through costume crafting, the children explored the possibilities of who they wanted to become despite their social circumstances.
It was a simple project, but the bond that grew between Jean’s team and the 15 children was the catalyst that drove Superhero Me into an entire, inclusive arts movement for children, young creatives and caregivers.
Five years on, it is the little moments with the children she has worked with that motivated her to continue advocating for inclusivity in Singapore.
She shared a story about Jun Le, the first child with autism that the Superhero Me community ever worked with, and how many of the kids were a bit apprehensive of him initially. After their first interaction, everyone was able to see Jun Le as a sweet and funny boy who loves Milo.
“They made their own effort as kids to try and socialise and interact with him.”
That struck Jean: “A lot of times in Singapore, we want to be inclusive, but we’re fearful of those with special needs. Maybe we can trace it back to childhood, because we never had the opportunity to grow up with others who are neurologically different from us.”
Superhero Me also tries to bridge the gap between mainstream and special education schools, through workshops or programmes where ‘typical’ children and those with special needs can meet and interact with each other.
“At the end of the day, the mission of the work is about using art to shape how our next generation might think of each other, and more importantly, opening the minds of families.”
Considering our society’s current sentiments on people with disabilities, this is a big dream to have for an individual. Let alone through arts—a medium that is not widely appreciated by Singaporeans either.
And Jean admits that right from the start, “it was a very idealistic way of wanting to use my photos and stories to change the world.”
Jean’s passion for social advocacy work started back when she was in NTU’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication. She dived into the works of war photojournalists who risked their lives by going to war zones and documenting an issue. Their dedication sparked Jean’s desire to pursue work that serves a social cause.
Her interest in photojournalism then grew into an appreciation of the arts. She discovered how community arts, specifically, did not just help her write about a certain community like socially isolated elderly or people in a particular neighbourhood. It also gave her the opportunity to build a shared experience and relationships with them.
“I wasn't a doctor, wasn't a lawyer, but that really struck something in me—that I can use what I have to make a difference.”
As Superhero Me is a non-profit organisation, funding is a big challenge. Thankfully on that front, the movement is supported by Lien Foundation. It was also awarded the National Arts Council’s (NAC) Seed Grant in 2017.
However, the philanthropic nature of this movement also makes human resources a constant challenge for Jean.
With her team, Jean has reached out to more than 20,000 people, and over 1,500 children have participated in the organisation’s inclusive workshops. All the facilitators juggle responsibilities of their day jobs and their work with Superhero Me, but are driven by a shared vision for Singapore to be a truly inclusive society one day.
Even with the passion that every individual from the Superhero Me community has, the reality is that we may still be a long way from achieving that.
When I probed about the not-so-glamourous side of running programmes that advocates for inclusivity, Jean shared, while stressing the importance of education, how there are instances where they meet people who are skeptical and averse to the cause.
“We’ve had parents who say that ‘oh, I don’t want my kids to mingle with those with autism’. So they walk in [to our event] and they walk out.
However, Jean takes these in her stride. “Everyone’s entitled to their own perception,” she explained. It is not in her power to ‘convert’ people who do not believe in being inclusive. Neither has it ever been her intention to do so. Instead, her hope is to open doorways for people to learn about those with disabilities, when they are ready to, and to start with the willing.
For her dedication in creating inclusive communities in Singapore, Jean was conferred the Singapore Youth Award last year. An award that Jean was psyched to have received, as it helps to shine a spotlight on the work that the team does.
“You never do such work looking for awards, but the nature of the Singapore Youth Award helps to validate what the community has been doing. Not just me, but me representing our whole community of captains, of parents, of kids. It's really everybody's victory.”
One year after the award, Jean’s dream for Superhero Me remains the same: “I look forward to the day where Superhero Me will no longer be relevant.”
Ultimately, while there is no end point in this journey of inclusion, Jean hopes for a day where there will be enough support for disadvantaged and special needs children in mainstream schools. Where kids—no matter how severe their disabilities—can learn alongside their typical peers in early childhood.
However, she stressed that the problem now, is how we look at inclusion.
As most of us are exposed to people with special needs through charity, and the narrative of many charities are of the need for us to help their beneficiaries, the challenge is trying to balance the need to help and respecting their personhood, independence and ability. “It is difficult to see someone as equal if you are always expected to help them.”
“I don't have the answer, but these are the questions that we talk about all the time. And this is something that I hope to be able to explore deeper with our kids at Superhero Me.”
The Singapore Youth Award (SYA) honours exceptional young people every year. Young people who have put their talents, energy, and experiences to work in the service of society.
This year, the 15 SYA finalists are outstanding men and women who are Trailblazers, Changemakers, and Champions. These youths have ventured on the path less-travelled and excelled, sought to spark positive transformation in our community, and triumphed over adversity to become role models.
Read more about the stories of the SYA 2019 finalists here. Vote for the story that inspires you the most and stand a chance to win Grab vouchers!
I was lying on my bed alone with my thoughts, contemplating life and thinking about what the point of living even is.
There were often nights like this, where I would touch the window grilles in my room as I contemplate ending my life. I’ve also considered many other ways to take my own life, but on that particular night, the urge I had to really end it once and for all was beyond what I have ever felt.
This time, the compulsion to jump was stronger than ever. I sat up from my bed, which is right beside the window, and looked out. I could have easily stood up, opened the grilles, and jumped out.
I just wanted to end it so that I don’t have to be in pain anymore. And as I looked down, I could imagine seeing my body six storeys down, sprawled across the ground with my head smashed open.
I fought really hard to hold myself back from jumping out the window that night. For what felt like an eternity, I sat there, and if not for that faint inner voice that told me ‘maybe things will get better’, I would have been gone that night.
This happened more than two years ago, but I still remember it so clearly.
It was a very stressful period of my life as I was juggling a lot of responsibilities in school and at my polytechnic dance club, where we were gearing up for an upcoming concert.
Right around that time, I had also just broken up with my ex. My friendship with the two other people I was closest to had started to go sour as well. Everything began to fall apart, because these were three people who made up my only support systems ever since I fell out with my family when I came out to them.
Losing these support systems made me wonder: Is there really anyone there for me? It was the catalyst that drove me to turn to suicide, since it didn’t seem like anyone was going to care.
The pain of rejection and of not being understood by anyone barely scraps the top of the turmoil of emotion which I’ve tried to suppress for a long time, and it is suffocating.
In retrospect, it was also the culmination of all the emotional baggage that I have carried with me ever since my secondary school years.
Even back then, I remember being (on hindsight) a little dramatic as I texted my goodbyes to some friends in a group chat. I was still too young to have the guts to actually do anything, but I cried for a long time after that.
I remember two friends who empathised and asked if I needed help. Then, there were others in the group who started saying things like:
‘what the hell is wrong with you?’ and, ‘if you want to behave like this we should stop being friends’.
I remember trying to seek comfort from my parents, only for them to repeatedly tell me to stop crying. Their intentions meant well, but they just didn’t know how to deal with emotions. They didn’t understand the extent of why I was crying. They probably thought that I was just sad, and they swept that night right under the bus.
And I don't blame them for responding so passively, because that is just the way they, and a lot of us were brought up: We don't know how to talk about emotions.
It was a very dark period and every time I thought ‘wow, can things get any worse?’, things got worse. In that moment, it felt like there’s just no point to life. It also felt like whatever anyone said, nothing really got through to me.
Fortunately, I didn't jump that night.
I held on to that small glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, things will be better.
In my mind, I kept trying to imagine better days. I thought about moments where I felt free and liberated, and I just tried to hold on to that. I tried to envision what could be in 10-20 years: The dream of being in my house with my partner, happy.
Those were both hopeful and depressing thoughts because of how bleak reality seemed at that point. But it helped me rationalise that maybe this is just a Low. Maybe life is just that way.
It’s a bad day, but it’s not a bad life.
This comes from Kimmy Schmidt: Take it 10 seconds at a time. If you can get through 10s, then you can get through another 10s and the next 10s, and the next.
Don’t let anyone put a label on how much pain you are feeling. Sometimes people will say things that undermine the pain you are feeling but know that whatever you are feeling is valid.
As much as it hurts, always hold on to the silver lining and always know that they are people around you who love you. I’ve come to realise this from a video that has saved my life.
It took me awhile to figure this out, but everything happens for a reason.
Good times will come again. It’s very hard to see it and I completely understand, but take it slow. And don’t be afraid to talk about it. Don’t be afraid to find professional help.
This story is written by Millennials of Singapore, as told to us by the featured individual.
In line with the Suicide Prevention Week, the Millennials of Singapore team would like to show our support to everyone out there who are fighting battles with mental health. Let us #HopeThroughTheNight as we fight against suicide.
If you are struggling, there are many resources available to help tide you through. Never be afraid to talk about your struggles, and if you ever need someone to share your troubles with at any point of time, you can always reach out to @samaritansofsingapore or call 1800-221-4444 for emotional or crisis-support. There are people available there for you 24/7.
(Header Image Credit: Entrepreneur India)
Let me first put this out there: Our parents do not owe us.
And it is quite a shocker to know that an adult son had brought his father to court to ‘demand’ for financial support for his overseas university education.
Recently, a Family Court judge “ordered a father to fund 60% of his adult son's degree studies in Canada, ruling that the latter was entitled to seek such maintenance.”
In this case, the court had ruled in the son’s favour as it was considered a ‘duty of child maintenance’ under the Women’s Charter.
It’s interesting to note that the son was (already) 22 when he applied for maintenance from his father. In this case, the ‘payouts’ were deemed necessary for his education.
It is the discretion of the court and the judge to determine what ‘duty’ the parents have in this case. But it also makes me question: How much is our parents responsible to us?
Filial piety is strongly entrenched in our Asian culture and it often makes us question what we owe to our parents. On the other hand, what do our parents owe to us? Do they even owe us?
Some argue that it is the parents’ decision to bring a child into this world after all, making it their responsibility to support the child. But, until which point do we stretch this responsibility to?
When the child turns 18? Or for as long as the child is emancipated at the ‘legal age’ of 21?
There are so many intricacies in deciding our parents responsibility to us.
Most will agree that at the very least, it is the parents’ responsibility to provide their children with the rudimentaries of life. In the most primal sense, it is in providing a child with safety and wellbeing, and the basic necessities for survival, like water, food, and clothing. But how about education?
How do we set the parameters of basic education for a child, when what is basic to one may not be the same to others?
When our parents had us 20 or 30 years ago, the basic level of education is (arguably) an ‘O’ level certificate. Back then, tertiary education is a good-to-have, and university degrees are a bonus. Today, we have an abundance of degree holders and most jobs require a minimum of a tertiary education.
Overseas education was a luxury and only for the wealthy in our parents’ time but these days, it’s not unusual to see our peers pursuing further education in Australia or even in far-flung places like Europe, the US, and China.
Which brings us back to the case in question where the 22-year-old son applied for maintenance from his father to pay for his university fees: Is it then fair for him to be demanding financial support from his parents, for his overseas university fees?
I trust that most would agree that our parents have the responsibility of bringing us up, however, there should also be a limit to their duty as parents.
Our parents’ duty to us is to arm us with whatever is the minimum required for us to support ourselves while considering the cultural or societal standards we have today. In other words, for as long as we are capable of securing (non-exploitative, legal) employment to support ourselves.
I know of people who have had to juggle two jobs while doing their part-time diploma studies, just so that they can achieve financial independence, and by choice. I’ve also met underprivileged Singaporeans who have had to take on odd jobs from the age of 16, to help with their family’s finances. With all these in mind, it does make me wonder what significance a university education has in the ‘maintenance of a child’.
It is incredibly hard to believe that at 22, someone would still act like they are owed the right of financial support by their parents. Especially for a luxury like an overseas university education—something that is not required to get a job today.
"The father was able to pay for his son’s fees but was unwilling to, as he believed the son wanted to use his money to lead a lifestyle that he disapproved of."
The other narrative surrounding this case is on whether the parents have the financial ability to pay for their child’s university education. A narrative that should not even matter because it is almost equivalent to saying that it is our parents’ responsibility to put us through university.
To which I’d like to quote Jazmine Denise in her article titled “Dear Adult Children, Your Parents Don’t Owe You Anything”:
“We are not entitled to their time. We are not entitled to their money. We are not entitled to their resources.”
It is a bonus if our parents are capable and willing to financially support us in pursuits that are beyond the societal minimum (for a livelihood), and if they don’t, we owe it to ourselves to work for what we want.
Like the epiphany Jazmine had after going through pregnancy, I only truly realised how much I have been taking my parents for granted after being thrown into ‘adulting’ myself.
I had taken advantage of my mum’s care for me. Every morning, she’d wake up earlier than me just to prepare breakfast for me before going back to bed again. I took it for granted because on some days, I’d return that favour by chiding her for forgetting that I didn’t like bread with fried eggs, for example. “Tell you how many times that I don’t like already,” I’d snap at her.
I took my parents support for granted, for I never had to pay a single cent for my university education and I thought that it was a given. That was until I learnt of how many of my friends had taken up student loans to fund their school fees. For someone whose parents never once made education fees a concern, it hit me how easy I’ve had it.
After shifting out to a HDB flat of my own with my partner and beginning to plan for our future, I know now, more than ever, how my parents have already provided for me beyond what is required. And it is all those little acts of service and gestures from my parents that I’ve started to realise the significance of now that I am accountable to my partner, his family, and our own home.
I also know of people with really f***ed up parents. Parents who would not only neglect their children but who would shamelessly sell their family out to loan sharks. Parents like these could create heavy mental baggages for their children, and it is very easy to blame one’s failure on their ‘messed up family history’. However, it is up to one’s self to carve out the life they desire for themselves.
With that said, I know of people who have no qualms living off their parents even when they are well into their twenties. The level of self-entitlement is nauseating.
For everything that our parents would have had to sacrifice to bring us up to our adulthood, it should never be their duty to continue supporting us when we are capable of independence. And if we want that liberty of pursuing what we want, we should be ready to accept that with that freedom comes with the responsibility of being responsible for ourselves.
Our parents don’t owe us. If anything, we owe them our life, and we owe them for the 20 odd years of time, money, energy, and love that they have poured into us.
And if you think that you are still entitled to anything from them, shame on you.
Also read: We Live Under One Roof, But We Don’t Feel Like Family At All.
(Header Image Credit: chuttersnap on Unsplash)
For 364 days a year, we complain.
Then, for one day in August, we somehow become the most patriotic brothers and sisters, banding together to celebrate our Mother(land)’s birthday.
It’s ludicrous if you look at it this way: All year round, we see countless remarks from Singaporeans about how Singapore is a terrible place to live in, and all it takes is for one day dedicated to celebrating the country for people to become patriotic.
Conversely, there is another group of Singaporeans that will roll their eyes at the patriots for such an absurd display of love and pride for the country—Call us hypocrites, for we sing praises about Singapore and flaunt our patriotism on our social media accounts for that one day, only to go back to complaining after.
And it is true that there’s a lot to hate about Singapore.
Right off the bat, there is the recent E-Pay and Preetipls saga, which once again put a spotlight on racism in Singapore—an issue that has been bubbling just beneath the surface for quite awhile now. It has caused quite the brouhaha, causing a divide as many took to polarising ends of the debate on what constitutes unacceptable behaviour.
It is a harsh reminder that despite a growing number of Singaporeans taking on a progressive mindset, Singapore is still a largely conservative society. Racism is but one one of many issues our ‘divided’ society struggle with. It is also the reason behind the longstanding fight for and against 377A.
Along with all of that is the perception of a ‘strict’ or ‘authoritarian’ government among Singaporeans, especially the very outspoken ones on forums, Reddit and Quora threads, and social media comment section. From their view on censorship (fake news law) to how they crack down on the most minute of things like having to regulate PMDs and drones—disgruntled Singaporeans have time and again seen these as signs that the government is running the country with an iron fist.
Corruption is also an issue that people are increasingly discussing, but this is a whole other debate for another day. I am also in no way qualified to make any judgment on this, as I lack the political knowledge. However, one doesn’t need to that knowledge to know, from the kind of nasty comments online, that what many people belief.
I penned a letter to our government last year and in it, I talked about the hopes and fears as a young Singaporean.
I spoke about the reality of hopeful Singaporeans fearing for our future here because of the high costs of living here. Singapore is an expensive city to live in, we know. However, it is when we start to realise that sooner or later, we have to juggle being a full-time worker striving for success in our career, a reliable provider to our own children, and also a caregiver to our aging parents all at once that it becomes overwhelming.
Heck, how can one not feel the pressure when the moment we ‘start our life’ with a new home is the moment we enter a 10 to 25 year debt?
I’ve met underprivileged families. Families with more than two children and that lives in small, basic rented one-room flats, because that is the best that they can afford. I am also aware of the truly impoverished and the homeless who live among us but who are hidden away from sight.
There is always a small part of me that fears falling through the cracks to that state one day, and I am sure it is the same for the rest of the Singaporeans.
It is also because of these worries that Singaporeans are aware of the need to work hard, spend smart, and stay prudent for rainy days. It is also for this very reason that a lot of people hate Singapore—We are extremely competitive.
It is not like our parents time, where degree holders are highly sought after. Today, everyone is a degree holder, and it is one’s expertise or experience in the industry that makes one valuable to a company. Which means that it is now about aiming for excellence in school and also when we start our first job.
Yes, nothing comes easy, but this also comes at a time where we are also being encouraged to chase our passions and turn them into our career. All of us want that, and it is definitely achievable if one works hard for it. But the truth is that most don’t get there because the need to be financially stable makes it a struggle to even find that balance between passion and profit.
It’s also a harsh truth that in whatever we attempt, it’s a constant fight to be better than all the 3.7 million employed individuals in Singapore who can easily displace us. Because Singapore is that competitive.
There’s many other little things that add up, and it will possibly turn this article into 50 page thesis if I were to touch on everything in detail.
On the other hand, there’s also a lot that we are thankful for. And often, it is when we come home from vacations overseas when we feel it.
We aren’t happy with our people and our leaders, but on the other hand, it speaks volumes about how much people actually care.
In the case of the recent ‘racism saga’, a lot of emotionally-driven responses were posted across social media pages. Maybe it turned out to be a whole lot of noise, but we can take comfort in knowing that people care enough to fight for justice and awareness.
It is idealistic, but I believe that at the end of this episode, Singaporeans hope for our society to progress towards being more racially harmonious and not just tolerating.
We often criticise the government for their inaction on various issues from racism to 377A, but if we stopped to think about what they had done, however, we will see how they try.
I am not pro-government and neither am I a leftist. However, I have to acknowledge that we have a government that is attentive of the issues of our nation. Not everything is ideal for everyone, but we cannot deny that we have a government that is constantly worried about the welfare of our society and always looking at ways to progress the nation.
What is sad, is if our leaders completely disregards the issues that we worry about.
It’s been said before, and it needs to be said again: We are privileged.
For all the imperfections that make us hate Singapore, we are blessed with so many luxuries.
Over the past year, I’ve spoken to many millennials who shared their stories of when they volunteered overseas: In certain parts of the world, it is normal to have no access to electricity, normal to have cockroaches crawling around in their home, and it is normal for students to skip school just so that they can walk two hours to a lake for water.
There’s also one who told me about ladies who were catfished and lured into prostitution from a young age, and whom have to face authorities who are indifferent to their plight.
Knowing these, we can be thankful that at least we have easy access to all the basic amenities we need, like water, food, transport, healthcare, and entertainment.
We can also be thankful that we are given largely equal opportunities, whether it is education, jobs, or the chance to build our own homes.
It’s also encouraging to know that for all the squabbles we have over unpopular opinions, we have a relatively healthy society with equal opportunities for everyone to speak and to suggest or even execute new ideas for the good of the country and the people.
Last but not the least; Our safety and security. Singapore is one of the safest countries in the world, and all it takes is for us to travel to any other country for us to know this better.
For what it’s worth, I think it doesn’t matter if we complain about Singapore all year round. And it doesn’t matter if we are hypocrites to be one-day patriots, because we, at least most of us, know that this is ultimately a place that has given us a lot for us to call it home.
The very fact that one can be wherever one is and reading this article through our phone, desktop, or tablet shows how much privilege one already has.
Most of us are proud to be Singaporean, as much as we are ashamed or shy to admit. I know this from the way we love to see Singapore-inspired stuff overseas, and how we are more than happy to #SupportLocal.
At the end of the day, most of us know that for all the flaws that we have as a nation, it’s a darn good country to be born in and to be living in.
So let’s celebrate that.
Also read: Home Away From Home – Is Living In Australia Really A Match ‘Mate’ In Heaven?.
(Header Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
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