7 Reasons Why Singapore is a Fantastic Place for Twentysomethings

July 7, 2012

Twentysomethings are drawn to cities for their proximity to interesting people and opportunities. But why would a bright young thing choose to come to, or stay in, Singapore as opposed to Toronto, Melbourne, or Shanghai? Sure, Singapore is home to the world’s tallest infinity pool, the world’s only Louis Vuitton island, and the world’s largest proportion of millionaires – if that’s your thing – but there is so much more to this tiny city-state.

One year ago, I was given the opportunity to intern in Singapore and coming here was the best decision I’ve ever made. Sure it has all the standard factors that make urban living attractive – good restaurants, smart people from all over the world – but I want to outline a list of what makes Singapore stand out from the competition. Here are my top eight reasons why Singapore is a fantastic place to be for ambitious globally-minded twentysomethings:

  1. Opportunity: Calling all students, professionals, and people of the world: If you get an opportunity to come to Singapore, take it. Think of it as a chance to be exposed to more opportunities than you ever imagine. Living here is a constant lesson on how to run an efficient city, how to design an excellent transportation system, and how to mingle with different cultures. And its small size is great for meeting the people that make this happen – everyone seems to know everyone – so this is even better if you have ambitions to work in the APAC.
  2. Music: People in Singapore love their music. Despite the fact that concert tickets often cost double what they would anywhere else, stadiums get filled. With Singapore being a melting pot of cultures, fans have recently welcomed diverse acts such as Super Junior, The Naked and Famous, and Yuna along with Lady Gaga, Train and All Time Low. But what if you are a broke twentysomething and can’t afford pricy tickets? Nix that FOMO. There are loads of free festivals and concerts all the time – with many promoting local bands – from the Esplanade’s lunchtime concerts to the annual Baybeats festival. There’s also JUICE magazine, an actually excellent free publication with each issue chock full of information about more bands than you ever knew existed.
  3. Atmosphere: The go-getter atmosphere is hands down my favourite aspect of living in Singapore. Here, people are ambitious, the government is ambitious, and things are getting done everywhere you look around. New start-ups are closing funding rounds, HDB’s are being renovated, internationally renowned gardens are being completed, and new MRT lines are being built. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll realize that everything is coordinated to a T. With respect to the government, there are plans upon plans upon plans and many are available for public access. Being the nerd that I am, I read a few of these plans including MICA’s Renaissance City report, published in 2000, and was floored. Have Singapore rival Hong Kong for art in 2010?! Hey, it was a large goal but someone had to aim for it. While it still has a ways to go, with Singapore’s history of planning success I’m placing my bets for them.
  4. Startup Scene: All rising metropolises around the world are trying to lure and develop entrepreneurs and Singapore is no exception. The difficulty of having a rote-memorization focused education system is that risk taking is not nurtured. But this is not impossible to overcome, and again, Singapore is a master at overcoming the odds. In the late 1990s, a crop of high-powered MNC workers left their jobs to start their own businesses; many lead VC firms and incubators today. The industry is growing here, ideas are being honed, and there are grants for locals and non-locals alike. It is an exciting place to be to discuss and coordinate with others, and there are even programs like JFDI’s start-up weekends that can help anyone jump start this process.
  5. Couchsurfing Community: On my first night in Singapore, I went to a Courchsurfing potluck. An acquaintance from university invited me, and also to the other Couchsurfing events that were going on the next week. From group dinners, to hangouts at ‘the bridge’ at Clarke Quay, to frisbee at the Botanical Gardens, I quickly realized that if you came to Singapore with no friends you could easily make some through this group. In most cities, couch surfing is something you do when you travel to another city and need a free place to sleep. In Singapore, while traditional couch surfing does happen, it is something of a social network with international transplants and travelers mingling with locals seamlessly. The atmosphere is friendly, open with most people genuinely curious about your life story. Bottom line: came to Singapore alone, have no friends, and want to meet cool people asap? Look up Couchsurfing.
  6. Intellectual Stimulation: If you’re like me, you graduated from university armed with a shiny new degree and a sinking realization that, to quote Socrates, “All I know is that I know nothing.” Just kidding, of course but I was adamant that my learning wasn’t over. How is a busy twentysomething working long hours supposed to keep up the intellectual stimulation? By attending the various talks, workshops, and film screenings on offer! The benefit of having over a dozen excellent universities, specialty faculties, and cultural spaces across a small area is that there are always people discussing ideas. From NUS’ U@Live series, to SMU’s entrepreneur workshops, to foreign film screenings at the National Museum, there are always avenues to learn a new perspective. The best part? Many of these activities are not only free but lure young twentysomethings with free food.
  7. Local delights: The last of my top reasons, but certainly not the least, is the local food. Have you seen Anthony Bourdain’s show The Layover? The first episode of his latest show, showcasing all the best places to eat in a city if you are only there for 24 to 48 hours, was about Singapore. That alone should tell you something significant about the food in this city. For $3.00 SGD (or $2.40 CDN), you can order chicken rice, char kway teow, popiah, or mee goreng and eat it happily in one of the city’s no-frills hawker centres. You might want to opt for a place with air conditioning when out for dinner with friends, but for low-key meals or evenings spent at home, there is no better option for cheap, fresh, and delicious food. This is a particularly good option if, like me, you can’t cook/don’t want to cook. With prices like this, you could eat here every day if you wanted, which is good, because most landlords won’t allow you to cook anyway.

Have anything to add? I’d love to hear from you. Comment below and let me know!

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  • Reply Jeffrey Tjendra July 8, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    Hey Jenni, I’ve always enjoyed reading your blog since you started it out. This is a good representation of why twentysomethings like us love Singapore. I wanna add a category:
    8. Creative scene: artists and designers are being empowered to break the status quo placed by the society to follow their own aspirations. Rise of the creatives making their mark, mostly about self-expression from status quo and following their dreams.

    One note on the startup scene as it’s not as rosy as it may seem to be: although there is much movement and hype in this, there aren’t many successful startups coming from Singapore due to factors like lack of creativity among Singaporeans (it’s given especially how they are being educated), solving the right problem, and a climate risk-averse behavior in investing in startup.

    • Reply Jennifer Lien July 21, 2012 at 8:14 pm

      Hey Jeffrey! Thanks for your support. I think you are bang on with your comment about the creative scene. Always love seeing local perspectives especially when it comes to fashion – not easy being experimental when tropical weather rules out layering! Have you been to the MAAD market? It’s one of my favourites for checking out new artists and designers. And yes, I agree that the start-up scene has its challenges but I think small successes are worth celebrating as well. Singapore might not have produced a household name, but companies like Systems Access and Systems@Work have had successful acquisitions and have definitely made their mark on their respective industries. Perhaps emerging startups can look to these businesses for inspiration.

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