A Fine City

Those of my friends and family who aren’t getting an “I ♥ SINGAPORE” t-shirt from me will probably be getting the other well-known Singapore t-shirt that says “Singapore – A Fine City” on the front and lists all the various fines for violations of laws on the back. Frankly, I don’t have much of a problem with this approach to influencing citizens’ behavior – as a result, public areas are spotless and people are generally respectful and well-behaved. And, I actually haven’t noticed any police officers (with one exception) since I’ve been here. So unless they are undercover, it’s not like there is a tremendous amount of policing going on as far as I can observe.

Apparently, the Singaporean government also cares about the food hygiene practices of its people, based on the startling ad campaign that I saw on the MRT yesterday. Initially, I didn’t notice the ads, as I was mostly paying attention to Moshe, who was chewing a piece of gum at the time. While gum chewing is not illegal in Singapore, the buying or selling of gum is (but I came with a supply since Erez and I are chain chewing gum addicts). Moshe chews a special kind of gum for dry mouth or something, so it’s almost for medical purposes you could say. Still, I was concerned because a woman was fined S$30 for sucking on a piece of candy on the MRT when she was feeling light-headed (which is a lot less than the normal S$500 fine for eating or drinking on the MRT, so she got off easy). Plus, the handbook for Erez’s new school here indicates that, while gum chewing is not illegal in Singapore “doing so may give the Singapore police a reason to stop you for questioning.” So I was alternately checking to make sure Moshe wasn’t chomping too conspicuously and on the lookout for Singaporean police, when I suddenly looked to my right and saw the above photo of a raw chicken with shards of glass sticking out of it.

The image was pretty disturbing so I quickly looked up and away from it only to see the next ad – harder to see in the photo, but yes, that is a raw steak with nails sticking out of it.






At that point, I considered becoming a vegetarian (not really), but the ad campaign didn’t stop with the dangers of meat. It also included an apple with razor blades coming out of it and moldy bread with knives coming out of it. No food group is safe.

I know I should have been focused on the scenery outside the windows of the MRT (since at this point we were above-ground), but I just found these ads really disturbing and fascinating. Not disturbing enough though to deter me from getting our dinner that very same night from the hawker center right across the street from our apartment building. More about food and hawker centers in another post, but these outdoor food courts are not exactly the model of food hygiene. And, I actually don’t think the beef satay sticks we bought from one of the stands were sufficiently cooked. But, overall the hawker center food is really good and really cheap – and none of us got food poisoning that night. Ironically, last summer when we were here, we went to an upscale, overpriced Western restaurant/cafe, and both kids were sick to their stomachs after eating Caesar salads there. Go figure.




  1. So they give you all these pictures to beware of, but unless shards of glass are actually coming out of the food , do they give advice on where or what to avoid? And as for gum , I will take care of that for you and E. Just chew sparingly till then.
    Another interesting post into life in Singapore

  2. When do we get your next posting? Your public awaits (I speak for myself and Mary A.).

    • It’s coming soon, thanks for asking. Been a busy couple of weeks with Erez starting his new school, Elana heading back to MIT, Danna, Kenny and Ari visiting us here in Singapore (plus I’m working). Will definitely post this weekend.

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