Singapore – A "Lean Traits" Observation Report by A Lean Traveller

Organised, Efficient and Clean. Classic Traits of a LeanPac-er

There are many lists out there ranking cities in many different areas of efficiency including World Health Organisation’s air pollution levels, Mercer’s quality-of-living ranking and world cleanest cities, World Economic Forum’s Environmental Performance Score, Monocle’s Quality of Living index, and Siemens Green City index etc. 

Singapore is one of the very few city-states to make an appearance on the upper tiers of all these lists. All the above lists have differing criterias with rankings awarded to some more deserving than other.  Official list, or not, differing criteria, or not, Singapore is recognised as one of the more organised, efficient and cleanest city to visit. This is probably, partially due to the infamous ban on chewing gum. 

Anything concerning being organised and efficient is a discussion topic for the lean team. Furthermore, for a city to be efficient and excel in any area e.g. green, clean, energy efficient, productive, happiest etc., it usually takes more than just governmental regulations and interventions to succeed. It also requires people support and local embracement of the objectives and processes. Discussion around this subject ended up with us writing this blog on Singapore based on our latest visit there plus other anecdotal evidence.

Observations by a Lean Traveller

Looking out for traits of efficiencies, we can concurr, having wandered extensively around this 720km² island, that it is a very clean city. The city’s renowned strict littering laws have contributed to impeccably clean streets consistent all over the city/country, demonstrating public services at their best. However, if we really want to knit pick, we did come across a (very) few pockets of “less clean” areas on the outskirts of this city-state. 

Having spoken to locals on the subject, it revealed that the city have a hoard of extremely efficient cleaners working diligently, picking up litter and cleaning up after its residents. This fuel the debate of whether Singapore is a clean city or cleaned city, and whether it’s reputation is from a “littering is wrong” culture or from its business as usual efficient workforce. 

There is a lot of evidence of efficiencies behind organisation and “cleanness”, in this city, but we have chosen to list a few extraordinary and obvious “observations”. 

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Street Food Hygiene - In South East Asia, where there is a lot of fabulous street food, most visitors will at one time or another, have concerns about subjecting their stomachs to unfamiliar street foods. When in the country, you will not see or find street food as you normally have it e.g. stalls along streets. Singapore food stalls are concentrated into hawker centres and rated for hygiene, where hygiene concerns are not among the first things to cross visitors’ mind. When surveyed by LeanPac®, most visitors claim the abundance of choices of what to eat being the biggest concern, with a small number actually complaining that these hawkers may be too sterile and lack the SE Asian feel.

Governmental Behavioural Interventions – Very evident throughout the city, very polite but assertive peer pressure messages (e.g. Stop Dengue, Save Water, Speak Mandarin, Stop Littering, Be Kind etc) strongly urge Singaporeans to be gracious and thoughtful citizens. One cannot take their Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) trains without Stand-up Stacey and her friends visually insisting that one to be gracious and considerate.

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Clean And Green - Planning the itinery for Singapore will come as a surprise. As the city is better known for their magnificent towers blocks. You would expect to find the usual metropolitan type activities of shopping, wining, dining, museum, galleries, sight-seeing landmarks and buildings etc.  There are over 2 million trees in Singapore; with over 3, 000 trees per square kilometre, equivalent to a tree for every 2-3 residents. It is the only other place to have old growth rainforest within city limits besides Rio. There are also quite a number of nature reserves with amazing views and spectacular tree top trails. This urban jungle is surprisingly very green and covered in lovely flora dilligently absorbing carbon emitted in the country and battling the yearly haze from neighbouring countries. One can understand their reputation of an “environmental oasis”  having been there. Many thanks to the city’s fervent quest to fulfil the Singapore Green Plan, but at the same time, hopefully enough to mitigate its increasing carbon footprint. 

Culture And Discipline - The residents of Singapore place a lot of importance on discipline. Fines and corporal punishment seem to be widely accepted. Some visible evidence include:

  • Compliance and strictly no jaywalking. Crossing the street in non-designated areas is unheard of. Even at designated crossings, my steps are always the first on the car-less road, while everyone else are still waiting for the red man to turn green
  • Acceptance of Urine Detection Devices (UDD) in elevators is a given. Doors will lock shut until the arrival of the police, if the scent of urine is detected 
  • Jail time for vandalism is obviously taken seriously as there is no signs of any graffiti anywhere, arty ones or otherwise
  • Genuine smoke-free environment is present as smoke-free zones extends to include pedestrian overhead bridges, covered walkways, hospital outdoor compounds, a five-meter perimeter around bus shelters and common areas of residential buildings. Lucky for unknowing smoking tourists and visitors, their Smoking Act requires signage and other such measures to ensure that the public is well informed.

Safe and Recycled Drinking Water - Singapore is one of the very few SE Asian country with safe drinking water from the tap. This is an accolade but the city having to one-up over the world, introduced NEWater. This is their triple-cleaned sewage water, to meet the needs of a growing population. It is always a great conversation piece for locals when speaking with visitors, about how proud they are to be “drinking pee”.

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People Power - The “OneService” mobile application is part of the Government’s on-going efforts to provide a convenient bottom-up channel for reporting municipal issues including "Abandoned Trolleys"! This app comes with the ability to track progress of reported cases.

Travelling around SE Asia and thoroughly enjoying the multi-facetted, hustle, bustle, vibrancy and sometimes-chaotic way of life, a stop in Singapore can be a good recuperation and re-boot before moving on or acclimatisation for the journey home. Whether a special trip or a stop-over, it is definitely a unique city worth a visit.