Malaysia/ Singapore

Malaysia and SIngaporeMalaysia and Singapore. Singapore and Malaysia. Writing about where you stay often becomes your favorite pastime if you are an expatriate. For me, I lived in Malaysia (Kuala lumpur to be precise) for almost two years, then moved to Singapore for an year and a half, and went back to Kuala lumpur (KL) again, and am now back in SIngapore. I cannot claim to know either country in depth, but when has that stopped me (or anyone else) from expressing opinions?

We like to think we know a place and its people if we stay there for a while, because if we admit we don’t, we feel a little disadvantaged…and er…let’s say disoriented. Maybe dislocated is the word I am looking for.

Anyhow, to get back to it. Malaysia and Singapore. How do they compare? (I know this will end up as a comparison between KL and Singapore, because I have seen the rest of Malaysia only as a tourist would, through predictable weekends at Penang, Ipoh, Cameron, Cherating, Langkawi, and so on.)

Singapore is often compared with other countries, and most often with Malaysia, because Singapore was earlier a part of Malaysia—-we all know about that sort of feeling don’t we?

Well, here goes, Singapore and Malaysia from the eyes of an expat:

  • Singapore is fast and efficient. It took me all of three hours to get connections for broadband, television, cell phone and land-line. It took me more than three weeks in KL for all the same things, and I am not sure I am happy with my broadband speed even now.
  • Singapore is easy even if you do not own a car. There are trains and buses and taxis going any possible place you might want to go, at any time of night or day. Ok, only the taxis run at night, but you can hail or call them anytime. In KL, if you do not own a car, you are handicapped. The cabs are few. You could chat with a cab driver in Singapore but a cab driver in KL would keep asking “Sini?” (”Here?” in Malay) at every turn, eager to drop you off. I am not sure how many Malaysians take buses and trains to work. Can’t be that many.
  • Singapore has an antiseptic sense of cleanliness. The malls are cleaner than some hospitals I have seen. The roads are cleaner than corridors and toilets of some of the world’s hospitals. The toilets? Well, Singaporean toilets are cleaner than some of the world’s living rooms. Malaysians are a little less maniacal about cleanliness, but they can learn a thing or two from Singapore about toilet hygiene. I hope.
  • Malaysia is a place of smiles: the girls collecting toll smile, the security personnel smile, the immigration officers smile, it comes naturally to them. Singaporeans smile too, but their smiles look like they have been reading instruction manuals meant for air-hostesses.
  • Singaporeans do everything the way their government instructs them, and the government instructs frequently (even on chewing gums). I have seen neat placards near playgrounds saying: Children Must Play Quietly. Malaysians let their children loose anywhere they go, malls, hospitals, churches. Malaysian parents seem to think screaming in public places is every child’s birthright.
  • In Malaysia, people drive like the road belongs to them. In Singapore, they (mostly) drive like the road belongs to everyone else.
  • In Singapore, queues are sacred. You will see queues everywhere, at donut shops in shopping malls, at shops distributing freebies, at taxi stands, cemeteries. Everywhere, in short. In Malaysia, queues are not taken seriously. Period.
  • Malaysians love their food, and they don’t care where they get it. You can have some of the most delicious food at roadside hawker stalls. You will find BMWs and Ferraris parked beside humble Proton Wiras outside a stall that is famous for Char kway teow or Asam Laksa. In Singapore, the rich go to fancy restaurants, and the rest go to lesser restaurants and food-courts. People meet over food in Malaysia. In Singapore, they seem to meet over shopping.
  • When you meet people in Malaysia for the first time (naturally at a place where the food is scrumptious), you are likely to be asked, “What would you like to drink?”. In Singapore, the question would be,”What do you do (for a living)?”
  • In Malaysia, expatriates (and their spouses) are not given work permits or permanent resident status despite merit. In money-driven Singapore on the other hand, these things are issued based on ability to contribute to the country, not on race or religion. Sigh, poor me, an expat’s wife. The tough-as-nails Singapore government welcomed me to work and stay with open arms, but in Malaysia, alas, the hospitality and friendliness remains a quality only of its people, not its government.
  • In Singapore, my husband did not care if I took a cab at 3 am alone. In Malaysia, he worries if I take one alone at 6 pm. There are rapes, murders and robberies in Malaysia, much like in a lot of other countries. In Singapore, the crime news consists of accounts of shoplifters being caned mercilessly. (Ok, I exaggerated on that one, but you get the picture.)
  • The most important thing to remember about both countries: Most Malaysians hate Singaporeans and think they are stuck up and kiasu. All Singaporeans hate Malaysians and think they are lazy.

If I really, really ask myself, I like the relentless efficiency of Singapore, but there is nothing really to love or hate, there is great liking, but mostly, there is indifference.

I love Malaysia’s people, its natural beauty, its food. I hate the slowness, and of course, the corruption.

I am not so sure if I should believe that the “opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference”.

But there you go: I have a love-hate thing going on for Malaysia, but for Singapore, it is indifference.

Have you visited Malaysia and Singapore? Which do you like better, and why?

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Add Yours
  1. Anuradha(Anu)

    Nice comparison Damyanti.. enjoyed reading. Living myself here in Australia as a migrant I can relate to some of your remarks on people and culture we see as expatriates. It has a feeling such as “seeing from above” according to my experience..

  2. afzanmentor

    Nice write up about Msia & Spore’s differences.

    I’ve only been to Spore once or twice, but I can understand how you feel about Msia & Spore. I agree with your points!

    Like anywhere else in the world, there’s the good and the bad, and liking someplace better than the other, is just individual preference.

    Your list makes a lot of sense. 😊

  3. The Belmont Rooster

    I had a Filipina girlfriend that worked as a house maid in Singapore. It was very interesting to talk to her about the country. I did some research and found out I would not like to live there although visiting would be great. Especially the dome!

  4. Joi


    Question 1.
    My partner and I are moving to Malaysia as an Expat deal, now just wondering if does anyone know if you can work both in Malaysia and Singapore at the same time?
    What I mean by that is, Main office is in Singapore, but also have an office in JB? Trying to secure if I can work 3 days in Singapore and 2 days in JB; is that feasible?

    2. What does that mean for tax purposes? Do you have to pay Tax twice?

    Thanks all

  5. BunKaryudo

    I found this post very interesting. However unqualified you feel to write about the differences between the two states, I think you a major expert compared to me. I have been to both places before, but only for about a day in Malaysia during a stopover and for about four or five days in Singapore. I didn’t know there was some bad feeling between the inhabitants of the two. It’s a shame because I like both places myself.

  6. Melvin

    Being a Singaporean, I “naturally” veer to the side of Singapore. However, we have been abroad for a long period of time before returning home. Well you know the thing about home. You grew up in it and obviously do not see things from the perspective of non islanders (or they say – the republic, Malaysia’s a constitutional monarchy). But this adds a fresh paradigm and always welcome

  7. Mohamed

    Hi. Accidentally bumped into this article. I would agree with 80% of the content. Lived in Singapore for 2 years and hated it. Now in KL – hectic, scary toilets but love it – the city is bustling and ‘natural., the people is friendly and the food is amazing.


    Interesting comparison. I was in the Singapore airport in the mid-to-late 1980s I was struck by the almost elitist feel, the polished employees, and the big brother pics. Whole thing made me feel slightly uneasy… for various reasons. I had been in India so it was quite the change. Also different from the Toronto airport, which is another thing too.

  9. aviottjohn

    Interesting to read your views since I’ll be in both countries again this year for a third visit, but don’t know either of them well. Only as a tourist.

  10. Nick Verron

    I very nearly moved to Pasir Ris a couple of years ago. Being in an electric wheelchair, I could easily traverse the country on the MRT, with it being fully accessible. I found most of the people incredibly helpful, always offering to lend a hand at the slightest sign of hardship, most speaking intelligible Englsh. An observation however, is they do not seem to be able to process public displays of affection?

    • Damyanti Biswas

      Hey! You’ve been to Singapore? Yes, most places are accessible here. There’s a fair bit of PDA these days, and no one bats an eyelid.

      • Nick Verron

        Indeed. I married a Singaporean citizen and was going to become a PR. My wife suggested buying a house and business in her name to give us access to government grants. Immediately after us getting married when I came to SG, she announced was pregnant. I therefore agreed to buy the house and business, but on the basis we signed a post-nuptial. The marriage immediately broke down…

        I’ve really no idea why I just told you all of that!

        • Damyanti Biswas

          Am so sorry to hear about the marriage breaking down. Sending you good wishes, thank you for sharing. I love your blog, and I hope you will some day be back in Singapore, for new and positive memories.

  11. swpulley

    Damyanti, it was much fun to read this post on comparisons between Malaysia and Singapore. I, like you, have also lived in countries outside my own (USA), but in South America: Bolivia (20 years) and Chile (8 years). Also significant differences between the adjoining nations, but each a wonderful experience in its own.

  12. Birgit

    Love the comparisons and I think I would prefer Singapore even if they seem to be policing everything. I do like it that kids are to play quietly-This is needed in North America

  13. Crosslife's Space

    interesting to read an expat’s view on two countries during a brief stay. There are fundamental differences between the two. From what I know the people do not hate each other. Many depend on each other for a living. Like many other pragmatic parts of the world, economics continues to motivate people to live together. Often I meet members of the same families being distributed evenly in these two places to take advantage of the higher currency value of one and the cheaper cost of living in another.

  14. Thessauron

    I’m from SG and kudos to you for boldly stating the ups and downs of the country. It both heartens and disheartens that you’ve noticed our obsession with “what do you do for a living,” something which reflects our overall mercenary mentality towards life.

  15. billwhite1951

    As an expat from the United States relocated to Peru, I enjoyed your comparisons very much, and appreciated your sense of humor. I found much to relate to, with the US my Singapore and Malaysia my Peru.

  16. Birgit

    This is very interesting and a great post. My hubby would love it in Singapore because of the cleanliness and the strict rules. I think some of those rules should be adopted here since garbage can be everywhere and so many people are disrespectful.

  17. KLMcCarty

    Hello! I would love to contact you–I myself will be traveling to SE Asia beginning of 2016, and KL in Malaysia is a stop! I will continue reading your blog, but will love input if I have questions!

  18. Lola Elvy

    I lived in Malaysia on my boat on and off for about a year; the last six months were spent generally in Langkawi, with the occasional trip to Thailand. I have only been to Singapore once, and only for a couple days, but the sense of being constantly observed was very present, I thought. I like Malaysia, though; the people are very friendly and welcoming.

  19. Lance Greenfield

    This is a brilliant article, and I find so many truths in it, or maybe so many parts that I agree with. As a child, I lived in both Singapore and North Borneo (now Eastern Malaysia) in the sixties. I have been back to Singapore and KL on many visits since then.
    I love both countries and recognize all of the differences that you write about here.
    Lovely writing, striking home.

  20. dcavnar

    I thoroughly enjoyed your in-depth look into the various differences between these two incredible countries. I had the joyful experience of backpacking through Malaysia and into Singapore as I wrapped up the last few weeks of a several month backpacking trip, and loved both places. All of your observations are spot on, particularly about the nearly antiseptic cleanliness of Singapore. I also was enamored with the sheer variety of choice for food in both places, but I was truly in food heaven in Malaysia. What you wrote about the crossing of socio-economic divides when it came to food is an interesting view that I hadn’t considered.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences, as well as taking a look at my own post! It’s an honor to have someone who’s clearly so established in the blogging realm to check out anything I’ve produced. I look forward to more of your posts!

    • Damyanti

      Thanks for your comment– I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Look forward to visiting you more often– my blog is hardly an establishment, it is more of a water-cooler community where everyone chats about topics of common interest.

  21. Writilin

    Loved reading this – one day I plan to live in Malaysia. Or Singapore. Or Malaysia. Or Sing…you get the picture 🙂

  22. glenice whitting

    Loved reading this. I lived in Malacca Malaya for two years in the 60’s and have have a special spot in my heart for the people and country ever since. Many thanks for a great post.

  23. gspottedpen

    I have been a regular visitor to Singapore and Malaysia. I am disturbed by the fact, of the awful incongruity between the prices of hotels in Singapore and Malaysia. Malaysia is cheap for an average middle class person and for the same price you can rent only a shack in Singapore. I stayed in Indian hotel in Singapore and it was budget hotel. The room was stinking and the AC was inhuman. On the other hand budget hotels in Malaysia like MY Hotel are pretty good with tidy rooms, great AC and friendly staff. Singapore’s Changi airport was bewitching. Malaysia became a home to me as I have many friends there. Yes Malaysian smiles are more homely and Singaporeans are mechanical and look at you with causal indifference. Anand Bose

    • Damyanti

      Thanks for your comment Anand, and I know exactly what you’re talking about. Each country has its own ways, its pluses and, inevitably, minuses.

  24. 24/7 in France

    Knowing cultural differences is important! Merci for visiting 24/7 in France, author of “Solitary Desire-One Woman’s Journey to France”

  25. mrphilippines1974pinoytraveler

    I like the way you compare the two countries and that is really true because I visit both countries for several times during my competition year while I’m competing for Asean bodybuilding competition but two years ago I was in Singapore and visiting the famous bay casino I’m not a gambler I just try some beer on the top roof of the famous over hang deck. And I met a Malaysian in the lobby who just attending seminar and we have good conversation and she invited me to their house in malacca and I told her that after I visit MYAMMAR I’m going back to visit the famous petronas building then I can swing by to malacca and she surprised when that week I ring their house. They are really hospitable . They let me stay on their house for five days and they treat me like a family. The husband touring me on their famous place in malacca and bring me to their family celebration and introduced me as their friend from Philippines . I love their family and the husband told me anytime I will visit malacca just don’t hesitate to give them a call and are happy to pick me .

  26. Stanton Swafford

    Good morning. I will launch my debut novel, China Sea, in about two weeks. I will distribute through Amazon, Kindle, iTunes, Nook and Google Play. As my settings are primarily in Southeast Asia (including Malacca and Singapore) I do want the book to be available in that region. Can you update me? Are Amazon print books and each of the eBooks easily available in Singapore and Malaysia these days? Thanks.

    • Damyanti

      Most Amazon ebooks aren’t legally available in this part of the world. You might want to consider putting your book on Kobo and Smashwords as well.

      • Stanton Swafford

        Thanks. I won’t use Smashwords as they are a middleman, not a seller. Will consider Kobo. Seems print books are the way to go via Amazon or bookstore

  27. Typehype

    Thanks for checking out my blog. I’ve never been to either country, but I derived a nice sense of what they are like from reading your post. Very interested to read more.

    • James J. S. Johnson

      Same here — it was very interesting to learn of the contrasts. Pacific countries are an unknown to me, except for what I learn from their people (and from the few history books that appear to be both insightful and accurate).

  28. mwamburimaole

    Thanks for passing by my blog. Wow, I should travel…that was really nice. I always thought Singapore was a nice place, now surviving the indifference, that’s the catch. hehe, thanks Damyanti!

  29. A.B.King

    Awesome, thanks for the way you compared them. Now I know some fascinating points about Singapore & Malaysia. Thanks to you Damyanti. – A.B.King.

  30. Bea dM

    really interesting info, specially in terms of comparing them – from the physical and cultural distance of Europe-centric Europe, neither is all that well known, though Singapore is often described as the “Switzerland of Asia”. I get the love-hate for Malaysia, but why the indifference to Singapore? sounds like pretty decent quality of life, no?

  31. Anne Skyvington

    I love this. You seem to have got it right, just from the tone. I’ve visited Singapore but not Malaysia. I’d like to go there now after reading this. Thanks for stopping by

  32. writing, writing, words words words.

    Thanks for the likes, and for the Follow. Apologies it has taken me so long to respond. Can’t wait to dive into some of your work, although I’m still trying to figure out sort a daily schedule of writing my own stuff and reading other people’s stuff. How do you do it? 🙂

  33. Stanton Swafford

    If you’d like to read about how Singapore and Malacca, Malaysia were years ago you might like to read two of my blog posts at

  34. lghiggins

    Interesting and well written comparison. As expats we definitely have a viewpoint and that can be a constructive thing if we keep things in perspective. I liked the way you compared two places you lived rather than with “back home.”

  35. lisboeta1

    Thank you for visiting my blog. I was an expat myself in many different parts of the world, first due to my dad’s job and later my husband’s. I lived in many different parts of Africa and Europe and like them or not, those places where you spent a few years of your life will always have a special place in your heart; sometimes it is the country itself (Scotland), other times it is the human condition in the country (old Zaire, now the Congo). Great article.

  36. Elleez

    Hi, enjoyed reading your blog. I’m a Malaysian currently based in SG as a professional for the last 5 years plus and have also worked in KL for more than 10 years. I’ll like to contribute my 2 cents since I’ve been in both cities long enough. I also grew up going to SG very often to visit my late grandma, aunts and cousins, so much so many have asked if I was S’porean even when living in KL.

    Sg is very efficient, clean to a certain extent (still lots of litter in some parts), practise meritocracy and has zero tolerance to corruption. It attracts talent from all over the world, so everyone competes at an almost equal playing field. Food is good (though I always remark, not as good as in M’sia!) , hawker food is very affordable, fine dining superb selection. More importantly, I feel safe walking on the streets and even when taking the MRT home late at night. Oh btw, there are always tall, young Cisco police personnel patrolling the train stations, streets and even in trains. I feel safe in SG.

    In KL, I drive around everywhere. The last of Security is an issue, so I lock my doors immediately upon getting into my car. I clutch my handbag tightly to prevent falling prey to snatch thieves, which is prevalent. Food wise, it’s almost similar but as another writer wrote, no street food available. Only hawker fare with alphabet rating prominently displayed on the stall to indicate their level of cleanliness. A is of course the best rating. I find this useful and M’sia should also adopt this concept. So far, I’ve never seen any lesser rating than a B.

    The high Cost of living is always a bane in SG. Due to the lack of land, rental is very high but less than HK. A small private shoe box unit with set you back by S$600K easily. Cars are more expensive now with higher COE but I’ve gotten used to not driving in SG. The efficient MRT, bus and cabs makes not owning a
    car a breeze. Oh yes, one thing lacking in SG toilets is the lack of bidet or wash hose! But without it, toilets are dry and cleaner compared to those in M’sia with wet dirty floors. Guess you can’t have best of both, huh?:-)

    • Elleez

      Sorry, just to add on, the lack of street food and the availability of such food via hawker stalls refer to SG with alphabet tagging to denote the level of cleanliness.

  37. hairulov

    Hi Damyanti,

    Enjoy reading your post about Malaysia n Singapore.

    I’m Malaysian. I agree with almost your observation but i,m not agree about Malaysian are lazy compare to Singaporean.

    Malaysia is actualy not that lazy. It is actually Singaporean who is working too much because they are obeying zombie trying to survive against each others.

    We Malaysian have plenty lot others things to do like “lepaking” at mamak stall late at night to banter each other.

    I might be bias but i think that is my birthright 😉


  38. James Dooney

    I concur with this. I have my own little observation to add. The staff at KLIA,. Kuala Lumpur International Airport, are so warm and friendly that I often catch MAS ( my favorite airline ) purely just to stop over at KLIA. Changi Airport is run so much like a business that you wonder if they know how to smile at all in Singapore !

  39. Juliana Lightle

    Glad you liked my blog post. I have two friends, sister, who live where you live. They are originally from Thailand. One was an exchange student here. Of course, you live in a big city so the likelihood of your knowing either of them is negligible.

  40. Steph

    I’m currently taking some university units in Asian studies and I love getting a feel for different cultures–so this was a hugely interesting post to read!

    P.S. Thanks for liking my ramblings about decluttering my book collection!

  41. christawojo

    My in-laws are Singaporean with many relatives in Malaysia. All of your comparisons are right on! Singaporeans are very materialistic, but so very pleasant about it. And I LOVE KL. It just has a good vibe. Also, I love that all restrooms have bidets (or at least a hose) and I love the variety of food. It’s just as extensive as Singapore, but slightly different. I thought I was an expert in curry until we went to an Arab curry place one night after night-clubbing. I swear it was so spicy that I was going to hallucinate.

    It’s been a few years since I’ve visited Singapore or Malaysia. I look forward to any posts about life over there. I miss the food, the people, and the culture. But mostly the food… lol.

  42. curtisbausse

    Thanks for visiting my post today, Damyanti. I must explore your blog archives a bit more – there’s such a wealth here! BTW, perhaps you noticed the buildings in my picture today were in Singapore?

  43. plainandsimplepress

    LOL! Nice post… In just a couple of hours, I’m going to meet a client who has spent his life as an international banker. In one of several books he’s hired me to edit, he remarked in passing that Singapore (along with a few other big cities) left him cold. I asked him if he could say why that is, but all he could say was that it didn’t interest him. He now lives happily in Mongolia, with a Mongolian wife. Your lively comparison explains all!

  44. Marc Kuhn

    Damyanti…first, thanks for visiting my blog throughout the year and dropping off a bunch of “likes”…and second, I am completely the usual ignorant, naïve American when it comes to having any acceptable knowledge of Singapore and Malaysia so I found your posting really interesting…and lots fun! Have a great holiday and even better 2015.

  45. Khairy Farhan

    A Singaporean here who has been to Malaysia from time to time agrees with everything except there are Singaporeans too who meet over food. The only problem is that nostalgic places who cannot keep up with the raising rents close down and unfortunately, we have no choice but to patron the more ‘atas’ (premier) eateries. In Singapore, things are expensive thus Singaporeans work hard and generally have this in mind, and some even look down on you if you don’t. In Malaysia, it’s a totally different, if not opposite, mindset. Thanks for the comparison post. 🙂

  46. burtclemonsfilms

    I didn’t know any of this before I read your blog. I love the way you compared the two. I have cooked Asian style for more than 30 years, so I think I’ll go to Malaysia, if I ever have the choice between the two. I’ll just have to revert back to my street smarts I acquire on the streets of Chicago, smile. I enjoyed reading your blog.

  47. dotcablogger

    In my own country, I met a man from Singapore while I was at the subway station (or call it the light rail train station). That Singapore man told me that Canada is dirty compared to Singapore. And I see that you have told me the exact same story about Singapore. But I actually admire hygiene, so Singapore public hygiene must be something awesome. I also want to be in Singapore to avoid a disease outbreak 😛

  48. dronaverill

    Enjoyed reading this. I lived in Malaysia for two years but never went to Singapore (although of course I heard MANY things about it). It’s been 15 years since I left, and besides friendships, the thing that sticks most in my mind is the food. I was one of the few expats I knew who would happily go to hawker stalls. This led to many wonderful eating experiences. I was also a bus rider (you talked about transportation) and when I was there buses were plentiful, but drivers were paid by how many times they finished their route, so they might drive right past you at a bus stop. And the buses were always sardine-like in their crowding. But taxis were cheap and plentiful at that time. I also remember queuing, getting shoved out of the way by little old ladies (I’m a big guy). Definitely a hard-wired part of the culture. Thanks for sharing.

  49. bwhite21

    I am glad you liked my review of “The Luminaries” although my other reviews have been much better for obvious reasons. Your notes about transportation in Singapore interested me. It is experimenting with autonomous vehicles (self-driving) and I am interested in the law developing around them. These cars will alter society. Have you read much about them in Singapore? China and India are also experimenting with them.

    Like the sunflower!

  50. Sharron

    I loved your contrasting of the two countries. I have been to Singapore and your description is accurate. Haven’t been to Malaysia,,,,yet. Thanks for liking my blog. All interest is greatly appreciated. Good Luck with your writing.

  51. Andrew Darwitan

    Singapore is overall more efficient and convenient. But Malaysia wins when it comes to food. That’s just my 2 cents though. =)

  52. alexisbay

    hi Damyanti,
    Thanks for liking my poem.
    I briefly went through some of your pages and I enjoyed reading them. It’s so encouraging to read about another writer living in the same part of the world as I do. Can you share (via email perhaps)what you write daily as part of your work, if you don’t mind of course. thanks

  53. marjma2014

    A very interesting piece. I was born in Singapore but have now lived the majority of my life in the UK. I have been to both Malaysia and Singapore. I love both but do find it sad that you can’t go out in the evening in Malaysia as a lone woman and feel safe. Such a shame.

  54. Kei-Hope

    LOVED EVERYTHING ABOUT THE ARTICLE except the last point. no, time and time again, not all singaporeans hate malaysians. man. D:
    you’re right that singapore places your work first, and that’s because it’s a meritocracy based society. basically, if you work hard for whatever thing you do, if you help your company, you’d get credited.

  55. Vartikaforu

    I really love Singapore.. last year I have been there. You are right its very safe in Singapore, for the first time in my life I have gone to the pub.. I agree with all the points that you have mentioned about Singapore.

  56. Andrea Leber

    Love this! I met my husband when we both worked in KL in 2006, so I have very fond memories of Malaysia. I always tell Europeans that KL-Singapore is a bit like Budapest-Vienna 🙂

  57. lizannelloyd

    I found your comments fascinating. I lived in Singapore as a teenager 1966-1969. I loved every minute. Singapore felt so safe, was so beautiful and I made many friends. Malaya, as it was then, was a peaceful holiday place- Malacca, Frasers Hill, Penang, KL, so I think they may have changed even more than Singapore. I have been back to Singapore twice in recent years. Yes, it has changed a great deal but it is still a vibrant, exciting city though maybe not as frenetic as Hong Kong.

  58. joannern

    Being a Malaysian myself and having visited Singapore numerous times, I gotta say – very accurate descriptions of both countries! While I love Malaysia, there are things I abhor about it, especially the crime rate! Although I’ve moved to the USA and now live in a lovely small town, I still have the habit of locking my doors as soon as I enter and am just getting used to not having to hide my purse out of sight when I’m driving. I must admit – this is kind of liberating!

  59. David Bruns

    I lived in Singapore in 2007-8 and traveled a lot all over Asia. Your comparison between Sng and MY cracked me up. We loved the safety of Singapore, but felt the restrictions at the same time. Nice article!

  60. semperscribe

    I cant agree more with your comments about Singapore. It’s so diverse that the culture is hard to pinpoint. It’s too convenient, too clean. While it made my vacation easier, it seemed like I was still home in the States. The zoo, however, is wonderfully unique 🙂

  61. ying

    “I have a love-hate thing going on for Malaysia, but for Singapore, it is indifference.”
    You described what I’ve been struggling to tell my Malaysian fellow friends. The last few sentences accentuated the differences between these two countries.

    ps, thank you for liking my post! Glad that it led me to your blog 🙂

  62. 1inkslinger4u

    I enjoy the observations an objective expat can give. My own descriptions of the US Canal Zone and Panama (My Paradise Lost) share a couple of similarities to Malaysia and Singapore, perhaps it’s the colonial heritage. But the Zone was mellow compared to SP. Your list was interesting and enlightening, thanks.

  63. allenrizzi

    I am an American who has lived in Northern Italy for 12 years. In that time, I have written a ton about the area. I love to share the unique qualities of our culture, language and customs with other people. This prompted me to write a book titled, “Our First Year – Sketches from an Alpine Village.” It’s available through Amazon.I realize that most people can’t or don’t want to live abroad. I hope to have filled a gap for these folks with my writing. Personally, I can’t comprehend living in one place on this huge planet all of my life.

    Tanti auguri per un buon lavoro!

    • Damyanti

      Grazie! Vivere in Italia e’ un sogno per me. Cerchero’ il libro “Our First Year”.. Ho vissuto in tre paesi, India, Malesia e Singapore– e ho sempre voglia di trasferirmi e vivere per un paio d’anni anche in Italia!

      Scusami se ho fatto degli errori, in questi giiorni non faccio tanta pratica della lingua Italiana 🙂

  64. lisionok2004

    What a great writing! Its very educational. Also its a great timing for me, since I know so little about Malaysia but yet considering visiting my friend there.

  65. mel

    Hey D, I’m not sure why I’ve only seen this post now. I agree on most points except the last one – some of my closest friends are Malaysians 🙂 And if you throw a Singaporean and Malaysian together in another part of the world, it’s almost always likely a brotherhood/sisterhood will be formed 😉

  66. V. Alarcón-Córdoba

    To an armchair traveler, yours is a very insightful description of the two Malaysia. I’ve often wondered how Singapore’s city-state status differed from it being just a city on the Malaysian peninsula. It’s amazing how the social controls can make such a difference. It seems there would have to be cooperation on the part of both sides, the citizens and the government in order for it to work so well. Happy coincidence that in my book I use Singapore as a model for a successful China World Power of the future.

  67. havendol

    To be honest you’re pretty spot on about Malaysia 😉

    And currently in this moment and period in time, Malaysia isn’t exactly famous for the right things. The corruption has indeed gone pretty bad.

    Racist remarks are openly thrown by the ministers.
    And hypocrisy runs rampant. Inefficiency is considered normal. And there’s the very big nonchalant attitude towards a lot of important things (like security and amenities maintenance for instance just to name a few). Dealing with the government services, you have to make sure you have blood pressure medicine ready cause it’s going to hit you bad. You’ll be pulling hairs out of frustration trying to get things done.

    The country is being run to the ground. The people are united through friendships regardless of race, but one can’t escape the negative effects of its corrupt government. And the people are suppressed, the democratic elections rigged in favour of the ruling party that has been in power for quite the number of decades. The judiciary, law enforcements and military are not independent and eating from the hand of government officials.

    Malaysia’s atmosphere isn’t how it used to be years ago during the time right after its independence.

    Food wise, Malaysia can boast of it definitely. But I prefer Singapore (though I haven’t been there long enough, the impression has been strongly placed upon me) for its efficiency. I would like to be amidst a culture that actually gets things done for a change.

  68. jsummar

    Great blog entry. As I read this, I am currently reading a book about a Singaporean detective investigating a murder in Kuala Lumpur. It talks about some of the things you noted. The main character provides some comparisons to his home country while working in Malaysia for a temporary case. It’s called “Inspector Singh Investigates: A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder”, by Shamini Flint. It’s a cute read. I love mysteries.

  69. sujithakumari

    Excellent writing about Malaysia and Singapore. Very much needed for me as I will be visiting SG as an in a couple of months as an expat wife! Thank you. Keep writing 🙂

  70. TanGental

    I’ve not been to either Singapore or Malaysia yet (on the bucket list) though my nephew is in Singapore with his wife and seems to enjoy it in all its blandness. I love the bit about the opposite of love is indifference. That may just be crueller. Keep up the insights.

  71. Content Catnip

    This is amazin Damyantig I don’t know how I didn’t see this post before. I know exactly how you feel about Singapore and Malaysia as I feel pretty much the same way. Such indepth insight here into how both countries work. In terms of the people, the culture and food I love Malaysia more, but in terms of the mod-cons and efficiency and the pay rate Singapore is better in my humble opinion. 🙂

  72. neelkanth

    Certainly a description with beauty capable of inspiring all. Thanks for following my blog. I am deeply impressed with your profile and am following you with immediate effect. This is pleasant that we are able to exchange our views.

  73. sporterhall

    I may not get the opportunity to visit Malaysia or Singapore but your description was so detailed, I feel like I have a good sense of what to expect if ever I do. Thank you for such an informative piece and thanks for the follow also. I gladly return the favor! Have a great night!

  74. nemisha17

    Hi! I’ve lived as an expat in Singapore and your descriptions about the people and culture are really accurate. I haven’t been to Malaysia (save for a day at Johr Bahru which is near the Singapore border). I miss Singapore so much! This post made me so nostalgic of the time I spend there (2 years). And yes, the efficiency and administration of the place is commendable, although I do not miss the people at all (sometimes I think some of them act like robots). A good read overall!

  75. Amanda J Butler

    Dear Damyanti,

    Thank you so much for starting to follow my blog. I am completely new to blogging, but have always enjoyed writing.

    I have just visited your beautiful site, and am very impressed with what I have found. I used to work with a lady from Malaysia, and she often showed me photos of her family back home. Your country looks so fertile and green.

    I admire your challenge to write something new every day.

    Kind regards,

  76. thestrangeintrovert

    Hey there! I really enjoyed your uncensored opinions about Malaysia and Singapore. My parents were immigrants from Malaysia and I was born and raised in Singapore, apart from spending two years of my childhood in Malaysia. I’d never felt any different from my friends until I was about 17 or 18. That was when I found out that some of my new schoolmates actually hate Malaysians. Even though I was already a Singaporean by then, I was thoroughly insulted by their remarks. I travel into Malaysia most weekends for good, cheap food and to get away from the crowds, and I like how clean Singapore is, but honestly, I don’t know which I love better.

  77. Jess

    I lived in Singapore as a high school student–an ex-pat. Truly one of the greatest experiences of my life. I look forward to reading your blog!

  78. petebauerblog

    I have coworkers who live and work in both places. The next time they are in the States I’ll have to ask them if their views align with yours.

  79. Anna C.

    I’ve never traveled outside of Western Europe, but I still greatly enjoyed this post. You have some very perceptive observations. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  80. rosepoetartist

    Thanks for stopping by on my blog. I look forward to reading more of yours. I lived overseas (Indonesia, Romania, Ecuador, Gabon, Manila) for many years and loved it all, especially the people. I wish I had kept journals. Photos and memories are good but writing is much truer to the moment. Keep it going. Rosa.

  81. mmwelch

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I enjoyed reading this post – I love how the internet gives us such a wider view of the world and lets us talk to people from all over.

  82. stonestalk2

    Thank you for stopping by and following my blog. It’s new and hopefully will gain momentum soon. Your perception of your two cities is really interesting. I like the fact that it is just that, a perception. I read several of the comments and not all agreed with you. I guess they have a different perception. Everyone’s perception is unique. I’ve lived in North Texas and and now I live in South Texas which is like not living in Texas at all. You have inspired me to write about my unique perception of these very different parts of the very same state. God bless and keep writing.

  83. dfolstad58

    I enjoyed this post. I have visited neither of these places but you managed to convey clearly the different atmospheres and cultures of both places. I enjoyed the style of writing, and the length of the post also. Just the right length and your tone and style was like you were sitting across the table in a coffee shop. Well done. I suggest a few photos and more personal experiences as readers love personal experiences,.

  84. Browsing the Atlas

    I agree with everything you said about Singapore. It’s very safe, very clean, and almost sterile. It’s hard to “love” it.

    I’ve only been across the border from there into Malaysia and immediately saw a huge difference. I didn’t get to spend enough time in Malaysia to form an opinion, but would like to explore it more.

  85. sabinaayne

    Thank you for dropping by my blog. I enjoyed this post comparing Singapore & Malaysia. I’ve not been to either country but you have peaked my curiosity!

  86. Steve Curry

    I don’t know KL, but have spent time around the edges of Malaysia (Langkawi, Borneo). I like Malaysia, but I love Singapore. If you know where to go, such as the hawker markets in among the suburban highrises, Little India and Chinatown, you can see a whole other, much less regulated and less tidy Singo. Hunting the markets of Chinatown for the best chicken rice is one of my favourite things to do, or grabbing a beer in the colonnaded porches of the shop houses in Little India. Magic.

  87. Mico Subosa

    Hi, Damyanti! I love the way you paint a rather paradoxical picture of Singapore – while on one hand very orderly, on the other hand, it feels cold and artificial. I especially love the phrase, “antiseptic sense of cleanliness.”

    I also like the way you contrasted it against more chaotic but also warmer Malaysia. The bit on children playing was the most telling and my favorite comparison. Now I’m curious how my experience would be once I get to visiting those countries!

    By the way, thanks for following my blog! Like you, I’m trying to get into some sort of writing “ritual,” and knowing someone else is doing that, too, it should be easier! (After all, if you can write daily, what excuse do I have to not write weekly?) 🙂

  88. dbluest2014

    Nice article on Singapore. U.S. friends who have visited and lived there really like the place, particularly the safety factor. Beautiful pic at the top of your blog. Hope KL gets better for you.

  89. Nick

    Hi, I am British and have lived in KL for over 5 years. KL is becoming cleaner, especially round the city centre, like Pavilion and the redevelopment along Jalan Bukit Bintang. It is also much cheaper than Singapore. I still prefer KL to Singapore, although I love to get to Singapore for weekends. I hope KL continues to progress to the benefit of all citizens!

  90. firecook

    Thank you for liking my post. I read this this is interesting.. I like to know about other counties. The strange and mystery. Thank you and have a nice evening;)

  91. lopu123

    Enjoyed the read so much, Damyanti! Very intensive, informative and professional write. Hope to read more works of you soon!

  92. john flanagan

    you make some very interesting points and not all will agree with them and that’s to be expected but what i like is your directness and your fluent style

  93. powertiyerpen

    Hi Damyanti,
    Having been to Singapore twice for an aggregate of 7 hours -both visa runs – and more than 2 months in Malaysia for holidays and visa runs I know you hit the mark on every count here. Singapore really loves the Big Brother CCTV and feels full of rules. Far too many in our opinion. KL on the other hand, well in 48 hours we saw three robberies on the streets and I hate the stares the guys smoking on the streets give my good lady’s behind. You would think she was the first woman to ever set foot in the place. Langkawi is a dream if you time it right, hire transport and visit places and get to know the locals. Penang is quaint, has excellent food and has a nice charm, but no more than a week there or you’d get bored.
    Thanks for the insights. I will direct my visa run friends from Thailand here.

  94. twv2

    Hi Damyanti, thank you for dropping by and liking my blog. It gives you a little buzz to know that someone has read your writing. You have some really interesting articles here – they’re great. Look forward to reading more.

  95. Tom

    Hello Damyanti. First of all, I thank you for visiting and following my blog. Hopefully you’ll get to see my website sometime, which is a step up.
    I’ve been to the US, briefly, the Middle East for the first Gulf War, and travelled widely I Europe, but sadly I’ve never been to the Far East. In your piece you give a wonderful, and dare I say, balanced flavour of two places I would love to see. Thank you for the in-depth study and report. I’ve recently picked up a few followers on my blog, and I will follow all who follow me, so to that end, I’ve decided to add followers to my blogroll. I reckon in that way, I can ensure I make regular contact with all of you. I’ll be back.

  96. yoongz

    Hopped on over after seeing that you visited my blog, thanks! Very funny & interesting post! i’m Singaporean, living in Switzerland now. What you wrote is mostly true but i must say i think “hate” is a rather strong word to use – we (at least the Singaporeans i know) don’t hate Malaysians, some of my good friends are Malaysians, we just don’t agree on some things (ok maybe on many things). And the friends & family i have, we always meet over food, never over shopping (i’m not a shopper). i miss the food in both countries!

  97. Christopher Peter

    Hi Damyanti
    Thank you for visiting my blog and being kind enough to like my rant about Morrissey.
    Your comments about Singapore and Malaysia are fascinating. I live in the UK but I work for a publisher and we do much of our printing in the region, and so I’ve been visiting these two countries more or less annually since 2006. I’ve only ever stayed for 1-2 weeks at a time and spend most of my time in meetings at printers and in our local office in Singapore – and typically I only spend 1-2 nights in Malaysia, always at the PJ Hilton (if you know where that is) – so I can’t claim to know either place as well as you. There’s nothing like actually living somewhere.
    But I have managed to get out and about a bit, and find both countries enjoyable and interesting places to visit. And many of your comments really resonate with me. Both countries are so similar in many ways (though I’ve only really seen the KL area of Malaysia – I imagine that other parts, like East Malaysia, are quite different), but I identified with the differences you described.
    I remember on my first visit to Singapore, it was front page news on the Straits Times that some graffiti had been found on a train! That wouldn’t even have been newsworthy in most countries. (Of course, a couple of ex-pats were responsible – I can’t imagine native Singaporeans ever doing anything like that.) Singapore must be just about the safest big city on the planet. Mind you the place has changed in some ways even during the last seven years. More cars, more traffic (though not as bad as KL yet!), more glitzy casinos, more Chinese billionaires pushing property prices into the stratosphere. Still a wonderful place though.
    Talking of KL traffic, one of my abiding memories is looking out my bedroom window in the PJ Hilton and seeing the main road towards downtown KL totally solid – at about 11pm!
    Anyway I could write for hours on this topic, but better go.

  98. indrihapsari

    Hello Damyanti, thank you for visiting my blog. It’s interesting to read your blog. I had visited that 2 countries, and your article reminds me and makes me smile 😀

  99. petejoem

    That was well written and very descriptive. I think if I was going to visit for s short time I may consider Singapore but I couldn’t take being in a repressive society very long. I guess inefficiency is a price that is paid for freedom; there are certainly many examples of that in the USA.

  100. Jo Ann Brown-Scott

    Thank you for subscribing to my blog! You and I have something in common – my daughter and her husband are currently living in Singapore and in my blog archives you will find several post about my first trip there and to Bangkok – I learned so much about the Asian culture and can’t wait to go back….
    Pleased to meet you!

  101. harmonioustew

    this is a wonderful study in contrasts. thanks very much for providing your readers with such an illuminating description of these two places. i can understand your ambivalence towards the one and indifference towards the other. kuala lumpur sounds more like real life. (thanks also for liking my blog post!)

  102. The Crazy Crone

    Thanks for visiting and following my blog, I really enjoyed reading your description of Malaysia and Singapore as I used to live in Australia, prior to moving to North Cyprus, and they were on the doorstep. I’ve visited both – I found Singapore soulless but I enjoyed the chaos of Malaysia. Glad to have come across your blog and a pleasure to follow in return.

  103. Capt Jill

    I really enjoyed reading your comparison. I’ve been to Singapore a few times and really like it there. I’ve never been to Malaysia yet but hope to go someday soon.
    Of course, I would LOVE to be able to move to either of those places and find a way to support myself. Til I can find work in another country, I’m stuck in the USA.
    I’m sure I could contribute to the economy in Singapore (or Malaysia) but I know Singapore has recently made its allowance for foreign workers much stricter. I hope they will loosen it again.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog and following me 🙂

  104. Darryl McAdams

    If you think crime in Malaysia is bad move to America where mass school shootings have become the national passtime because cowardly politicians refuse to stand up to the gun lobby, mainly the NRA. America has become a frightening place. Google mass school shootings, too young to die and Sandyhook elementary, it will sicken you.

  105. emperorrizal82

    I totally agree with your observation about Malaysians taking the ‘queue’ culture lightly. I’m a regular user of public transportation because I don’t own a car. You will see perfect queue lines on the platform, whether its LRT or KTM, every time before the coaches arrive. Discipline and manners went down the drain when the train arrives, the lines will merge into a chaotic battle between the impatience mob and the people who are trying to get out.

  106. Sandra

    Very entertaining post; I’ve been to Singapore two or three times and I can agree wholeheartedly with some of the sentiments you expressed here.

  107. imaginenewdesigns12

    Thank you for following imaginenewdesigns. I do not know very much about Malaysia and Singapore except for reading and watching a few stories about them, so I enjoyed your detailed firsthand account of these places.

  108. meiajacobs

    I so enjoyed reading this post. I am a lover of perspectives 🙂 Malaysia and Singapore are places I know very little about, and I enjoyed much knowing your perspectives of both places. 🙂 Have a great week!

  109. Sally

    Great post – I’m with you. I’ve never been to either country, but if I was going to visit one, Malaysia would win for me. It sounds quirky, friendly and fun. And most of all, they love food. Who wouldn’t want to visit 🙂

  110. yusoff albasrawy

    Singapore is my birth place and where i grew. I am now a Malaysian citizen, and one thing for sure, though i am not happy about how the Govt is running the country, i can tell all you guy this….i am so glad that i am not living in Singapore. It would be like living with my parents, controlled to a point i will end up hating myself. like in most countries, Malaysia is one…a country. Singapore is just a city. Malaysia is a beautiful country (not city) and there are high mountains, jungle, waterfalls and beautiful island beaches. What is there in Singapore? so what if there are efficient transport and clean roads if you have to live day in day out in a shoe box. So what if Malaysians are lazy, its their country and their birth right.

  111. saralitchfield

    Thanks for liking a post on my blog so that I could find yours! I am half-Chinese – my family on my mother’s side are from Malaysia, and my cousin lives in Singapore, so I’ve been in and out the two countries since I was a baby. I appreciate your depiction! Mostly, when I think about both, I appreciate the foooood 🙂

  112. olganm

    I’ve never visited either country but I think you make the differences very clear. Efficient but standardised or disorganised but full of character. I guess like in many occasions if one could chose a mixture of the two… but then I guess it’s true that home is where the heart is.
    And thank for liking my blog!

  113. DK Snape (@DKSnape)

    Dear Damyanti
    Thank you so much for liking my little post on WordPress.
    I’m still fairly new in all these worlds, so any interest shown helps me wind my way through these confusing bytes. Have a few stories published, and the start of my book series, Kin Ship; Moustache on the Moon, part one available for any kids at heart who enjoy unique science fiction.
    Loved your post – makes me want to visit someday.
    dk snape

  114. JOanna Tan

    I’m a Singaporean and I’m very (X infinty) proud to be one. 🙂
    but I don’t think Singaporeans hate Malaysians… and I don’t want to believe that Malaysians hate Singaporeans..

  115. Michaeline Duskova

    Thank you for visiting Eight Ladies Writing. What an interesting post you have here! I live in Japan, and my then-fiance and I visited Singapore and Malaysia . . . it must be 20 years ago now! This brought back some memories! From one ex-pat to another, cheers!

  116. adelineoh

    Miss the food and durian in Malaysia :-). Malaysians live to eat. That is certainly true. I live in the Dominican Republic and used to live in Peru. I was born in Malaysia within the chinese culture of Malaysia and moved to Canada. I also understand the love-hate thing going with a culture that is at the opposite spectrum of one’s culture. Diversity. Sometimes it is pretty, other times, not so much.

  117. dweezer19

    This was a most excellent comparison. I feel about Costa Rica as you do about Malaysia; although I would have to say CR would reflect as a mixture of both Singapore and Malaysia at this point. Most places are immaculately clean, even park restrooms, whereas in my home state-well, I won’t elaborate. The food, although simple, is always fresh and wonderfully prepared; and I never have a concern for cleanliness in the Tico kitchens. You have certainly taken much of the mystery out of visiting either of these countries. If I were able to travel more, they would be added to the list! Thanks for visiting my log.

  118. thembastory

    Your post took me back to my 2 years at Singapore as a student. Loved the adjective you used for cleanliness 🙂 I can assure you the college toilets are not super clean as elsewhere! But yes, better than a lot of other places

  119. whocouldknowthen

    i have to confess that since writing poetry, reading prose doesn’t come easy to these eyes these days. but your relaxed writing and the interesting information and opinions you shared, took me all the way through with ease.

    ju ust thought i’d visit a bit to thank you and acknowledge your follow of my poetry, encouragement is always really appreciated. *smiles*

  120. Pieces of 8

    I am so glad you stumbled across my blog, as I’m immensely glad to have found yours! I have been living in Latin America for the last three years and am planning on moving to Asia in January. I have job applications under consideration in both Malaysia and Singapore, so your information is invaluable.

    I will be keeping a beady eye on all you have to say! Nice to meet you.

  121. birdicatt

    I really enjoyed this. Brought back a lot of memories and I have lived in both Singapore and Malaysia before. I actually worked in the Art Museum in Singapore at one point.
    Thanks again for coming by my site. I am glad I could return the Visit

  122. Words&WordsMore

    I won’t pretend I have as much knowledge about Singapore and Malaysia after having stayed in Singapore for a couple of days before moving on to Indonesia, but I definitely agree with you about the city feeling very antiseptic. I’m not much of a city person to start with, but I wanted to get out of the place after four days. It just felt sterile – all too planned, all too efficient, and very consumer-orientated. I was surprised to find that no-one walked around on the ground, but instead under the streets in air conditioned tunnels lined with shops. And yes, it was all immaculately clean. That being said, I have very mixed feelings about the place, mostly just due to my own personal tastes. I like open spaces without lots of people.

  123. Sandra Mendes

    I loved this post 🙂 I lived in China for 1 year not too long ago, in Harbin for 5 months and in Beijing for 7, and I can relate to the comparisons you drew between Singapore and Malaysia. Asia is amazing, and China is so huge… Harbin is like the wild west of the upper north, featuring a steady stream of Russian immigrants. Beijing is fastidious and more multicultural.

    I look forward to reading more of your writing on Asia 🙂

  124. Rajiv

    Ahh…. I must say I adore Singapore’s slickness and efficiency, I am in awe of it. This I know only from a 13 hour stay at Changi airport, enroute to New Zealand. In the toilets, the old cleaner guy wiped the urinals EVERY TIME someone peed! Jesus. As soon as I, or anyone else, was finished peeing, he would religiously get off his chair and wipe the urinal. Gawd.

    Other impression: Money-Driven. Absolutely. It is one and only national religion, it seems. Many Singaporeans must live stressful lives with their extreme productiveness and money-mindedness..? Hmm…

  125. transitionstande

    Very interesting to me as my mother grew up as an expat in both places, my first boyfriend came from Malaysia, and I am now an expat in the Caribbean. Would love to get to SE Asia one day.:)

  126. Angela Savage

    Damyanti, your comment ‘I cannot claim to know either country in depth, but when has that stopped me (or anyone else) from forming opinions and perceptions?’ made me smile. For me, there’s nothing like being in an ethnic minority to realise just how much we are shaped by our own culture. I’ve been an expat in Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. I now write crime novels set in Thailand, mining the rich vein of culture clashes for both drama and humour – not to mention occasional moments of shared humanity.

  127. Angela Savage

    Hi Damyanti, your statement ‘I cannot claim to know either country in depth, but when has that stopped me (or anyone else) from forming opinions and perceptions?’ made me smile. As an expatriate in Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia over the years, I feel the same way — I actually have the gall to set my crime novels in Thailand!

    I don’t know about you, but it strikes me that we are never made more aware of how we are shaped by our own culture as when we experience what it’s like to be in the minority. And as a writer, culture clashes provide a rich vein for tension as well as humour — and even rare moments of shared humanity.

  128. Marie

    Excellent! Having visited both countries in the 1980s, I think your descriptions are spot on. Thanks for visiting my blog in the A to Z Challenge. Monday I’m writing about Singapore!

    • Talking Qalam

      Don’t know anything about living in Malaysia (like you said, seen some of the islands just as a travelor), but you’re spot on with Singapore! 🙂 Ping me, if you come down here. 🙂

    • Joseph Nebus

      Oh, yes. I worked in Singapore for about six years myself and while I’m quite happy with where I am now (other than that we’re in the midst of a brutal winter), I do miss it and think happily of most of my time there.

      The efficiency of bureaucracies, though, that’s the most disorienting thing. (Government or company bureaucracies, too.) Not just is stuff fast but it’s also precise. My favorite example:

      When I first moved in I needed to get a TV license, which was a form filled out at the post office. It was an annual fee, pro-rated to when you actually got the license if you picked it up (or surrendered it) mid-year. Since it was early May when I got it I figured I’d pay 7/12th of the year’s charge. Later I worked it out, based on the amount I was charged: they had pro-rated it, not just to the month, not just to the day, but to the quarter-hour nearest when I entered the post office and got the form. And I’m sure they were that imprecise just because they couldn’t be sure exactly when I had come in, and if I’d come in when there weren’t so many people they’d have got me to the minute.

  129. jenmonje

    I could not help chuckling at “Malaysia is a place of smiles” because I knew what was coming: Singaporeans don’t come across as a cheerful people. It was something I noticed when I was there on 2 separate occasions. This description “their smiles look like they have been reading instruction manuals meant for air-hostesses” cracked me up! 😉

  130. GrowEatWriter

    Hi Damyanti, first of all, thanks for following my blog! It’s really nice to know that someone out there has read some of my words 🙂

    I’m an Australian and I’ve always been interested in other cultures and the way that people live in other parts of the world. This is a fascinating insight into Singapore and Malaysia and ties in with what friends from those countries say about their homelands. It’s amazing how different two places so close together can be.

    I’m enjoying your writing!

  131. Anneliese Tisdale

    I really enjoyed reading about a part of the world I have never visited since my childhood and ancestry drew me back to Europe. Your comparisons of the countries were so vivid – it would be great to visit both. Keep on writing.
    I would love to hear more from you.

  132. Joel Wilcox

    I’m a world traveler and hopeful once-again expat myself. I appreciate your following of my blog and your thoughts on Singapore. I have similar feelings. Haven’t been to Malaysia except for the KL airport, where I was stuck for 12 hours once when my plane had mechanical trouble.

  133. Jianne Carlo

    What a fabulous piece! Absolutely. You’ve captured the essence of both countries. All of what you’ve written about Malaysia could apply to all of the Caribbean islands – save for Barbados, which is the Singapore of the English tropics. Well done. I’ll be back.

  134. biblioglobal

    I’ve been reading about Malaysia recently, so it was interesting to read your comparison and description. I haven’t read any books from Singapore yet. Any suggestions?

  135. the Bllu Room

    Hi, Thanks for stopping by to read my post “blogging is a we not a me”. I hope you’ll stop by again. I love reading the travels of expats and people who live around the globe when their descriptions really pull me in. I’ve never been to that side of the world but one of my close friends is Malaysian and I’ve enjoyed learning a lot from him about his birthplace over the years. Thanks for your descriptions; they’re very easy to grasp and feel entirely real. –cheers,bllu

  136. auntiesfavourites

    I only got to visit Singapore for three days and I didn’t have time for Malaysia, but if I ever go back, I’m gonna have bring your list with me.
    And thanks for following my blog! And I definitely know what you mean about the queues in Singapore.

  137. douglashoffman007

    What you wrote reminds me of my visits to Singapore and KL over the years. I am currently in Indonesia and will travel through Singapore on m way to Hawaii. BTW. can you suggest a good by affordable hotel, and a affordable place to enjoy pepper Crab?

  138. Fida I

    Hi, I’m half Malaysian and it’s like my second home. We do love our food! This is an interesting list, thanks for sharing!

  139. Eric Alagan

    “Hate” – hardly how I would describe the relationship between Singaporeans and Malaysians.

    One-upmanship, definitely – Perhaps even closer to the relationship between Aussies and Kiwis.

  140. elroyjones

    I lived in Singapore for a while almost 30 years ago. At that time the double decker buses had big signs on them promoting a government initiative, “Stop that spitting habit! It’s dirty, it spreads disease.” Television commercials broadcast the same message and, for some reason, it just cracked me up.

  141. Leon Enriquez


    Stumbled on your site by accident… But it’s more like being in-sync.
    Your writing is an excellent read. Even at 5:35am! Thank you for your perspectives. I find your views to be on the mark being a native of Singapore. Will visit your writings soon.

    Enjoy this Haiku (Senryu) for you!

    Blur sleepy eyes gaze
    Stumble upon crisp ideas
    A surge of feelings


  142. Teresa

    Very funny. Brought back a lot of nice memories of both Singapore and Malaysia. Thanks for writing this.

  143. Crankster

    I’m still not sure what I think of Malaysia. After years of hoping to see some change and not seeing any, perhaps I have lost hope.

  144. mar

    Haha…enjoyed reading this. I’ve never been to Singapore yet (will be going this Oct) but I can see the Malaysia side of your comparisons. LOL.

  145. katiesmith

    Hi Damyanti!

    Quite an accurate decription of the differences between the two countries. As I mentioned before I lived in Singapore for 4 years but I lived in Penang for 2 years a while ago.
    It was my first expat experience and a wonderful shock to the system. Penang was different then; having been back for visits recently it’s changed and not for the better. The heritage, character and warmth seem to have been bulldozed away with the old colonial houses.

    It wasn’t all plain sailing; I had a few bad incidents with men who seemed to think I was there to be abused.

    And the kids, LOL! Waiting for a flight from
    Penang to Singapore we were horrified as a Malay child headbutted a policeman in the stomach at the departure gate, just so he could get past him and be first on the plane. His parents didn’t bat an eye.

    And the food…I loved my murtabak and the outdoor hawker centres, many of which have been replaced by plastic copies. A night of hawker food at the Golden Pheonix on Gurney Drive, listening to the chinese singers, with a bottle of Tiger beer.

    Or a moreish Sunday Buffet at the Park Royal in Batu Ferrenghi, followed by a walk on the beach.

    But Singapore I miss and long for like a first love….Penang I miss like that first bad boy boyfriend.