We lived in the U.S for 5.5 years before returning to Singapore in November 2013.
The most common question that people asked us when we were in the U.S. was whether we would want to live there permanently. Our answer was always a firm "no" because we knew, Singapore is where we would like to raise our family.
Other than wanting to be closer to our friends and relatives and the family support that we enjoy, here are ten reasons why we think Singapore is a wonderful place to raise our 2.5-year-old toddler.
1. My child is safe
Parents have a lot to worry about. But bringing up kids in Singapore means that you don't have to worry about the basic safety needs at least.
Safety in Singapore is not just about restricted to the physical sense, such as the low crime rate which makes you feel secure enough to walk alone at night. It extends to other aspects of life too: I know I won’t get fake formula milk or baby food at the supermarket. The fresh produce we consume is free from contamination or adulteration.
I also don't have to worry if the lifts or escalators are compromised in safety.
As parents, we worry enough about our children and in Singapore, we don't have to add on basic safety needs on to our worry list.
2. Children enjoy clean air and water
We enjoy relatively clean air all year round except for a certain period of time when we become victim to the haze situation in the region. Because my daughter has sensitive airway, this is something that I don’t take for granted.
In addition, we have clean potable water. There are still countries where children have to fetch clean water from the source. Our children can turn a tap and drink straight from it!
3. The convenience of public transport
I love that I can get around Singapore easily by using public transport. Even with a young toddler, we didn’t see the need to own a car because we manage adequately with public transport. The MRT is reliable most of the time, it is clean and the stations are well maintained. The MRT stations and bus interchanges are usually within walking distance and this makes transfer a breeze. Booking taxis has been made easier with apps like Grab Taxi and Hailo and Uber cars provide yet another transportation option.
4. Multiracial heartland living
The HDBs allow our children to grow up in the midst of family, neighbours and a multiracial community.
I love heartland living. It is an excellent way to teach my daughter the beauty of racial harmony and multiculturalism.
We have access to wonderful amenities like the hawker centres, town centre, playgrounds, fitness corner, and the community and resident centres (RC). At the community centres, residents can learn new things, engage in activities and socialise. My mum-in-law often takes my daughter to the RC where she reads the newspaper and meets other residents.
We also managed to book the RC to celebrate my daughter’s first birthday party for a nominal amount. The void deck becomes a space where children and adults can socialise casually. I remember attending a Malay wedding where my daughter learned about kompang and she talked about it for days. She has also seen a wake being conducted at the void deck and that gave us the stimulus to engage in discussion about death. There is also a sense of kampong spirit as we occasionally gather for a community event, for example during Chingay @ Heartlands 2015.
5. Foodie paradise
What can I say? We are so blessed in Singapore that our national past time is eating and checking out new places to eat.. I love that we can expose our daughter to different types of cuisine, from local delights at the hawker centers to higher end restaurants.
She has shown promise to be a gourmet baby, as she is very keen to try new food. Her favourite local food is wanton mee. She has also tried Malay, Indian, Japanese, Vietnamese, American, Korean, French cuisines.
Just thinking about the options that we have in Singapore makes me feel really thankful.
6. Plenty of activities for kids
There is really a host of activities that family with young children can participate in.
Some are inexpensive or free of charge too. Well-stocked and world-class libraries and museums that’s FOC for residents promotes learning, literacy and education. There are usually activities organised at the libraries or museums for children. In the same vein there are theatre and music groups that cater especially for children.
There are well designed playgrounds at shopping malls and public swimming pools with water play features that’s affordable for all.
7. Green parks and connector
When it comes to outdoor activities, kids in Singapore are spoilt for choice. | Image source: Sheila (Jacob Ballas Children's Garden ) and Winifred Ling (Bishan Park).
Singapore is a garden city and the many parks we have bear testament to this fact.
Beyond neighbourhood parks like the awesome Pasir Ris park, we also have world-class attractions like Gardens by the Bay, a UNESCO heritage site in Botanic Gardens, reservoirs like Marina Barrage and over the top attractions like the Treetop walk. For cycling enthusiasts, we can go on long riding trips through the park connector network.
The best thing is they are all FREE! I love bringing my toddler to the parks and are thankful to live a stone’s throw away from Bishan Park. To me, that’s really a haven where we can reconnect with nature and my daughter can run and play to her heart's content.
8. Our special language: Singlish
Singlish is our language and it has evolved organically.
It’s unique and a part of our identity that all Singaporeans can be proud of. Singlish allows for easy and efficient communication. When we were living abroad, we could switch from English to Mandarin, Hokkien, and Singlish effortlessly, sometimes to the amazement of the Chinese waitress who would be serving us.
My daughter has learned to speak Singlish simply by observing and hearing us speak, and it is now part of her heritage and identity too.
9. Our world-class education
When Singapore has so much to offer, there is nowhere else in the world that I would consider bringing up my kids. | Image source: Elsie Ling
There is no doubt about it - we have one of the best education systems in the world. Singapore has been ranked no. 1 in the global school rankings published by OECD.
School facilities are superb and easily better than many public schools in developed countries like the US. Our teachers are highly trained and passionate. While it’s true that the local education system has its flaws such as high-pressure cooker environment, high stakes exams at a young age, restrain on creativity, the reality is there isn’t a perfect education system in the world.
We will take what we have here over other countries where top-quality education can be had for top dollars only.
10. Excellent healthcare
Nobody wants their kids to fall sick. When they do succumb to illness, what parents want are competent medical professionals who can treat their children quickly and effectively.
It is even better if the service is affordable. KK Women's and Children's Hospital is the answer for Singapore. Our daughter required follow-up with the specialists at KK Children’s Hospital and the experience have been wonderful and we are grateful for the highly subsidised rate.
More than 20 years ago, I came to Singapore on a scholarship given by the Singapore government. I will always be grateful for the various doors that have opened as a result of that move, including meeting my husband.
Singapore is home for us. Thank you, Singapore.
This article was contributed by Winifred Ling, Director and Principal Psychologist of W3ave Pte. Ltd., Singapore.