BEAUTY, CLEANLINESS, TOILETS AND HEALTH SPAS IN SINGAPORE

DYED HAIR, ANOREXIA AND TATTOOS IN SINGAPORE

In the early 2000s, 30 to 40 percent of the women in Singapore dyed their hair. One editor of a fashion magazine told the International Herald Tribune. "It’s very acceptable in certain fields: advertising, design and publishing. But of course if you’re a lawyer and you’re going to streak your hair blonde and go to court it might not go over very well.”

You don’t see many fat people in Singapore. Anorexia, which was once nonexistent, is on the rise. A clinic that specializes in eating disorders got seven or eight cases a year when it opened in 1994. By the early 2000s, it was getting three or four new anorexia or bulemia cases every week. Attention was drawn to the issue after a beautiful, articulate television hostess Andrea de Cruz died from liver disease that was linked to the consumption of Chinese-made herbal slimming pills.

Being a port, Singapore had a tradition of being a place where sailors got tattoos. One of the island’s most famous tattoo artists was the late Johnny Two Thumbs, so called because he had an extra digit growing out of his right thumb. His granddaughter, Debi, who is also a tattoo artist, said, “He rested the tattoo machine on his two thumbs. That’s how he was so steady with his hand.”

Debi said that when a ship comes in she can be extremely busy, tattooing one seaman after another until 2:00am. She also said that “women have a higher pain tolerance than men” and a sudden burst of perspiration means that a customer is about to pass out. “The moment they hit perspiration you stop, no matter what. It gets complicated when they start fainting.” At her shop at Orchard Road a simple tattoo like a heart or dolphin goes for around $30. A complex full back tattoo can cost more than $6,000.

Hairdos Signal Change in Singapore

Sunanda K. Datta-Ray wrote in the International Herald Tribune in 2002, “Returning to live in Singapore after an absence of three years, I am struck by the number of young and not so young people who bleach and dye their hair in every exotic shade from ash blonde to bright carrot. Some even flaunt streaks of vivid green and purple. "So what?" people might say. But Singaporeans are not so nonchalant about the increasing widespread use by Muslim females of the head scarf, or tudung, that has also developed since I left. Even a woman of Pakistani origin I know now covers her bobbed hair. It helps her to identify with Malay Muslims who are a recognizable minority, she explained. [Source: Sunanda K. Datta-Ray, International Herald Tribune, October 17, 2002 <*>]

“Such practices are seldom objectionable or even significant. As I reminded an English friend who wondered why British Muslim women, too, nowadays wear a head scarf, his grandmother would have been horrified at the idea of going out, especially to church, without hat and veil. Older Hindu women also cover their heads on ceremonial occasions. The symbolism belongs to an age when all civilizations advised women to be discreet about their charms. But it has taken on new meaning. Malay women see the tudung as the assertion of a culture that is distinct from the ethic of Singapore's majority Chinese community. It also represents another form of globalization, linking them with the billion-strong Islamic community worldwide. <*>

“If such phenomena reveal the individual's search for identity, resistance to them can reflect the insecurity of emerging societies that are intolerant of deviations from the norm. When Bangladesh's founding president, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was murdered, his successor's first broadcast prescribed an official jacket that emphasized the new regime's Muslim orientation. Taiwan is now trying to force its scantily dressed betel-nut girls to cover breast and bottom. <*>

“Singapore has also tried regimentation. But its variant of the Hawaiian aloha shirt brilliantly printed with an orchid obscurely called Vanda Miss Joaquim (the national flower) wasn't a huge success. Nor have many Singaporean women rushed to drape themselves in the cheongsam, a tight frock with side slits and Mandarin collar that the wives of high dignitaries favor on formal occasions. In a separate but related sphere, friends in Singapore say that Holland Village, the local equivalent of Bohemia, is an attractive shopping, eating and entertainment area because, unlike the smart modern malls, it just grew. <*>

Obsession with Thinness in Singapore

In 2002, AFP reported: “In Singapore culture, "we don't accept people who are big", said Tey Beng Hea, head of a weight-management programme at Singapore's Alexandra Hospital explaining the obsession with being thin. Most Singaporeans are petite and "the bigger ones tend to be the butt of jokes, adding to their insecurities", he said. A 17-year-old college student, at 1.6 metres (five foot, three inches) tall and 60 kilograms (132 pounds), told AFP she had been taking diet pills on and off since she was 11. "I wanted to look better and I guess there's pressure from friends and magazines," she said. She quit the pills last year after a series of dizzy spells and headaches and said her weight reduction programme now was binge eating and: "I throw up after every meal." [Source: Agence France Presse, June 9, 2002 ||||]

“Tey cited a patient, a university graduate in her mid 20s, who was mildly overweight. He considered her "well proportioned" but she was not happy. When he asked her why, she looked him in the eye and said: "Do you think guys would look at girls like me who are fat?" At a recent forum on slimming which aimed to improve women's perspective on dieting and body image, Tay recalled that: "From my bird's-eye scan, most who attended were not seriously overweight." ||||

“The yearning to be thinner was compounded by advertisements, with media glorifying people who were underweight and medically unhealthy, Tey said. Normal-sized girls looked up to dangerously thin models as having the "to-die-for" physique. The models were "so thin, they become exposed to certain health risks", he said. "Their immunity is compromised and their resistance to infection is very much reduced. "We find that statistically they are more susceptible to tuberculosis, cancer, and their guts have problems absorbing nutrients.' ||||

"Women are their own worst enemy," said Singapore Women's Weekly editor-in-chief Tara Barker. "Once, we did a story featuring normal-sized women in clothes. Almost immediately, we have women calling in, saying, 'why are you showing big women? "And when we interview men they say they prefer women with curves. But women just don't believe them. "A magazine is led by its readers. We can't force down their throats what they don't want to see." ||||

Deadly Diet Pills in Singapore

In 2002, AFP reported: “The Singapore girl made famous by the national airline is a slender and charming woman, but in reality she lives in a fat-phobic society that has fuelled a multimillion-dollar diet-pill industry with tragic consequences. One woman is dead, another needed a liver transplant to save her life and several others are seriously ill after taking a herbal slimming aid. The women all took the Chinese-made "Slim 10" diet pill, which contained the banned substance Fenfluramine and has now been yanked from the market, but its highly publicised side-effects have had little impact on sales of other brands. [Source: Agence France Presse, June 9, 2002 ||||]

“Slimming-pill retailers are laughing all the way to the bank as they cash in on the lucrative business. One local chain, General Nutrition Centers, reaped between S$3 and S$4 million (US$1.7-2.2 million) in sales in 2001, according to chief executive Cynthia Poa. "Slim 10" is reported to have racked up S$3 million in sales in the five months it was on the market with 20,000 bottles sold at S$150 each. ||||

“Retailers say sales of slimming pills slumped more than 30 percent because of the publicity surrounding "Slim 10" but it was not the end of the thin fad. Sales of meal replacement diet products rose a similar amount. The medical watchdog Health Sciences Authority is now checking 45 Chinese-made slimming products to see if they have been adulterated with synthetic chemicals, and the importers of "Slim 10" have been charged with contravening the poisons act. Police are also investigating the "unnatural death" of 43-year-old Rani Raja who died early this month from liver failure after taking "Slim 10". But despite the controversy, pharmacist Chen Yee Ju backed diet pills if taken correctly and for a short term. "I've been in this industry for about five years and no one has come back reporting adverse side-effects. Slim 10 is a freak case," he said. ||||

On the same topic Trish Saywell wrote in the Far Eastern Economic Review, “In Singapore, TV actress Andrea de Cruz narrowly escaped death after taking diet pills called Slim 10 made by China-based Yuzhitang Health Products. She underwent an emergency liver transplant in May, after her boyfriend, actor Pierre Png, donated half his own liver. De Cruz was one of the luckier ones. In June, just two months after taking the same brand of diet pill, 43-year-old Singaporean Selvarani Raja died of liver failure. The pills contain variants of fenfluramine--an appetite suppressant banned in the United States since 1997 that has been linked to heart, thyroid and blood problems. Following the recent deaths in Asia, doctors believe it is also linked to liver failure. [Source: Trish Saywell, Far Easterm Economic Review, January 30, 2003 |+|]

“The problem is, in much of Asia slimming pills are registered as herbal medicines or health foods and are not subject to drug trials and legal regulations. What's more, the labels don't always provide a full list of ingredients. A recent survey by Hong Kong's Department of Health, for instance, found that one product advertised as being herbal or fibre in content contained amphetamine-like substances that are banned because they have harmful side-effects. "Because they aren't registered as Western drugs the ingredients they list on the insert are by no means comprehensive," says Sing Lee, director of the Hong Kong Eating Disorders Centre of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. "They're not subject to scrutiny." |+|

“Some slimming aids also contain diuretics that simply make people lose water. These kinds of products can lead to dehydration and the loss of essential minerals such as potassium, which controls cardiac and nerve functions as well as muscular activity. If potassium levels drop, a person can suffer chronic fatigue, irregular heart beat, convulsions and coma, and can even die. "In our weather you can imagine the effects of losing too much water--dehydration and hyperthermia as the body heats up too fast," notes Mabel Yap of Singapore's Health Promotion Board. "The product might list herbs or fibres or metals but often people know very little about what these herbs do," adds Lee. "There is a general widespread concept that herbs are natural and therefore safe. But that's not true. There can be powerful herbs that can affect physiology like diuretics." Many of the side-effects of these pills are only known after the pills have been in the market for a while, says Chung-Mau Lo, a liver specialist and professor of surgery at the University of Hong Kong. "Without any proper trials before being marketed, anyone who takes these pills is basically acting as a trial subject." |+|

Clothes, Beauty Queens and Credit Card Fraud in Singapore

In 2009, Reuters reported: “Beauty queen Miss Singapore World has given up her crown after it emerged that she had stolen credit cards to go on a shopping spree for lingerie. Ris Low had come under public pressure to be stripped of her 2009 title, after local media reported she stole seven credit cards last year while working at a medical clinic, buying goods worth about S$8,000 ($5,662) including gold anklets and phones. Organizers of the pageant ERM World Marketing said she had resigned Tuesday of her own accord. She will no longer represent Singapore at the Miss World finals to be held in South Africa in December, but her replacement has not yet been decided. [Source: Reuters, September 30, 2009]

“Low had also been criticized for her poor English, mispronouncing "bikini" in a recent video, leading others in multicultural Singapore to spring to her defense and soul-searching on websites about the national character. "If there was a beauty contest for countries, how do you think Singapore would fare on the world stage? We seem to have the aesthetic qualifications. But with a very ugly personality," said blogger Solofigure09 on the Straits Times newspaper's website. [Ibid]

Wearing casual clothes and shorts in Singapore—in some cases ven at fancy restaurants—is perfectly acceptable because the weather is so hot and sticky.

Singapore-born fashion designer Andrew Gn was the first Asian designer to be named to a French couteur house. A graduate of St. Martins fashion college in London, which produced designers such as Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and Stella McCartney, he was named the ready-to-wear designer at Pierre Balmain.

Singaporeans Urged to Shower Faster to Save Water and Wipe Toilet Seats

In 2005, DPA reported: “Singaporeans were urged in October to shower a minute less as part of a national water conservation effort in the hot and humid city-state. "I have been told that each person can save about 10 litres of water just by showering a minute less every day," the Straits Times quoted Yaacob Ibrahim, minister for the environment and water resources, as saying. If the entire population of 4.2 million people takes the advice to heart, environmental officials said the savings would fill nearly 16 Olympic-size swimming pools daily. Each person currently uses an average 162 litres a day. [Source: DPA, Bangkok Post, October 30, 2005]

“Public Utilities Board (PUB) director Yap Kheng Guan told the newspaper the board is promoting several schemes to reduce water consumption in homes. The board distributes free of charges devices that can control the volume of water that comes out of taps or showers. In its quest for water sustainability, Singapore opened its first seawater desalination plant last month. Protecting freshwater reserves is a priority. With many of the 14 reservoirs being opened up for recreational activities, Yaacob said a code on conduct is in the offing to keep the waters clean.” [Ibid]

In 2003, AFP reported: “Aim at the target and make sure the toilet seat is left gleaming -- that is the perfect remedy for a cleaner, happier world. Report flushes that do not work and help tourists find the loo at shopping malls, the Singapore-based World Toilet Organisation said in a campaign on latrine etiquette ahead of World Toilet Day on Wednesday. The group listed 10 toilet essentials and and urged people to add to the list. "If everyone joins in, there (will be) better public toilets and happier people," said Jack Sim, a founding member of the organisation and president of the Restroom Association of Singapore. [Source: Agence France Presse, November 16, 2003]

In the city-state, well known for strict laws against littering and where clean toilets are stamped with a "happy face" sticker, the organisation is calling for comments on public toilets to be sent to its e-mail address, info@toilet.org.sg, or through mobile phone text messages. It is also encouraging other countries to establish their own feedback mechanisms to allow people to send comments on toilets they have used. "Be it brickbats or bouquets, the user should give feedback to the owner of the toilet about the state of the facilities," the organisation said.

In 2001, AFP reported: “A state-led campaign launched five years ago for cleaner public toilets in Singapore has been a success, according to the results of a survey released Mar 16 in parliament. Asked to rate toilets on a scale of one to ten, users gave an average mark of 8.3 points compared to 6.8 in 1996, putting them in the "good category," Senior Minister of State for the Environment Sidek Saniff announced. A score of 9.1-10 is deemed excellent, 8.1-9 good, and 6.1-8 points is satisfactory. Toilet cleaners scored eight points, up from 6.1 five years ago, Sidek said. The minister added the government would "try our best to do even better" for cleaner public toilets but did not divulge how exactly he intended to take the drive for more pristine urinals forward. [Source: Agence France Presse, March 16, 2001]

Singapore’s "Happy" Toilets

Singapore has long emphasized clean toilets, fining those who fail to flush in public toilets and naming establishments such as restaurants with particularly filthy facilities. In 2003, AFP reported: “They might not quite offer the five-star ambience of a Hilton or Hyatt, but Singapore's public toilets are set to be given a hotel-style grading system under a SARS-inspired hygiene campaign. "It is about clean toilets," Restroom Association of Singapore chairman Jack Sim said as he launched the Happy Toilet, Healthy People campaign. Sim told AFP that his association would grade at least 40,000 public toilets under a system similar to the way hotels are rated globally. Five-star will be the highest rating, with toilets graded on a list of criteria that includes proper toilet seats and urinals for children. Sim said the the private sector and the government's National Environment Agency would share the costs of the campaign, which will reach at least S$100,000 (US$57,800). [Source: Agence France Presse, June 2, 2003 ^^^]

The Singapore Restroom Association developed the rating system alongside the Health Ministry. “Auditors will rate toilets on cleanliness, layout and ergonomics, Sim told The Star. “We came up with this programme because today when you go to a public toilet you do not know what to expect inside,” Sim said. “Sometimes you are very happy, but sometimes you are very shocked – disgusted.” “When toilets are clean, people are happy and healthy,” he added. [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, The Star, June 8, 2003]

Sim said. “You will know it’s a five-star even without someone endorsing it...It has to have a very good ambience, probably with plants and pictures.” A three-star rating will mean a toilet is regularly cleaned and re-stocked with toilet paper, soap and paper towels. Restrooms that fail to meet the minimum three-star standard will receive no rating. Plaques bearing star ratings will soon appear outside these toilets, which are found in food courts, shopping centres, industrial buildings and army barracks, Sim said. The war against SARS has pushed public health and personal hygiene to the forefront and a change of mindset is due.

Sim said the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) made it easier to seek funding because the disease had raised awareness about the importance of good hygiene. "With SARS, the program suddenly became more important," he said. The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Singapore free of SARS but leaders here warned Singapore residents must still maintain high levels of personal hygiene and environmental cleanliness to avoid a recurrence.” ^^^

Singapore: Home the World's First Toilet College and Toilet Summit

The annual World Toilet Summit, which gathers toilet associations, experts and tourism officials from around the world, was first held in Singapore in 2001, followed by meetings in South Korea and Taiwan.

In August 2005, DPA reported: “Loo cleaning will reach new heights in Singapore with the setting up of the world's first Toilet College, organizers said. Funded partly by government agencies, the classes starting in October aim to change the perception of toilet cleaning as a menial job accompanied by poor morale and pay to one with expanded responsibilities, higher salaries and possibilities of travel for those concerned about sanitation elsewhere. [Source: DPA (German Press Agency), August 28, 2005 <+>]

“Jack Sim, president of the World Toilet Organization headquartered here, is behind the college to be set up at the Republic Polytechnic, where courses will teach cleaners to use new equipment and techniques from Japan. "We are going to train the toilet cleaners to upgrade himself or herself to a level where he or she can take care of the entire toilet, including changing bulbs, repairing locks, repairing leak taps, doing periodical heavy cleaning, technical cleaning, taking away urine salt inside the toilet and recommending change to the toilet layout," Sim said. Instead of the S$500 (US$303) per month cleaners earn now, the newly skilled "restroom specialists" will see their salaries go over S$1000 (US$$606). <+>

“The first batch of 30 cleaners, who will attend the college, are from a cleaning company. The facility school is also offering a course on ecological sanitation to teach those interested how to cater to needs in rural and disaster-stricken areas. "There are 2.6 billion people in the world who have no toilets," Sim said. "They are toilet-less and what we are trying to do is to build capacity for field engineers to go down to the farms, to the rural areas, to build ecological sanitation." <+>

In 1999, AFP reported: “Better designs for toilets could encourage people to keep public facilities spotless in already clean and green Singapore, a report said. The environment ministry believes a well-designed public toilet will be easier to maintain and will motivate the public to keep those they use clean, the Straits Times said. The ministry will hold a seminar on better public toilet design and maintenance for architects, engineers, interior designers, and building managers, the report said. The new initiative was unveiled at the launch of the annual Clean Public Toilets Campaign. A survey in May showed more public toilets in the island state were cleaner than before, but that those in food centers, markets and coffeeshops had hardly improved, the report said. [Source: AFP, August 12, 1999]

Singapore’s Battle Against Spitters, Litterers and People That Urinate on Lifts

Seah Chiang Nee wrote in The Star, “The scene: outside the lower courts. As the men came out, there was first a look of surprise on their faces, then panic; up went their hands to cover their faces. A few started running in all directions. Cameramen chased after them like paparazzi outside London’s royal lodges. Those who stood their ground saw themselves on prime time TV news and next morning’s newspapers' front pages. The 11 men were unlucky for being caught spitting in public at the wrong time. After a quarter of a century of no-spitting campaigns and strict fines, the habit is far from being eradicated. [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, The Star, June 8, 2003 +++]

“Public shaming has since become an added punishment. They had already been fined S$300 (RM660) each. Most of them were middle-aged, but surprisingly they included two teenagers. Two weeks later, there was another batch of two spitters – and seven litterbugs. Apart from fines, the litterbugs were also sentenced to four hours of public work cleaning up public places of litter. The authorities were evidently widening the net to include any act that dirties public places.The battleground includes eating places – and public toilets. +++

“The government believes that some 3 percent to 5 percent of the population of four million people are “dirty” – those who do not observe personal or public hygiene. To clean up after this group, Singapore employs a battalion of about 10,000 cleaners, both in the public and private sectors every day, said Environment Minister Lim Swee Say. This means that some 120,000-200,000 Singaporeans have a habit of throwing things from their flat windows, littering the streets, spitting or urinating in lifts or stairways. +++

“Few societies have tougher laws than Singapore when it comes to public health. Anyone caught throwing “killer” litter from their windows that endanger life can lose their public flat. It is perhaps the only country that fines people for not flushing a public toilet after using it. An area of rising concern is the poor hygiene of some hawker centres, despite strict enforcement by the Environment Ministry. Unhealthy preparation of food, using dirty utensils or having cockroaches or other insects in the premises will earn demerit points. A stallholder who accumulates 12 points within a 12-month period will have his licence suspended for two or four weeks – or even revoked depending on past records. In 2001, the government announced a S$420mil (RM924mil) plan to upgrade all hawker centres within 10 years. In addition to the demerit points, the authorities also have a grading system, ranging from “A” (the best) to “D”. Of these, two-thirds are graded “C” - a passing grade. Some of Singapore’s cleanliness laws were derided as being too draconian not only by Westerners, but also by some of Singapore’s younger set. +++

“To catch high-rise litterbugs, government enforcers occasionally mount cameras with high-powered lenses from top floors of housing blocks. These were criticised as violating the privacy of residents. But SARS has swung sentiment around to the authorities’ point of view. Recently, a tabloid highlighted a report of how two families on the 10th and 11th floors of a Housing and Development (HDB) block had suffered from a serial litterbug of the worse kind. In her 30s, the woman was said to have thrown leftovers of her meals out of her kitchen window, which often landed on the ledges just below her neighbours’ flats. It had gone on for three years – noodles, tomato sauce and other foods. Police reports, visits by community leaders did nothing to stop it. The New Paper took a picture of some foodstuff caught on a window ledge. Stories like this stir up public anger. +++

“Singapore is a small, overcrowded city where people live in close proximity, packed on top of one another. So the standard of living depends on good social habits. From benches in Orchard Road to the beautiful sandy beaches of Sentosa, all have suffered from inconsiderate visitors. Some litterbugs are families; others are teenagers. “This is not a cleaning problem. It is a social problem,” said an Environment Ministry official. +++

Cleanliness Campaigns Stepped Up in Singapore After SARS Outbreak

In 2003, Reuters reported: “After dragging on a cigarette at Singapore's busy Bugis shopping district, Rafiz bin Sulaiman coughed and spat on the ground. Seconds later, Singapore authorities swooped on the smartly dressed 20-year-old. Spitting has long been a fineable offence in the tightly controlled island state. But in the era of SARS, it is an even greater social evil. Desperate to ward off the deadly respiratory virus, undercover police have nabbed more than 80 people for spitting since May when the government began a nationwide "Singapore's OK" campaign to improve public hygiene. Sulaiman, who drives jeeps and other vehicles in the Singapore army, was fined S$500 ($290). [Source: Jason Szep, Reuters, July 3, 2003 >>>]

“Others have been publicly shamed in addition to fines, their photographs splashed on the front page of the government-linked Straits Times national newspaper. "What is done cannot be undone," Sulaiman sighed after pleading guilty and paying his fine at a downtown courthouse. Enforced by undercover officers, the crackdown is part of a massive cleaning of one of Asia's most meticulously kept cities to prevent the sort of relapse of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome seen in Toronto. >>>

“The UN's World Health Organisation took Singapore off its list of SARS-affected regions on May 2003, ending a devastating three-month epidemic that killed 32 out of 206 sufferers in the island republic of four million people. Singapore, its image sullied and economy strained near recession by the outbreak, is taking no chances. Recent weeks have seen a spate of hygiene campaigns and health controls that remind residents daily to stay fit and clean to fight the bug. Health officials fear a scenario where one sick visitor brings the virus into the country, evading elaborate fever checks at air and sea borders and setting off an explosive outbreak. >>>

“Under "Singapore's OK", thousands of workers at food stalls and construction sites wait in line twice a day for temperature readings, nearly two months after Singapore's last known local SARS infection. In "Cool Singapore", a separate campaign run by the Tourism Board, staff at more than 100 hotels get their ears probed twice daily by digital thermometers. Healthy workers sport blue stickers, worn like badges, declaring themselves fever free. Posters at bus stops and subway stations exhort citizens to wash their hands or avoid sharing food, while leaflets dropped in mailboxes trumpet the benefits of regular temperature checks. >>>

“The latest blitz on hygiene in the aftermath of SARS is one of the broadest. Toilets are now rated in a new five-star system similar to that used for hotels. Under the "Happy Toilet" programme, plaques bearing star ratings began appearing outside Singapore's 29,000 public loos from this week. "These are extraordinary measures in extraordinary times," said Lam Peng Er, a researcher at the East Asia Institute. "But the measures are taken with the backdrop of the SARS epidemic. It's draconian, no doubt, but it is effective." In just over a month, police have booked 258 people for littering. >>>

“The measures echo Singapore's tough response when SARS first erupted. It was the first nation to shut all schools and announce a mass quarantine, isolating about 8,000 residents and installing Web-linked cameras in their homes to keep them there. Most residents support the tough-love approach, and say they feel relieved their government tries to shield them from disease. But one recent campaign, a mass culling of the city's 80,000 stray cats following evidence of SARS in animals such as civet cats and racoon dogs in China, provoked rare public outrage. The government backed down a little. Instead of rounding up and killing all stray cats, authorities began auctioning land for animal shelters. But, as an added precaution, culling would continue, they said. >>>

Singapore Seeking a Little Untidiness to Encourage Risk-Taking

Jake Lloyd-Smith wrote in the South China Morning Post, “Most Singaporeans prefer their home town to Hong Kong. It is cleaner, works more smoothly, does not have dismally polluted air and the food is better, many will say. But in one important respect, Singaporeans from all walks of life tend to take their hats off to the people of Hong Kong. The place, they admit, simply buzzes with ideas, activity and - critically - entrepreneurship. Singapore's collective appetite for risk-taking is somewhat subdued, a point often acknowledged by policymakers, most recently by S. Dhanabalan, former government minister and head of Temasek, the state's sprawling holding company. [Source: Jake Lloyd-Smith, South China Morning Post, December 26, 2001 /=/]

“Mr Dhanabalan's views are worth noting as he has been a key player in the Singapore establishment for decades. "Why would anyone want to go into business?" he asked at a recent dinner. The gist of his argument was that the very success government has had in promoting economic growth and servicing the needs of its citizens has eaten into people's commercial creativity. The assessment was echoed by Daniel Lian, an economist at Morgan Stanley, in a commentary for the investment bank. "Risk-takers, not savers, ultimately create wealth for a nation, and Singapore lacks a risk-taking culture," he said. "We think that policy-makers need to revolutionise their fundamental economic thinking . . ." /=/

“This deficiency of entrepreneurship is much on the minds of those in government at present as they bid both to escape from the nasty recession and map out a viable strategy for the next two decades or so. In Singaporean style, a swathe of committees has been formed this month to report on what steps to take. One of the groups will look at ways to foster more entrepreneurship and its head, Minister of Trade and Industry and Foreign Affairs Raymond Lim, had some revealing remarks when he got down to work. /=/

"We have a society that has been nurtured on efficiency and order," he said. "If you want a more entrepreneurial culture, you need to have one which has a greater tolerance for untidiness. It is from these bits of untidiness that you get your creativity. And efficiency may not be the be-all and end-all. It is a social thing, but it is going to take some time." /=/

“The tantalising feature of his comments - to Monitor's ears at least - is how close they come to suggesting that if Singapore is to foster more risk-takers, it needs to loosen up economically and politically. Tidiness - both in the literal and metaphorical sense - has been one of the hallmarks of the People's Action Party administration since it took power decades ago. Advocating "untidiness" in any form is a break with the past, although it remains to be see what recommendations the various committees will make.” /=/

Luxury Spas in Singapore

Describing the Remède spa in Singapore, Conde Nast Traveler reported: “Campy charms abound at this 20-room day spa in a hulking warehouse on leafy grounds that were once used by the British Far East Land Forces. Wander past paper angels hanging from the ceiling and into a treatment room with monkey silhouettes etched on the walls, where the signature Kajogal Massage ($86) is administered by Mandarin Chinese–speaking therapists. Combining 20 yoga poses plus the wrist-driven kneading of Thai massage, this oil-free session pushes flexibility to its limits—sometimes uncomfortably, but with undeniably relaxing after-effects. Add the Get Hand-ily Organic ($54), which combines a scrub made from produce grown in the surrounding gardens with the BlackBerry Hand Reflex pressure-point massage, ideal for anyone who types on tiny keyboards (massages, $86). [Source: Conde Nast Traveler \^/]

“Outside this new downtown luxury high-rise hotel, the equatorial heat rarely abates. But inside Remède's first Asian spa, seven low-lit treatment rooms have been designed to suggest cool grottoes, albeit ones stocked with champagne and cardamom, rose, and saffron chocolates. A column of water drops from the ceiling to fill the 40-jet indoor Jacuzzi; in the spa garden, a path of wet, smooth river stones proves a challenging and soothing reflexology session. Relax on the outdoor daybeds (where Thai massage can be arranged), inside the cedar-scented Finnish sauna, or on heated marble benches, cooling down with a handful from an ice fountain. In the Warm Jade Stone Massage ($202), experienced therapists nestle semiprecious stones into achy joints and muscles, accompanied by oils including Himalayan cedar, white grapefruit, naroli, and cypress. A final swoosh with cold stones is applied to rebalance (massages, $130).” \^/

Singapore’s Medical Sleep Spa

According to Conde Nast Traveler: “When the U.S.-educated Singaporean physician Dr. Kenny Pang noticed how many of his patients could not sleep and that some were even dying of related disorders, he joined forces with a local spa operator to open this innovative clinic with a two-pronged approach to sleep—and therefore life—improvement. The signature Insomnia Relief Program ($178) begins with an in-depth sleep assessment, during which Pang lays out the do's and don'ts of sleep hygiene. Suggestions include keeping the bedroom quiet, using your bed only for sleep and sex, and opting for bedtime reading that's "seriously boring." Armed with knowledge, guests are directed to massage rooms, where strong-armed therapists knead in conjunction with a Korean-made massage gizmo meant to increase circulation and oxidation while stimulating the immune system (massages, $180). [Source: Conde Nast Traveler]

Judy Chapman wrote in The Business Times, “When it comes to health, sleeping pods and sleep programmes are the new emerging trend....At the newly opened Medical Sleep Spa in Singapore, medical director Dr Kenny Pang spends his days evaluating and diagnosing patients with sleeping problems, creating treatments specific to their needs. He reports that the incidence of insomnia is also increasing in Singapore, possibly due to increased stress and our 'pressure cooker' lifestyle. 'Sleep disorders come in different forms; however, the main two types are: 'the patients who cannot fall asleep (insomniacs) and the patients who cannot keep awake (patients with obstructive sleep apnea/poor quality sleep/low oxygen at night)'.' He believes the increase in obstructive sleep apnea is due to the increase in obesity and affects as much as 15 percent of the population in Singapore. [Source: Judy Chapman, The Business Times, September 1, 2007]

“At The Medical Sleep Spa in Singapore, programmes are managed by sleep specialists who blend diagnosis, consultations and remedies with exercise like Pilates and yoga together with upper body/back massage and radio frequency de-stress therapy to help relax the patient. 'The basics of good sleep habits need to be taught and cultivated,' says Dr Pang. 'No two patients are the same so programmes need to be tailored.'

Fish Nibbling Reflexology in Singapore

Some spas in Singapore offer treatments by Gazza Rufa Fish, also called a ‘doctor’ fish, which nibble to provide foot massage by “emitting micro vibrating sensation” as well as “removing the dead skin off our feet and completely rid the skin of smear and aging cortex.” Benefits the treatment include getting rid of dead skin, revealing crusty-free feet; improved blood circulation; improved overall skin health; and providing a relaxing foot massage.

Describing the experience of treating your feet to fish reflexology, Underwater World Singapore reports: “Step into Fish Reflexology to the warmth of soft lights, accompanied by the calming sonance of a river stream. With feet relaxed in a warm pool, witness a school of Turkish spa fish swim up and gently nibble on your feet. These adorable little fish consume only the dead skin areas, revealing your smoother and healthier skin – what more interesting way to exfoliate and pamper your feet! Following the "nibbling massage", our qualified foot reflexologists will rub and knead your feet to good shape. A novel spa therapy first discovered in the Middle East, the well-known Turkish Garra rufa species, native to the hotsprings lakes and river basins, have captured the imagination of beauty spas in many countries.” [Source: Underwater World Singapore]

Conde Nast Traveler reported: “Ticklish toes beware: Fish reflexology puts Turkish Garra rufa fish or the more aggressive East African Oreochromis mossambica to work nibbling dead skin off the soles of the feet ($25). First you wash your feet with soap and water, then sink toes up to the ankles in one of two warm pools filled with the golden fish. After a few giggles, it's hard not to marvel at these exotic creatures as they open their mouths in wide circles to consume. (These fickle fish soon swarm the next new arrival, so clients learn to lift up their feet and resubmerge often.) After 20 minutes of being nibbled, settle into a padded leather recliner for a deep-knead Chinese foot reflexology session and a too-brief head and shoulder massage (massages, $25–$36). [Source: Conde Nast Traveler]

According to the thebestsingapore.com the best three fish spas in Singapore are: 1) Kenko Reflexology & Fish Spa (181 Orchard Road #04-10/11Orchard Central, S238896), which is proud to employ “Doctor Fish” finned employees from variable Dr Fish species, with the objective of allowing our customers to experience natural exfoliation treatments – From the Eastern Europe Garra Rufa species to Asian bred Dr Fish species – All under one roof; 2) Bottle Tree Village Fish Spa (60 Jalan Mempurong, Singapore 759058, Sembawang), which has more than 4500 ‘doctor’ fishes in the pool. During the peak season, our team will specially ensure that there are sufficient ‘doctor’ fishes for our valued customers and also caters to Companies who are interested in utilizing this fish spa as a team-bonding session; and 3) Fish Reflexology, Underwater World, combines the unique and revitalizing therapy with a complete with a foot massage. With soft lightings, calming sonance of a river stream and feet relaxed in a warm pool, witness a school of Turkish spa fish swim up and gently nibble on your feet. These adorable little fish consume only the dead skin areas, revealing your smoother and healthier skin – the perfect way to exfoliate and pamper your feet. [Source: thebestsingapore.com ]

Beauty Salons in Singapore Busted for Misleading Ads

In 2005, STUFF COM.NZ reported: “Singapore regulators are moving to protect the public from a wave of misleading advertisements promoting bigger breasts, fuller lips and other body enhancements in a wealthy nation grappling with rising obesity. Two breast-enhancement ads were barred from publication for failing to make clear that promised results had not been proven by medical studies, the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) said yesterday. The crackdown follows a surge in complaints by disappointed women against bust-treatment salons and by men who say some hair-growth centres fail to live up to their promise. "We have written to the advertisers and the media owners to inform that the ads have to be amended before they can be published," said ASAS spokeswoman Priscilla Low. [Source: WWW.STUFF COM.NZ, February 19, 2005 +*+]

“Salons offering quick fixes ranging from slimming, hair growth, hair removal, bigger breasts and fuller lips are mushrooming across Singapore. At the same time, Singapore's collective waistline is bulging with obesity rates rising, a trend some researchers attribute to a gradual shift in diet in the predominantly ethnic-Chinese island towards Western fast foods. Singapore's last national health survey in 1998 showed that the proportion of its 4.2 million people listed as overweight had risen in six years from 21 to 24 percent, while those categorised as obese had increased from 5 to 6 percent. +*+

“Slimming salons are doing a roaring trade, and advertisements boasting of breast treatments and other beauty quick fixes often fill local newspapers, many offering money-back guarantees or promoting quick and easy "lunchtime therapies". A consumer watchdog, the Consumers Association of Singapore, said it had received 60 complaints last year about companies offering bust enhancements, mostly from career women who felt misled by the salons and sought refunds for unsatisfactory results. There were 102 complaints about hair-growth centres in the same period. +*+

“Under new rules that took effect on January 1, "before-and-after" testimonials featuring women boasting of a fuller bustline or previously balding men now sporting a crowning glory of thick hair will be banned unless medically proven. The advertisement watchdog said the two breast-treatment ads had been spotted in random newspaper checks. Seven other ads, a combination of hair-growth treatment and bust-enhancement promotions, were also being reviewed for failing to feature the disclaimers prominently. "Under the revised advertising code, ads for bust enhancements and hair-loss treatments must display a disclaimer," said Low of the ASAS. +*+

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Singapore Tourism Board, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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