From the onset, it should be plain that Singapore and Thailand have strikingly varying cultures and ways of life that would make one wonder how they came to be such rancorous neighbors. This is in addition to the numerous feuds between the once Cold War allies. This article explores five fronts that markedly define Singapore and Thailand.
A visit to the Thai capital, Bangkok, as well as to the Singaporean capital, Singapore, reveals a number of subtle observations that define the identities that have been built by the two nations over time. In Bangkok, for example, the masses will go for anything cheap, affordable and available. Hardly will you find anyone buying a product simply because it was manufactured in Thailand.
This is in sharp contrast to the Singaporean masses. A visit to any local store, for example, will shock you to the core if hard been previously to Thailand. Singaporeans have the characteristic classy appeal that is evident even in their communication. Little notice is made of any strangers and tourists. Singaporeans have cut out an image for themselves, especially among its neighbors, that they are superior. As a result, they would go for products made in their own country and will pay little regard to imports with the quality of what is made locally. A further observation that clearly makes the Singaporeans stand out is their efficiency. It is the hype and identity of the country and its citizens.
If one was to take a walk and or travel in a car in both Singapore and Bangkok, Thailand, amazing differences emerge between the two countries. In Singapore, even the motorbikes on road bear Singaporean identity. Singapore’s transportation system is so organized that, at the designated area for crossing on any typical road, one does not have to look on either side of the road. The pedestrian light only makes things simpler and formal! You simply cross. The Singaporeans observe the local traffic code without wavering. Even with high traffic, movement of vehicles is smooth and relatively swift as can be compared to Thailand. When you alight anywhere, you are less likely to be mugged as compared to Thailand where the crime rate is higher. In Thailand, the transportation system is crowded, messy and absolutely noisy. If you are used to the lulling quietness of Singapore during the night, you may have to stay awake all night because of the roaring of car and motorbike engines and honking in Bangkok. Sidewalks are often blocked with food stalls, temporary parking of motor bikes and cars in Thailand.
Even though Thailand is a much bigger country, geographically, and with a larger population of more than 67 million people, it still economically lags behind the less populous Singapore (at slightly above 5 million people). The GDP Per Capita of Singapore is $62,400US while that of Thailand is $9,900 US. The differences can be explained by the fact that Singapore is largely a first-world country with state-of-the-art manufacturing and export installations. On the other hand, Thailand is predominantly an agricultural economy with a heavy reliance of the growth of crops such as rice.
The highly efficient Singapore has low occurrences of corruption—a factor that contributes to its rapid growth. During the 1997 financial crisis in Thailand, most Thai Banks were taken over by the Singaporean Banks. Further, the more recent acquisition of Thaksin Shinawatra Telecommunications Empire by the Singaporean Tamasek and other investors is a clear pointer to the mature nature of the Singaporean economy.
English is widely used in Singapore, even though you will hardly meet two or more people of an ethnic community conversing in any other language but their own. The official declaration that English is an official language is therefore, in my opinion, a hoax. There is also some corrupted language, Singlish, which essentially is a mixture of English and the local dialects. On average, communication for a stranger is much easier in Singapore than in Thailand. Thais can sometimes make it so hard for a tourist or stranger. But in my opinion, this does not lessen the fact that Thais are more welcoming and will make attempts of reaching out. A typical Thai will be waving, animatedly laughing and communing with you in some local dialect even if you indicate you are getting nothing. Apparently, this flexibility of embracing English— or even Singlish— comes with the rapid growth and rise of Singapore to the very apex of world economy.
When it comes to hospitality, Thailand thinly scores higher than Singapore. Inasmuch as not unfriendly per se, Singaporeans are not friendly either. They cannot expressly go out of the norm to show a good gesture. One can literally spend a whole day in the Singaporean capital and not be able to speak to another person except when asking for something or when buying something! On the other hand, Thais are unique. They are friendly and overly concerned about people other themselves. You will often find Thais sharing food much like in a community. This trend can even be observed outside Thailand. Whenever and wherever a group of Thais meet, they will converge and just be friendly even to strangers!
In conclusion, therefore, there are glaring and hard to ignore indications that Singapore and Thailand stand out differently on several fronts— notwithstanding their close proximity to each other. Some of the differences, chiefly the superior Singaporean economy, have put the Singaporean nation at loggerheads with Thailand and other neighbors. The resentment is born out of the feeling of depleting its’ neighbors resources at the expense of maintaining its own world standing.
Whereas Singapore fares on well on fronts of having a well established identity, a superb economy and transportation mechanisms, Thailand makes the impression of having friendlier people and who at least are inclined to take the first initiative to communicate. Even though language makes this hard to achieve, Thais are persistent, patient and consistent in communication through even crude ways such as gestures.