Nine insiders share the lowdown on places to see, how to pack, where to go for a run and what the big deal is about chewing gum
(Bloomberg Markets) — If you work in finance, there’s a good chance Singapore is on the short list of places you’ll visit for business—or maybe even live in. We asked insiders to the city-state to tell us what to expect when you get there. They didn’t talk only about the food.
How do I make the long flights to or from New York or London bearable?
VISHAL HARNALManaging partner at 500 Global, a venture capital fund
The New York direct is particularly torturous, no matter how comfortably you fly. I start the flight ambitiously intending to disconnect from technology. I read books and magazines from forgotten piles—all paper. I write my haphazard thoughts and ideas, engage in intentional imagination and sleep. After a seeming eternity, I realize I am just four hours into a 21-hour journey. The screens come on, and in-flight entertainment begins.
Where do you always like to bring visitors to Singapore?
CALVIN YEOHPortfolio manager at Blue Edge Advisors
Newton Food Centre can be touristy, but if you know the right stalls, it’s still a great introduction to hawker culture. One area I love—just a 10-minute cab ride from Newton—is Kampong Glam, one of Singapore’s oldest districts. It was originally allocated to the Malay, Arab and Bugis communities during the colonial era. Explore each street for offerings that form a true melting pot: rambunctious drinking holes and restaurants on Haji Lane (try Habibi-san), the regal Sultan Mosque on Muscat Street, and tea and Middle Eastern fare on Bussorah and Baghdad streets. At Kandahar Street, grab the kaya swiss rolls popular with locals.
Read More: Top Chefs’ Favorite Singapore Hawker Stalls
MARK MATTHEWSHead of research Asia at Julius Baer Group
The Sultan Mosque, the National Gallery and the Keramat Iskandar Shah in Fort Canning Park. The Burmese Buddhist temple and Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall off Balestier Road. Any hawker center other than Lau Pa Sat and Newton.
What clothes should I pack for a business trip?
The formality of the meeting informs the level of dress, but the intense humidity and heat here does impose a discount on formal wear. Unless it’s a presentation in the boardroom, you can safely ditch the tie—bring one just in case. The key is keeping it lightweight at every level. I find cotton-polyester-blend shirts work best to balance breathability and nonwrinkling. Hint: It’s hot and humid outside and highly air-conditioned indoors, so bring handkerchiefs or a packet of tissues to wipe your sweat and stay dry so you don’t fall sick constantly moving in and out of buildings.
EVELYN YEOHead of Asia investments at Pictet Wealth Management Asia
You’ll experience (mild) winter and summer within minutes, just by stepping in and out of air-conditioned offices. So layering is important. For ladies, a thin blouse or tank top with a light cardigan, and top it off with a jacket. Bring a scarf, too.
What’s the best restaurant for business lunch?
There’s only one correct answer to this question: Luke’s at Gemmill Lane. No matter what your guests order, you’ll be in and out in under an hour, and well satiated. The corner table behind the maitre d’ counter is like home. My usual order is “steak frites, no frites.”
Where’s the best place in Singapore to work out?
GEORGE BOUBOURASHead of research at K2 Asset Management; based in Australia, he’s a frequent traveler to Singapore
It takes a while to acclimatize, but I’ll try to walk around or run around outside. I once tried cycling. It was very fatiguing, mostly because of the weather.
Where’s the best place to go for a run? And is it just too hot to run far?
The Marina Bay, Kallang and East Coast Park stretch is fantastic. And it’s never too hot! Running or walking under the hot sun—with proper protection and hydration, of course—is supereffective in getting the heart rate up. Double the yield, with half the time.
LIEN CHOONG LUENSingapore general manager at ride-hailing service Gojek and president of Singapore Athletics Association
MacRitchie Reservoir in the geographic heart of Singapore, for those who love green runs. It’s canopy-shaded, so it’s OK even at noon. The Marina Barrage is always beautiful at sunset and sunrise. And if you want to do a speedy track workout, Evans Road track has big welcoming groups almost every day of the week.
What’s one essential thing that everyone who lives here absolutely needs to know?
Always have an umbrella with you. It rains an average of 167 days of the year. It does come quick and go fast, though.
CARMEN YUENGeneral partner at VC fund Vertex Ventures Southeast Asia & India
We use packets of paper tissues to “chope”—or reserve—tables in hawker centers. Foreigners I’ve brought here initially thought it was a kind gesture from Singaporeans who have placed tissue paper on the table for other diners to use, only to realize their mistake when the locals return and shoo them away.
If you’re living more than a 20-minute drive from anywhere, you’re too far.
What’s the biggest misconception about Singapore?
THOMAS POULLAOUECHead of Multi-Asset Solutions APAC at T. Rowe Price
Despite being a financial hub with towering skyscrapers in the central business district, Singapore surprises visitors with its lush greenery as soon as they leave the airport, with tree-lined roads and large presence of parks. It is much greener than other big cities. One place I usually bring my visitors to is the Rifle Range Nature Park.
KOH SWEE YENSenior counsel, WongPartnership
That you get caned for littering offenses and chewing gum. Singapore is a green and clean city, which we are very proud of. A person convicted of littering might be liable to a fine, but caning is not one of the penalties. The importation and selling of gum, except for medical use, is also fined. Chewing it is not expressly prohibited, save in some premises such as train stations.
Are there common etiquette mistakes visitors make?
A rule of thumb when coming to Singapore for work is to reset and condition yourself. It’s a different environment. London and New York are a bit more fast-paced. Singapore is fast-paced, but at the same time the cadence is very controlled. And relationships are important.
KOH SWEE YEN
Visitors might feel awkward about sharing food, but this is rather common in Singapore. Because of the shared passion for food, it is natural that we are comfortable sharing food across the table—with separate sets of plating cutlery—which then forms yet another conversation point.
What do most Singaporeans grumble about?
KOH SWEE YEN
The hot and humid weather. Despite having grown up in this climate, the heat and humidity continue to bother us.
Interviews by Ruth Carson, Anand Menon, Ishika Mookerjee, Olivia Poh, Tassia Sipahutar and Andrea Tan. Edited for clarity and length.
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