We learn about cities from videos, blogposts. The scope includes famous places, food, few interesting facts. With the founder of School of Troubleshooters Oleg Braginsky and student Maksim Golub, we reviewed the kaleidoscope of assortedUX aspects of Singapore to reveal what falls between the cracks.
Singapore is rightfully considered a melting pot, as it is where all cultures meet and coexist. If you are walking on the street, it’s easy to hear English, Mandarin, Hindi, Bahasa, French, Italian and other languages. Needless to say, there are plenty of places influenced by people from all over the world.
When one arrives in a new city, it’s good to do preliminary research on how things work at a specific location. However, there might be myriads of small details that wouldn’t be highlighted, so we decided to put together a little collection of interesting places, items, and facts to add another layer of knowledge.
We will consider cities as the entire product that people «consume», by interacting within it daily. Leaving (Putting aside) all the big, well-known modules like transport, sights, parks, etc., we will focus on smaller yet important features or initiatives that were carefully collected over a few years of staying in the country.
The journey starts with the food, as it is a big part of the local culture. There are places where the «user» can submit their order at kiosk (1), pay, getting their meal in a few minutes from one of the windows (2). The entire flow happens without any single interaction with the human, and is completely cashless.
When it comes to getting a quick bite, it’s a no-brainer in Singapore. For those who don’t want to stay in the queue or are on a tight schedule, pre-cooked food could be easily extracted from the vending machine. If hunger is real, it can heat it on the spot (3). The options include different types, cuisines (4).
If you are looking for something natural and healthy, there are vending machines that could sell you whole coconut (5) or freshly pressed orange juice (6). The front of the box is transparent, so the process is visible. Sealing and providing a straw are included. Different types of payments are accepted.
In case there is a plan to cook meal at home, but grocery shops are already closed, it’s easy to get a piece of frozen salmon filet (7). Two dollars would buy you a sealed frozen package. To compare, the cost for a chilled one with similar weight starts as less as eight Singaporean dollars as of 2023.
Switching to non-edible items. For guys who forgot to buy flowers for their date, there is a saver that will keep it fresh and cool (8). For those who are looking for a little plant to put on their table in the office or at home, there is an option too. It comes with funny-looking pots in different shapes (9).
As another idea for the gift, you may consider getting a set to build a portrait of you with friends or loved ones made from Lego bricks (10). Sit in the photo booth, take, select the good–looking picture. Get it into your hands freshly printed on the spot in a matter of minutes (11). Instruction comes along.
In some shopping malls, there are stations that will help to charge a device (12), free of charge (pun intended), fingerprint secured. If leaving it in the locked box is not an option, we can take a power bank with us (13). To keep ourselves dry, there is a station with umbrellas offering its service of sharing (14).
For extraverts or late-night stayers, there is a machine offering both drop-off and pick-up services for their laundry. On top of human-free interaction, it offers notification on the status and a wider selection of types of cloth, letting it compete with the classic laundromats that are widespread in neighborhoods (15).
It’s great to give it back. «It’s On Me» initiative (16). allows paying for someone’s meals. Upon payment, a stall owner will put a sticker on the storefront indicating that there is free food available for those in need. Antigen rapid tests also come free of charge (17). It could be retrieved after scanning an ID.
The environment is not the last on the list. In the basement of the condominiums, we may see separate boxes for garbage sorting (18). There is an option to allowing to donate your shoes (19). A considerable way to give a second chance to the item, along with making someone’s life a bit better and brighter!
When it comes to utilizing old hardware, there is a way to do it too. Printers, laptops, routers, bulbs will get another chance to provide more value in the form of separate parts or as a material (20). In shopping malls, there are containers for used batteries, which could be taken as a tube with candies (21).
On the outdoor food courts, also called Hawkers Centres, we saw how the collection of food is automated (22). There is also a rule to always return your trays after finishing meals. The separation between halal and non-halal kitchenware allows people to consume food according to their religion.
When we saw those people, the first thing that came to mind was a charity activity. Figured out that this was the fire alarm drill, happening once in a while. Each company has its own sign. The building staff counts «evacuated» people, keeps track of time. Gave them kudos for bottles of water for employees.
Ever thought about leaving your pet outside when going for shopping, but weren’t sure of whether it is appropriate? Fret not, as there is a solution to it: parking a pet in a few clicks (24). Be mindful theatre’s wardrobe rule is not applicable here: the administration holds no responsibility for the loss of your dogs!
Sometimes these monitor lizards could be seen walking near parks or water. Don’t be afraid, though. They are scary of you more than you are of them (25). Do make sure to keep looking at various birds, as one of them might be missing by its owners (26). Heard stories that some flew back by themselves.
Singapore metro, called the Mass Rapid Transit system, has safe barriers preventing people from jumping or falling into railway tracks (28). Some trains are equipped with privacy glass that turns on in the residential area. The cushion on the bus (28) designed for those preferring to move with comfort.
The idea of the yellow container (29) is to have a gym at convenient locations. Book the time, set the rental – shared or individual. Use curtains for privacy (30). Accessible 24/7, convenient for different schedules. Use it for training only, as there are cameras. Bluetooth speaker comes as a bonus.
With the post-pandemic hybrid mode, office workers may find themselves missing the experience of going to work. There are work pods providing necessities to accomplish your tasks: table, chair, wi-fi, AC (31). If feeling bored, you can entertain yourself and one more friend at mini karaoke. Happy singing!
Book-crossing is not represented widely, although it is spread across different community facilities in a residential area. We spotted another one in at public space (33). The rules are simple: one in, one out. The stock is in good condition, varying from business and fiction genres. Donations are widely welcomed.
Post offices are equipped with self-service machines, allowing customers to do all of the necessary measurements and buy stamps right on the spot (34). When it comes to transportation, the post will deliver themselves. The scooters in the fleet allow postman be fast, nimble, and hence – efficient (35).
It is common in Singapore to leave deliveries on top of the mailboxes (36). Interestingly, the postman would have a master key that can open the entire section simultaneously. What you see in the picture is one big section with embedded mini-doors. Previous versions were simpler and de-clustered (37).
Some restaurants have dedicated boxes where they put food ready to be picked from the kitchen side so the driver can collect it outdoors for further delivery (38). For residents, some of the building has pick-up stations. Protected with a code, it comes in handy when a recipient is not at home (39).
If you happen to go to throw away some garbage, but the door will resist opening with a weird howling sound, it could mean that the entire tube is being vacuum cleaned. Combined with washing, it happens during working hours to avoid disturbing residents. You can see and smell it during the process (40).
More functions are being automated or partly delegated. There are patrol robots (41) teaming up with the security forces, washing and mopping machines, serving huge areas (42), even robotized librarians, helping with the collection of the book. They move along the lines, following designated routes (43).
Libraries are open to anyone and have plenty of places to sit (44). Mostly filled with students and senior people, they are perfect for studying or working together on a project. Along with the books, there are magazines of different genres or the highlights manually picked and presented by the staff (45).
There are plenty of parks in the country. Some of the paths are elevated for a few meters, allowing visitors to see trees or birds from a closer distance (46). The height of the barriers is good enough to prevent accidents. Some of the areas contain a short description of species and plants around the place.
Futuristic-looking buildings with plenty of green are common to see. Some are covered with plants up to 80%. Some contain elements of nature in their shape. Condominiums or commercial buildings may have a few void decks in between, which will be occupied by mini-garden with facilities for residents (47).
When you get your work permit, there will be an email from the Singapore Police Force in the mailbox. It contains notes on how to act not to fall a victim of scammers (48). In personal experience, there would be plenty calls from «authorities» that have only one goal – deceive and get an access to your valuables.
The bills for electricity, water are being sent both online and on the paper. To motivate people consume less, there is a benchmark showing how you compare average and efficient consumption (49). For those who cancelled their work pass, there will be a note to do the same for the helper they hired (50).
If you happen to look behind the counter in most of the cafes, you may think that it looks like some sort of command centre (48). Often, these places has to deal with multiple delivery providers working in different modes. Hence, the plenty of things on the table and probably – increased bills for electricity.
Self-service helps to save human resources for better usage. There are machines allowing a fully automated cashier experience without the need to scan items (52). Put purchases in the basket, confirm, pay, pack, and go. Coins are being used less, but they're still places that accept them for depositing (53).
Down below collection of signs of all of sorts. We started with restricting ones (54). On the food courts, it is not allowed to litter, cycle. Dogs are only allowed for people with disabilities. Playing at the void decks of residential buildings along with smoking is prohibited. For quitters, there is a hotline number included.
Anything could happen at any moment in time. Cardiac arrest is an example. Hence, there are defibrillators scattered across the city at a reachable distance. There is even a dedicated app allowing you to find nearest one if you happen to have an emergency but have no clue where to get a device (55).
Warning signs help understand what the expectations are. Reducing noise (56) reminds that people have different perceptions of decibels depending on the time of the day. The human walking path may cross with the animal’s (57), trees can drop branches, like the Old Man Willow from Lord of the Rings (58).
At the park, you might be suggested that fishing could be quite costly (59), dogs should be leashed, the o owner recommends cleaning after them, specific breeds of dogs require muzzles while walking on the streets (60), feeding the birds or, in some places, a monkey is not something that you’d want to do (61).
A few random things made it to the list. First one is an outdoor Bluetooth speaker, which looks like a big bench with solar panels (62). It’s free of use, sound quality is good. The second one is the reminder that sometimes the owner can only see a few parts in the morning of what they parked in the evening (63).
Don’t be afraid if you see this guy behind the window in the office. They are not SWAT team members but ones who fights with the dirty windows, cleaning hundreds of square feet per day. Waive, smile, and carry on. The climate is humid, with weeks of rains, hence cleaning is essential to do occasionally.
For now, it is a wrap. Each country or city may have their own features or specifics that might not be visible form the first look or go under the radar because we so use to interact with them daily. We hope there were some discoveries or even insights with a bit sprinkle of during the reading!