Denise Li, General, Opinions

Why Do People In Their 30s Say They’re Old? – Denise Li

Have we become so obsessed with youth that it feels like we’ve reached our “use by” date by the time we hit 30? Denise Li thinks that’s absolute bullshit. 

I can’t remember the number of times I’ve had discussions with friends where we collectively moaned about being in our 30s. We talk about how it’s “pathetic” that no longer feel the urge to stay out past 11pm, how our hangovers now last two days (“I used to club till 5am on Wednesday nights and still show up at the office at 9am the next day!” said one friend with a tinge of sadness and pride), how we wheeze and suffer when we try to run distances longer than 2.4km, how we used to be able to eat whatever we wanted and not gain a pound.

I say that this nostalgia for our 20s has to stop. In this case, hindsight is NOT 20/20 and it seems like we’re only choosing to remember the good bits. Skyrocketing energy levels and metabolism we may have had, but does no one remember just how emotionally tumultuous and unnerving navigating the tricky territory of the 20s really was?

This kinda sums up my 20s

This kinda sums up my 20s.

First job, first serious relationship, first friendship fallout … They may have been valuable learning experiences but I sure as hell am more than happy to leave all of it behind. When I look back on my 20s, all I remember is living in a haze of stress and anxiety. I was so worried about screwing up at work and in my relationships. If only someone older and wiser would have told me it was COMPLETELY OKAY to screw up, that I would learn from my mistakes in time, that making mistakes was part and parcel of the confidence-building process that would eventually bring me to where I wanted to be.

Need a reminder about why being in your 30s is awesome? Here are four.

1. We have more cash


Money may not buy your happiness, but it certainly gives you OPTIONS. Some people think it’s worth it to spend it on a car because they value their mobility and freedom. Others will use it to visit the places they always wanted to go. Whatever you choose to spend your money on, take a moment to be grateful for the fact that you no longer have to live from paycheck to paycheck.

2. It matters less what people think


The 20s tends to be a period of uncertainty, and in the fact of uncertainty, we might have been more inclined to follow the crowd. But with the experience accumulated in this decade, it becomes clearer that only we know what’s best for us. I find myself less afraid to take risks and am better able to think through about the consequences of my decisions. That kind of clarity is simply priceless.

3. Dating feels less like a minefield


I speak from my experience of being a straight woman: I think men really only become emotionally mature in their 30s. They are more likely to be upfront about what they want. and are less afraid to state what that is. Obviously, this is a bit of a sweeping statement but hey, with your accumulated wealth of dating experience during your 20s, I’m sure you’re better able to spot the red flags that a potential date could turn out to be yet another man-child, right? Plus, with your newfound confidence, you’re probably less likely to take it personally when a potential romance doesn’t work out the way you planned.

4. We have less FOMO


That’s Fear Of Missing Out. In our 20s, we might have felt compelled to meet every single social obligation we felt we had. Dinner with colleagues, followed by a night at Zouk with uni friends? Just another regular Friday night in my 20s. I used to equate “living my life to the fullest” with “stretching myself as thinly as humanly possible”. Now, I am in better appreciation of the fact that Time is an extremely limited resource, and that I am better off spending it in a way that is most meaningful to me; even if “meaningful” sometimes means heading home early on a Friday night for a good night’s sleep.

So yes, “I’m too old” is one phrase that I’m officially retiring from my lexicon. We live in a society that worships youth with far too little regard given to the wisdom that getting older brings. But I think those of us in our 30s are the most well-placed to change that perception.

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.

Character & Soul, General, Self-Improvement

The One Thing Missing From The Body Image Conversation – Denise Li

We all want to start loving our bodies as they are, but it’s okay if we don’t love it RIGHT THIS MOMENT, argues Denise. 


The websites I check back regularly on are not short on articles that discuss body image in great detail. These emcompass everything from slideshows showcasing Jennifer Lawrence’s best quotes on the topic, to the celebrating of using real-women in advertising campaigns, right down to rather aggressive campaigns calling for pre-Photoshopped images of Lena Dunham for the recent cover of Vogue.

Whether or not you agree with how the message is conveyed – I’m not so fond of Jezebel’s militant tactics – the message is clear: Women around the world want their societies to stop valuing one body shape and type over others and are calling for acceptance of all body types, regardless of size. And the biggest way for this to happen is if there is more accurate representation of their bodies portrayed in the media.

Perhaps no other feminist issue has galvanised so much support than the body acceptance movement – fat really is a feminist issue. Understandably so. We are all, after all, consumers of pop culture and would in one way or another be influenced and affected by its messages.

While I applaud all the women-focused websites out there for fighting for an issue that’s close to the hearts of so many women, I think there’s one thing that’s missing from the conversation: recognising the fact a change in mindset is each and every woman is going to take time.

I think many of us – myself included – will have “I hate my body” thoughts from time and time. And while it’s great that there is a wealth of articles out there that celebrate accepting your body as it is, I don’t think it’s going to do anyone any good if they were to start second-guessing themselves with thoughts such as, “I am a feminist; a strong, empowered, enlightened woman, so why am I still obsessed with the cellulite on my thighs?”

Think of how many years of conditioning we all underwent as a result of our exposure to pop culture and all of its unhealthy messages promoting thinness and perfection. Change, both in the media and as an attitude within each and everyone of us, is not going to come overnight and I think it’s important to acknowledge that. That’s the reason why I’m against Jezebel promoting a very aggressive brand of “my way or the highway” feminism; instead of promoting conversation, such a militant stance shuts down avenues of discussion, of women talking about the difficulties of transitioning to a more accepting attitudes towards their bodies.

In my early 20s, I was obsessed with losing weight. I weighed myself six times a day, counted calories and spent inordinate amounts of time on self-loathing. I focused on how much better my life would be if I could just lose 5kg. I’ve come very far from that dark period in my life where a focus on my weight was a symptom of the helplessness I felt in other areas of my life, but that doesn’t mean that I am not impervious to those residual “I hate my tummy” thoughts even as I approach my 31st birthday.

The big difference is that I now have a coping strategy. I’ve come to acknowledge that I’ll experience such negative thoughts every now and then no matter how enlightened I consider myself to be. Only now, I don’t let these thoughts suck me into a cesspool of self-hate and negativity.

I take the time to evaluate each and every one of those thoughts, working through them using logic and rationality. “Why am I thinking about my tummy? What can I do about it? Does this matter in the larger scheme of things?”

Then, I’ll turn to my attention to other things in my life that are far more important than the perceived bodily imperfection: “My body may not look like Adriana Lima’s but it’s strong and healthy, and I can throw a mean punch. I love what I do for a living and I never have Monday blues. I have family and friends that care about me and want to see me do well.”

What it all comes down to: Playing down the negative, accentuating the positive.

I’m not saying that this way of thinking will work for every woman grappling with bodily insecurity issues. I’m just saying that it’s important to have a conversation with yourself about it. Examine if it’s really your body that if you have issues with, or if it’s symptomatic of something else in your life that’s not going the way you want or envision.

Despite our best efforts, it can be hard to love our bodies fully 100% of the time, but that shouldn’t make you feel less of a feminist or empowered just because you bemoan “orange-peel thighs” every now and then. Remember: empowerment is all about knowing that you have the power to change things. And giving yourself time and being patient about coming into your own is perhaps one of the best things you can do for yourself.


About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.

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Gadgets & Toys, General, Lifestyle

[Infographic] Navigating The Material World App

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Should We Get Free Parking In Singapore? – Deborah Tan

“Maybe I’ll learn to drive if I move to Belgium,” said Denise. “Parking there is free.”


This statement hit me like a rock flying into the windscreen of the Volkswagen Golf I was test-driving. It cracked me.


Why? Here, I shall speak from my personal experience as a driver.

Image credit:

Image credit:

1. Punching Holes In Coupons Is Stupid
I was already running late for an event last Friday at Owen Road. After parking my car, I hurriedly looked at the clock on my iPhone: 16.20. OK. My mind registered 4.20pm. Unfortunately, my fingers registered 6.20pm. When I got back to my car an hour later, I had received a ticket for putting a coupon with the wrong time on my car.

The already frazzled me was really annoyed. While I cannot blame the parking warden for thinking a driver would have the audacity to cheat the system of TWO WHOLE HOURS of time, the coupon-system is obsolete and creates unnecessary waste!

My car is littered with used coupons and little paper circles (punched out bits). It’s not so much about PAYING the $0.50 or $1.00 that I mind. It’s the hassle of having to (1) estimate how long you’re going to be at a place and (2) making sure you put the right amount on. It’s the hassle of running out of coupons in a carpark where there isn’t another driver around to sell you a piece, and then having to dash to the nearest 7-Eleven to buy a book.

That is why I always rather park at a carpark with an electronic system. Just charge me when I leave.


2. It Encourages People To Not Drive Into The Central Districts 
Look, the COE is to control car population, right?

The ERP is to control congestion, right?

But you know what, dear Transport Minister and LTA, FREE PARKING keeps cars in the carpark. So by providing FREE PARKING at all public (NOT the private ones in shopping centres or business buildings) carparks, you are really giving us an incentive to not drive our cars into districts where public carparks are rare, for example, the CBD and Orchard Road.

How to make it work? Give free parking at HDB carparks, take away public carparks in the CBD and Orchard area (more space for you to build shopping malls! YAY!) and you will have less congestion in these areas.

Don’t bother with the ERP. Give me free parking in the Holland V HDB multi-storey carpark and I’ll gladly take the bus to Orchard Road.


Not another one of these!!!!

Not another one of these!!!!

3. It Is Only Fair 
With the COE prices getting more and more ludicrous, as a car-owner, I think it is only fair that we are given free parking. If not everywhere then at least at the public carparks.

Those who are not car-owners may say, “But if you can afford $90,000 in COE, surely you can cough up parking fees?”

No. It’s not the parking fees that I’m being a pain in the arse about. It’s being FINED for parking that I am really annoyed at. First of all, I already pay so much in the way of COE, ERP and road tax in the years I’ll own my car, so, if I overshot my parking by half an hour (which is $0.50), it’s really ridiculous that I AM GOING TO BE FINED $30!! Where is the f____ing justice?!?!?!

I think free public parking should be an entitlement for car-owners. Yes, you may shoot me down. You may say I’m being a self-entitled spoilt brat who thinks her money is “damn big”. BUT think about it rationally … if you are a car-owner who pays so much in taxes for your vehicle, it’s really annoying that the government is bothering you over a $0.50 coupon, right?????


4. Because Parking Wardens Don’t Deserve The Abuse They Get
I have seen drivers screaming into the faces of parking wardens. I really don’t think they are out to make car-owners’ lives miserable. They are doing a job. Can they do something else? YES!

Think about it. If we no longer have to employ people to walk the streets and issue parking fines, they can be employed in another sector that BADLY needs such hardworking manpower: the F&B industry. Last night, at a food tasting, the owner of a restaurant was lamenting to us how it is really difficult to find people who would work in F&B. I think the solution lies in re-purposing the parking wardens. This is not a suggestion made out of disrespect. They will indeed fit very well into F&B, why?

a. They are used to travelling and walking
A lot of job applicants don’t show up at interviews at restaurants because they find the location too far away from their homes and are unwilling to be on their feet all day. Parking wardens are always on the go, they cover so much distance in a day policing the carparks.

b. They are meticulous
You can’t fool them with some clever manipulation of your parking coupon. They see every trick, they see the smallest loophole in your scam. If you want your dish to be specially prepared, you can be sure that someone who is this meticulous will get it done right.

c. They won’t miss out your order
How many times have you had to complain to a restaurant manager because your order got forgotten or it was keyed incorrectly into the system? With someone of a parking attendant’s caliber, this won’t happen! They make a living out of issuing tickets, and in a restaurant setting, they will make sure your order gets to the kitchen!

The similarities between the jobs of a F&B service staff and a parking warden are seriously uncanny. Do people deserved to be screamed at for doing their jobs? No. So instead of creating a job that receives so much bad karma from people, why not just give us free parking, and retrain parking wardens to work in a more people-oriented job in the service industry?

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, Suits, and has to go pay her parking fine now. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.


10 Minutes With … Jay Che, Sentosa Buskers Festival – Denise Li

What’s the first thing that pops into your mind when I say “busker”? I bet you thought of the blind uncle who performs at the underpass of Orchard Road. That’s one kind of busker. But Jay Che, 35, hails from a totally different busking camp. The Singaporean juggler and social circus instructor performs wondrous tricks involving spinning plates and juggling razor sharp knives and, come September, you’ll be able to watch him perform at the Sentosa Buskers Festival. We recently spoke to him to find out more about his unusual career choice.

The J Show(Vaudeville)

How long have you been busking, and how did you get inducted into the world of busking?

I do not really busk, but I have a show that is suitable for the streets, thus I participate in street-performing festivals around the world. It was in 2001 during the Singapore River Buskers Festival that I saw a 7 ball juggler from New Jersey do his act. I then decided that performing in street arts festival would be something that I would like to do at some point of my life. So I decided to craft a show suitable for the streets and after many rejections, I finally landed my first overseas festival in Poland in 2009. More festivals followed after the first one.

On average, how long does it take for you to master a busking skill?

Busking skills essentially refers to skills that keep people glued to your show. As a busker, your primary goal is to entertain people and making that connection with the audience to ensure they stay till the very end of your show. I would say it took about three months of street experience to learn enough to know what you need to do to keep people glued to your show.

Technical circus skills are easier to quantify. To perform using the crystal ball for example, you need at least nine months of consistent training. To juggle 5 balls, you would require about a year to master the five-ball juggling battern.

How did you learn these skills?

Most of the circus skills are self-taught. I’d often go on YouTube to see what people have done, and try to master these skills myself through trial-and-error.

What is the best part of your job?

I guess it would have to be able to be given the privilege to entertain people and travel at the same time. For the past 3 summers, I have performed at European festivals for two to four days and I would travel for another 3 weeks in Europe.

What are the differences in people’s attitudes to busking in Singapore and Europe?

In Europe, people do see busking as a way of life. We have see people make a living out of doing busking in Europe, while in Singapore, it clearly stateson NAC’s website that they do not advocate busking as a means of carving out a living. But would I say that people in Europe are more generous towards buskers? Not necessary so. The only generous hats are from the big festivals.

In Singapore, a common perception of busking is that it’s somewhat like begging. Does this perception affect you?

Unfortunately, that is how busking is seen in Singapore. In Europe, buskers and beggars are two completely different entities. We seldom see acts that are not very good and yet try to pass off as “half busking half begging”. I strongly encourage fellow Singaporeans to give only when they feel that the busker is good and not out of sympathy.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced and how did you overcome them?

I don’t busk in Singapore. But in Europe, we do face challenges as we are up against some of the top buskers of the world. If we cannot be better than them technically, we have to be more creative and carve out a niche for ourselves. Japanese buskers, for example, are doing a very good job in Europe.

What can we expect from your performance at the Sentosa Buskers Festival?

I would be showcasing one of my more unique acts, the use of my mouth to juggle ping pong balls while playing the xylophone! Stay tuned.

The Sentosa Buskers Festival takes place from September 7 – 15, 2013, 4.30pm – 10.30pm at Merlion Plaza, Merlion Walk, Beach Plaza & Siloso Beach. Admission to the event is free but island admission and carpark charges do apply.

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. She’s been fascinated with buskers ever since she saw them performing on the streets of Perth, Australia as a child. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.

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5 Reasons To Be Proud Of Singapore Today – Vanessa Tai

After reading the news about how 56 percent of Singaporeans want to migrate, I felt very sad. Yes, I’ll be the first to admit our country isn’t perfect but then again, which country is? Like everything else, we should take the good with the bad, and roll with it. Plus, there’s so much to love about our little island-state. No, I’m not talking about our world-class airport (are we still number one?) or our high safety standards or even our delicious local food. I’m talking about things that don’t usually get talked about when people share why they love Singapore, such as …

1. Our Burgeoning Arts Scene

A scene from the production Cooling Off Day, in 2012

A scene from the production Cooling Off Day, in 2012

In the past, theatre used to be quite a niche industry, attracting only a small population pool. However, in recent years, theatre has become more accessible with storylines that tug at Singaporeans’ heartstrings, such as Michael Chiang’s Army Daze or Alfian Sa’at’s Cooling Off Day. Hossan Leong recently proved that local theatre is alive and roaring with his sold-out production – Hossan-Ah: Celebrating 20 Leong Years. 

2. The Explosion Of Start-Ups

material world singapore-block 71

Block 71 – where budding tech entrepreneurs gather

If you ever had a doubt that Singapore is a hotbed for exciting new start-ups, take a trip down to Block 71 at the Ayer Rajah industrial estate. Home to over 80 tech-related companies such as venture funds, incubators, technology startups and video game firms, the atmosphere is thick with creativity. It’s little wonder then that Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin has made Singapore his base. In an interview, Saverin shares that he was motivated to move here because of the “various entrepreneur programs and long list of government funding made available for startups.”

3. A Wider Acceptance Of Minority Groups

An aerial view of Pink Dot 2013

An aerial view of Pink Dot 2013

Pink Dot SG started in 2009 to lend a voice to the LGBT community in Singapore. In just four years, the event has grown to attract over 21,000 participants, all committed to the “freedom to love.” Apart from LGBT rights, other groups have also sprung up in recent years to support the rights of marginalised individuals. Some of these groups include Maruah, a human rights organisation as well as HOME, which assists migrant workers in Singapore.

4. Our Ability To Laugh At Ourselves

The cast of popular comedy TV series, The Noose

The cast of popular comedy TV series, The Noose

Whoever said Singaporeans don’t have a sense of humour? If the popularity of TV programmes like The Noose or books by Neil Humphreys are anything to go by, I’ll say we definitely have the propensity to laugh at our various quirks and idiosyncrasies.

5. A Commitment To Staying Active 

Join the Material World founders at this year's Great Eastern Women's Run!

Join the Material World founders at this year’s Great Eastern Women’s Run!

Judging by how the number of marathon participants increases every year, I think it’s safe to say Singaporeans are generally quite an active bunch. Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore – probably the nation’s biggest running event – is expecting 62,000 runners this year! That’s pretty insane, if you ask me. As for Material World, all four of us are taking part in the Great Eastern Women’s Run this November, and we’ll be raising money for Action for Singapore Dogs while at it. For more details, please email Denise at

Men love their country, not because it is great … but because it is their own.” – Seneca, Roman philosopher

What makes you proud of Singapore? Tell us in the Comments section below!

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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Accessories, Beauty & Shopping, Contests, General, International Fashion

Sign Me Up For A Pair Of Rockstar! – Deborah Tan

Perfect with a black dress! - Dannii Minogue for Holster

Perfect with a black dress! – Dannii Minogue for Holster

Over the years, I’ve become inseparable with my four-inch heels. But since starting this business, I’ve been working from home and, needless to say, my wardrobe has become a lot more casual. Instead of heading into the office every time there is a meeting to attend, I am usually headed for the homes of one of Material World’s founders. To wear four-inch heels to a house-meeting would be impractical and ridiculously unsuitable.

I find ballet flats uncomfortable because my feet have very high arches. I am simply not a sneakers-girl like Denise and, God forbid I’ll ever walk around town in a pair of trainers! And if flip flops are too casual, what then can I wear instead of heels? I recently found a happy solution – Holster. Made with a pioneering PVC that does not make your feet sweat, these sandals are anti-microbial and vegetarian/vegan-friendly.

This summer, Holster has a fantastic collaboration with Dannii Minogue – a big fan of these sandals. Featuring gold studs on a black jelly base, the “Dannii Minogue for Holster” sandals also come in 9 other colour variations, with some featuring studs, some, with jewels. As you can see from the campaign visual here, the black sandals do complement black dresses really well! I’m already visualising myself walking around town wearing my usual LBDs and with these black beauties on my feet …

The “Dannii Minogue for Holster” collection is available at Not Too Big at Forum The Shopping Mall, Level 2.

Win a pair of Dannii Minogue for Holster here!

Win a pair of Dannii Minogue for Holster here!

Not Too Big has a pair of “Dannii Minogue for Holster” sandals to give away to readers of Material World. To win it, simply follow the steps below: 

1. Answer this question: “Name ONE of the features of the PVC used to make Holster sandals.” Leave your answer in the Comment section below this post.

2. Click on this link: and follow the instructions. (Pssst … you can unlock more chances to win here!)

3. Private Message your details (Name, Age, Gender, Email Address, Mailing Address, NRIC) to Material World’s Facebook Page.

Only followers of Material World on Facebook qualify for this giveaway. Contest ends this Friday, 14 June 2013.

All opinions are the author’s own, Holster and Not Too Big did not pay for this post. Please read our advertising policy here.

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, Suits, and wonders if she should consider Vibrams as her running footwear now. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

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So, What Do Activists Actually Do? – Vanessa Tai

They’re the ones who often turn up at public demonstration rallies, or whose names often appear in newspaper forums. You probably even have one or two among your group of Facebook friends. But for all their strong opinions, the path of an activist is often a lonely one, fraught with opposition.

Vanessa Ho is a 26-year-old programme coordinator with Project X, a social initiative to end discrimination against sex workers. Despite holding a  Master’s Degree in Gender, Society and Representation from the University College London, Vanessa chose to abandon the well-worn path of life in the civil service for the bumpy road of social activism. She lets us in on her work as a full-time activist.

Tell us a bit more about your background. How did you become a social activist?

During my university years in the UK, I was closely following Singapore’s parliamentary debate on Section 377A, and was horrified by the stuff I was reading on online forums. Instead of a healthy, open discussion, there were personal insults thrown around by both camps. That was when I decided I needed to study more to better understand these issues surrounding sex, gender and sexuality

When I returned to Singapore, I started holding events to critically analyse these issues and from there, I made a lot of contacts. I met the founder of Project X through a mutual friend, and was excited about the work they’re doing. Although I worked closely with them on various events, I did not join immediately. It was only when the founder told me she was thinking of leaving and asked if I would like to take over that I came onboard full-time.

"Project X is like a loudhailer - we are here to amplify the voices of sex workers rather than to speak on their behalf." - Vanessa Ho

“Project X is like a loudhailer. We are here to amplify the voices of sex workers rather than to speak on their behalf.” – Vanessa Ho

So what does your job entail?

Three days a week, I go down to the various red light districts to distribute condoms, lubricants, wet wipes, health guides, human rights documents (for example, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) as well as coupons to get a free HIV checkup. We try to build a relationship with the sex workers by providing a listening ear and trying to understand the issues they face. We also try to encourage them by letting them know they have human rights too and deserve to lead a life of dignity and respect.

On top of that, we also conduct public education events such as forum theatre, plays, art exhibitions, film screenings, talks and discussions, in order to raise awareness about the issues that sex workers face and to dispel the misconceptions and stereotypical representations of sex workers. Lastly, we write human rights reports and lobby for sex workers rights. Basically, as programme coordinator, I have to bao ga liao (do everything, big or small!)

What is the biggest misconception that people have about the sex work industry?

The biggest is that there is only one type of sex worker. Sex workers come from very diverse backgrounds. The one misconception that I love to dispel is that there are no Singaporean sex workers. When I tell folks that I work mainly with Singaporeans (and Malaysians), the expressions on most of their faces are priceless. Sex workers come from a variety of backgrounds and are as diverse as the human race itself.

What does your family think of your work?

They hate it. My father finds me an embarrassment, and my mother constantly calls me un-filial because I don’t have enough money to contribute to the household expenditure. And my brother thinks I’m a loser for earning so little despite my educational qualifications. Sad, right? So I hardly talk to them.

Have there been moments where you thought to yourself, “Why the hell am I doing this?”

Yes, when fellow activists use discriminatory language or when they engage in Oppression Olympics (the argument that some people deserve human rights more than others.) To me, fellow activists are like a support group where we show solidarity to each others’ causes and battles. I can understand if other people don’t support the rights of sex workers, but when fellow activists don’t, it’s quite sad. It really does make me think if I’m alone in these battles. It’s scary, and not to mention, lonely.

What keeps you going?

The women I work with. Sometimes all I need to keep me going is to just sit down with them for a chat and I will feel invigorated once again. It’s not just because they relate stories of human rights abuses that I’m unable to turn my back on; they have also become my friends, and friends don’t leave friends in the lurch.

Project X is on the lookout for volunteers to help design flyers and websites, as well as to help write and do research. More importantly, Vanessa Ho would like to urge people to attend Project X’s events to find out more about human rights issues. Email her at for more information.

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets

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Everything You Ever Wanted to Ask Your Taxi Uncle – Vanessa Tai

Hands up those of you who often tweet passive-aggressive tweets about your cabbie – “If this cabbie jams his brake one more time, I’m gonna f-ing puke”; “Taxi uncle, please just shut up and drive.” It seems like we passengers have a million and one grouses when it comes to taxi drivers in Singapore – “Why are they always On Call whenever it rains?”; “Why does he get so pissed off when I tell him I need to go to more than one destination? Doesn’t he want more money?”

To clear the air on some of your most common gripes, I sat down for a chat with Mr Vincent Tai (yes, we’re related), who has been driving a taxi for the past 10 years.

Q: Do taxi drivers intentionally activate the “Busy” sign just to avoid certain passengers?

“These drivers probably have a prior appointment to pick up their own family members, or with their regular customers. Some drivers, like myself, prefer to have a pool of regular customers because it ensures a more steady income.”

Q2. In London, taxi drivers are required to take a topographical test to prove they know how to go everywhere in the city. Do you think it’s necessary for taxi drivers to take such a test?

“While it would be ideal that our local drivers have an intimate knowledge of the city’s roads, there are many small roads in Singapore that make it almost impossible to know all the directions by heart. Thankfully, most taxis these days come outfitted with a GPS. Having said that, I know plenty of older-generation cabbies prefer to completely do away with the GPS or any other computerized system for that matter. They find it too stressful. I think more should be done to train up our drivers. Currently, the training sessions for these new systems only take half or one day, which is hardly sufficient for the less tech-savvy drivers to learn anything.”

Q3. When presented with a big note ($50 and above), a lot of taxi drivers will show their displeasure. What are your thoughts?

“The onus should be on the driver to always have sufficient small change with him. Reason being, we cabbies are in the service industry after all and should always strive to give the best possible service. Even if the driver receives plenty of big notes consecutively, he should take the initiative to go to the nearest coffee shop or petrol station to get change.”

Q4. Some taxis reek of pee. ‘Fess up – do some taxi drivers lose control of their bladder because they’ve held it in for too long?

“My cabbie friends and I don’t believe in holding it in – we’ll relieve ourselves whenever we have the urge to pee. That’s because we know of the long-term health problems that arise from controlling one’s bladder. Of course, we don’t always go to proper toilets! (laughs)”

Q5. Is there anything we passengers should take note of?

“If you intend to go to more than one destination, please inform your driver before your journey starts. Sometimes, the driver may need to rush off after sending you to the first destination, so if he doesn’t know about your other intended destinations, conflict may arise.

Another very important point? Please, please inform your driver if you feel unwell or feel like throwing up. He can quickly pull over to let you throw up, and even offer you a plastic bag. I’ve had many passengers who threw up in my cab without warning, and my entire evening was ruined because I had to spend time getting rid of the mess and stench. In my opinion, there should be a law implemented where a flat fee is imposed the moment a passenger throws up in the cab. I usually ask for about $20 to cover my loss of income and car washing cost, but I know of some drivers who demand for up to $50. Despite creating a big mess, some passengers still refuse to pay extra and will only give you $3 to cover the car wash.”

Ever ready with a grin

Ever ready with a grin

During his 10 years as a cabbie, Mr Vincent Tai has consistently received letters of accolades from his passengers. If you wish to experience his sterling service, drop him a call at 8490 0223. 

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets