Usually when you prepare to enter a country, you fill out a form and indicate whether you're carrying excess amounts of cash, commercial merchandise, and any food or livestock products that may be banned. When you enter Singapore, you get a small card that explains what's allowed under GST and duty free laws, a warning about "death to drug traffickers under Singapore law," and a list of items that you are prohibited from bringing in. As the forms says, this list includes but is not limited to the following:
Chewing tobacco and imitation tobaco products
Like candy cigarettes?
Cigarette lighters of pistol or revolver shape
Endangered species or wildlife and their by-products
Obscene article, publications, vide tapes/discs and software
That last one gives you pause. Obscene as defined how? Do they "know it when they see it"? Not that I had anything remotely pornographic in my possession. It just makes you wonder how strict that particular provision is enforced.
However, I did risk a possible caning by slipping three packs of gum in. I alway travel with gum and figured the chances were slim that my offense would be detected.
A local talk radio wag likes to describe Minnesota as "the state where nothing is allowed." Obviously, he's never been to Singapore. Actually, it's not that nothing is allowed in Singapore, it's more that everything seems to be regulated. It truly is the Nanny State writ large.
While it's nice for a visitor to enjoy the cleaniness of the country that result from serious fines for littering, spitting, and failing to flush public toilets, I think that if I lived there for any amount of time, I might chafe under the government restrictions in so many areas of the lives of the citizenry. But with the economy thriving (unemployment at something like 2.1%), the various ethnic groups coexisting nicely (at least on the surface), and the streets clean and relatively uncongested (by Asian city standards at least), it seems as if most Singaporans are quite happy with the way things are.