Cover Gemma Chan as Astrid Leong in ‘Crazy Rich Asians’

Is your friend secretly a crazy rich Asian? Here’s how you can really identify them in Singapore

When it comes to displaying wealth in the Lion City, Singaporeans are almost pathologically obsessed with keeping it on the down low. This no-nonsense approach has probably been instilled in generations of the rich through: a) the importance of modesty in Asian cultures; b) virtue signalling from peers; or c) fear of being targets.

Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew notoriously declared (rather imperiously, we might add) in his book Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going that the societal standards in Singapore were not set by the social elite, but rather, Singapore’s ministers, MPs and CEOs. He also opined, “I don’t think Singaporeans will want to wear loads of jewellery to display their wealth. It’s not in good taste.” (Look it up, page 288.) What this has done is to proliferate bland, practical, personality-free dressing in the upper echelons—honestly, can you name one memorable outfit worn by a minister or MP?

Is it any wonder then, that the really rich in Singapore have taken to more, shall we say, discreet indicators of their wealth? Whether it’s wearing Loro Piana sneakers or carrying unmarked luxury bags, stealth wealth is the name of the game, and only those in the know will recognise the markers of privilege. Here, we share some of the secret status symbols that you will recognise in the truly rich in Singapore.

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1. A membership to the Tanglin Club

Ever noticed a lush green decal bearing a golden shield with a “TC” monogram on your friend’s car? It’s a discreet symbol showing that your friend belongs to one of the most exclusive private clubs in the world: The Tanglin Club. With a history dating back to 1865, memberships are notoriously hard to come by, with applicants having to wait between 10 and 15 years, along with having to be proposed and seconded by two active Ordinary/Lifetime members of the club with at least three years in membership, and the average waiting time is ten to 15 years because of the long waiting list, as we’ve reported. But once you’re in, you’re really in.

In case you missed it: These Are the Most Exclusive Private Members’ Clubs in the World

2. An address in District 9 or 10

Ever heard your friend say that he/she would walk home after a night out in town? That’s how you know your friend is really rich. With an address that close to town, you can be sure your friends stays in the Core Central Region, with an address in District 9 and 10 being the mostly highly prized. Habitats here include luxury condominiums, landed properties of all sizes, and, the ne plus ultra of property in Singapore—Good Class Bungalows.

Additional points to note include: their family owning the entire condominium development, or having two or more properties next to each other, or dotted around the district—one to live in and the others to, you know, weekend/entertain/play in.

Read more: The Tatler Guide to Buying a Good Class Bungalow in Singapore

3. A car plate number prefix that only has a single “S”

We know you’re rich, but are you rich enough to own a car plate number prefix that only has one letter? According to reports, the oldest vehicle car licence plates in Singapore simply just start with a single “S”, and have been dated back to 1906. So if your friend’s got one of these coveted licence plates, you know their great-great-great grandparents were already rich enough to own a car way back when. Also, that their family has been in Singapore for generations.

In fact, a “S 32 H” car plate number went for sale in 2016 for a whopping SG$335,000 at auction. It’s the 22nd licence plate ever to be registered in Singapore’s private vehicle market, and, just to give you an idea of how exclusive this licence plate number is: vehicle numbers from one to 10 are currently strictly reserved for government or official vehicles, according to TNP.

4. A Singapore Airlines Solitaire Life PPS Club membership

Some things, money can’t buy. Singapore Airlines stopped handing out Solitaire Life PPS Club memberships a while ago, so if you’ve managed to secure yours, congratulations. Aside from never ever having to requalify for membership, perks of this extremely exclusive club includes access to First Class check-in and the First Class sections of the SilverKris Lounge for both you and your spouse. It’s a great way to fly, forever.

5. Having a road named after one—even better, two—of your ancestors

Anyone can donate a building and have their name on it, but a true mark of status in land-strapped Singapore is having a road named after one (or more) of your ancestors. Think Eu Tong Sen Street, Wan Tho Avenue, Seah Im Road, and more. Plus points if an entire district is named after an ancestor (Aljunied, Whampoa, Nee Soon, etc). So, to answer the age old question: yes, it really is your friend’s grandfather’s road.

6. Having a luxury timepiece that’s no longer in production

Oh, you bought your watch at the store? How cute. A true status symbol of the really rich is wearing a watch that’s no longer even on the market. Just some examples: Patek Philippe’s Nautilus Ref 5711, the Rolex Hulk, and the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo 15202ST—the first two have been discontinued and, as such, are in serious demand, while the Audemars Piguet model will be discontinued soon. If you see them on your friend’s wrist, you’ll know he/she is a serious collector.

In case you missed it: Worth Waiting For: Why These Watch Models Have a Long Waitlist

7. Having your own monogrammed paper shopping bags

Plastic bags? No, thank you. Branded shopping bags? Shudder. Your really rich friends would never conscience leaving the house with any of those (quelle horreur!). Instead, they’ll have their keto diet-friendly meals, shopping hauls, and everyday essentials casually carried in personalised, monogrammed paper bags that display 1) their commitment to the environment (no plastic ever), 2) their incredible attention to detail, and 3) their all-around devotion to the importance of their name. 

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