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12 Things Singaporean Schoolkids used to do at Heartland Malls

Throwback to Your Secondary School Days

Before the days of smartphones, iPads and ultra-thin laptops, teens back in the 90’s and early 2000’s must have been a boring bunch – or not. Sure, we had our Nokia 8250 that could survive a nuclear bomb, a discman that weighed the same as 10 iPods and a desktop at home that ran on internet which died every time the home phone rang. But we survived.

Back when social media hadn’t yet encapsulated our lives, just being “seen” at malls with your friends elevated your social status by a mile, unlike the thousands of “friends and followers” that supposedly up your game in our modern day.

Going home to study or staying in school for CCAs were boring, mundane and made you seem like you had no friends. And we couldn’t “check in” or Instagram our locations to make it seem like we had a lot going on. So, going to the nearest heartland mall to “hang out” was the coolest thing back then.

Here are 12 things we used to do. 


1. School uniforms

A transformation occurs once the school bell rings and you pass through the gates that confine you to a whole set of rules and regulations. Socks go down to your ankles, guys tuck out their shirts and girls loosen their belts and shorten their skirts.

You have to look cool and bad-ass to attract the most attention to have some form of social status back then. In the world where instagram likes did not exist, this was how you did it.

2. Eating fast food

We didn’t really have much of a choice since we only got about $20 a week. McDonalds and KFC were all we could afford, as they were the only ones with the $5 students meal. Oh and, that would already mean that a quarter of our pocket money was gone.

I had a friend who spent $2 eating large fries from McDonald’s everyday.


3. Getting piercings

The more rebellious and bad-ass you are, the more street cred you’re going to get. Well, breaking school rules and going against what is socially expected of a student sure gets you there.

If you’re going to have one piercing, I’m going to have two.

4. Taking Neoprints

Neoprints were the selfies of the 1990s.

It was pretty expensive though, about $8 for a sheet of neoprint stickers.  Heartland malls across the country back then were almost certain to have a shop of at least 10 neoprint machines that were filled with young teens, boys and girls alike.

5. Going to Arcades

School Uniforms Not Allowed Before 6pm” – So what? Bring extra clothes and beat this rule. From basketball hoops to House of the Dead to Daytona Racing to the ever-evolving Dance Dance Revolution, you could spend hours in there.

For those who didn’t have enough money to play, watching was good enough.


6. Playing LAN

LAN gaming shops, or cyber cafes, only started popping out in the mid 2000’s, but were hugely popular for both guys and girls. Fun, addictive and affordable, it was a great place to engage in games with your friends, and also make new friends.

7. Looking for Chio Bu

A common practice for guys. For those who don’t know, a chio bu is a pretty and attractive female. Going to malls are a good place for “bird-watching” and find some eye-candy from the other schools nearby.

Note: Young Chio Bu’s only appear from 1pm to 6pm, before the malls get swarmed by aunties after work. 

8. Pak Tor (Going On A Date)

Since we didn’t have much money at that age, heartland malls offered an affordable location to go on a date. It’s not uncommon to see young secondary school teens strolling around the mall, having lunch at a fast food restaurant or catching a movie.


9. Going To A Toy Store

Honestly, I have no idea why but it was cool back in the day to enter Toys ‘R’ Us as a 15 year old to take pictures and play around like a child with your friends. Perhaps we were just reliving our childhood, but it sure did leave some long lasting fun and memories.

10. Going To The Community Library

Mummy, I’m going to the library to study with my friends”. We have all used this same old excuse before. Free aircon, free space to sit down and chill, but any form of actual studying rarely occurs. A good place to hang out and make new friends (via eye-contact or silent whispers), and it lives long in our memory.

11. Hanging Out At The Playground

A playground offers the best place to hang out. It’s free and it gives you a place to sit down and chill with your friends, You can make as much noise as you want and you can bring food and drinks too. Furthermore, it was a place to meet and make new friends with students from other schools. Seems like a bummer, but it was cool back then.

12. Walking Around And Doing Absolutely Nothing

It was the easiest way to pass time, and perhaps why all of us could still stay in shape while eating McDonalds every day. Just chatting with your friends and walking round and round and round the mall, that was basically the most common thing we did with our time after school.

Back To Reality

While hanging out in malls is still cool and prevalent among secondary school kids nowadays, it still isn’t quite the same as what the 90’s kids went through. Neoprint booths aren’t quite as readily available and social media has moved us to meeting people virtually rather than physically.

Nevertheless, heartland malls are still ever so crowded, offering us many fun-filled events, sales and activities! We have been showcasing quite a number of articles on the Hougang Mall, the quintessential heartland mall.

They have some up and coming events and promotions worth checking out so head on down and reminisce or create some brand new memories! For more information on upcoming events at Hougang Mall, click here.

This post was brought to you by Hougang Mall.