I am planning a trip back to Singapore – my adopted city state – and it started me contemplating what I miss about the Lion City. For sure, there are things I am not so keen on revisiting, along with plenty that I am. Here’s five of each, in descending order:
Five things I don’t miss about Singapore:
- The Frizz Factor. I might look younger in Singapore (see below) but frizzy hair due to the humidity is a daily battle that will defeat you, squash you down and make you surrender. If a newly arrived woman can’t bond with another woman about the nightmare that is frizzy hair when living in Singapore there will be no bonding – ever. You will discover you have curls in your hair you never knew existed on arrival in Singapore.
2. Booze Tax. The necessary expense that is alcohol. There is no such thing as a cheap and cheerful bottle of wine. And of lesser importance (to me) the expense of buying a car, you may as well buy another house instead near to where you want to go. It will be cheaper than buying a car to get there.
3. Drinking juice/tea/coffee/milo* out of a plastic bag. One with a little pink tie and clear plastic straw. Enough said.
4. The Cold. That’s right. It’s freezing in Singapore on the equator. Not outside, of course, but inside office buildings and shopping centres, you have to wear a winter coat, hat, scarf and gloves as the air-con can often be so cold that you might need your entire winter wardrobe. But bring a bag to put it all in because as soon as you get outside you will need to take it all off again or you may die of overheating.
5. Gum – Not Illegal but Inconvenient. I don’t miss having to write down my name and NRIC number when buying chewing gum. Gum isn’t illegal in Singapore, that is a myth. There are just some additional hoops put in place to make it more difficult to get your hands on it.This is necessary so you can be traced, tracked and if warranted arrested for chewing. Only joking…at least I think I am.
…and five things I am looking forward to:
1. Elixir of Youth. Everyone (well me anyway, at least I think so) looks at least 10 years younger than they should when living in Singapore – very humid weather and lots of sweating equals less wrinkles. It gives botox a run for its money. Of course once you leave and get off the plane the 10 years are added and then some to pay you back for the illusion you have been living.
2. Help Everywhere. When you are out with a toddler in a buggy and need help getting up and down stairs or any kind of help with the kids you may find yourself physical fighting off people who want to assist you. They might even ask if they can take a photo of your kids, some might not ask and just take it anyway especially if they are tourists from another country in Asia. Best just to go with it.
3. There’s Always a Doctor in the House. You can visit a doctor (even a specialist) without making an appointment a couple of years (I mean months) in advance and you don’t have to answer twenty questions about your medical insurance before you get seen – if you get seen at all. I am adapting well to life in the US, I am, I am…
4. Unique Dining Customs. People reserving a table or a chair in a food court with a small packet of tissues. It’s called ‘chope-ing’ a table. You put a packet of tissues down on a table or chair in order to ‘save it’ when you go and queue for food. And no-one will sit there! The idea of being successful doing that here in San Francisco in a hipster cafe’s or ‘parklets‘ is, well it would never happen, ever. I also realize it wouldn’t happen in most other parts of the world either.
5. Questions About Lunch. I never thought I would miss this one but when people ask you, “Have you taken your lunch yet?” They don’t actually want a literal answer. It’s the equivalent of, “What’s happening?” Or a comment about the weather. And there is no need for a detailed answer. It’s just polite conversation.
And is the Singaporean “lah” hit or miss? Well the jury is out on that one, and it’s there to stay, whether I like it or not.
*Milo is an Australian malt drink, very popular in Singapore. It has the same status that hot tea has in the UK and Ireland. Used in case of shock, any emergency and after giving birth, cup after cup after cup of it.