The least I can do is try...

Life in Singapore

In Bliss on October 19, 2012 at 7:00 pm


It is amazing how things change with time! Six months ago I was blogging about vegan banana bread and blending kale into smoothies and now I am laying in bed, balancing a laptop on my tummy, and musing about life….in Singapore. I have not had a green smoothie in months and I had chicken rice from a hawker center for dinner. I do not think anything raw, vegan, or intentionally organic has been in my tummy recently either…and I could not care less.

Yes….so I moved to Singapore. I got a job offer, snatched it up, packed up a few suitcases, and bolted without thinking twice. If anyone asked me why, my answers were vague and politically correct. “I want to broaden my horizons” or “to gain some international business experience” would cross my lips. I think I may have even uttered ” Asia is where it is at right now” in a flustered rush to keep the conversation going. Don’t get me wrong– Asia is a dynamic  place to be, but I probably would have taken a job offer in Siberia.

The truth is– I was bored…really bored. I was bored with life, bored with the consulting jobs I was doing, and feeling a bit disconnected from everything and everyone. My life needed a kick in the ass, and I thought maybe Singapore was the foot it needed.

So now I am in Singapore– I do not love it– but I honestly do not hate it either. My job challenges me every day– I am also having to acquire some new skills in a culture that is new to me as well. However, Singapore is an efficiently-run country where English is the official language– what kind of English-speaking weiner-dog would find it hard to adapt?

THIS weiner-dog! THIS ONE! Did I spell weiner-dog correctly?

My one room studio apartment is TINY…so TINY. I think fell into a stupid-expat trap. I must say though, my complex has a really gorgeous pool that I have not used yet– my heart swells with pride whenever I walk by it and think of the laps I will swim….tomorrow. I have not figured out how to turn the stove on in my kitchen– I tried! I even cracked open the manual, but I ultimately called for delivery in a fit of impatient hunger. There has been no cooking in Singapore….none.

I have not made any friends outside of work– though to be honest, I have not tried all that hard. I am still a bit overwhelmed, and pondering what I am trying to make of myself. I find it hard to engage with others on a purely social level when I am still trying to find my own footing. In a way though– I relish the pain of this. Through my bitching, moaning and complaining that–until now– a select few have been privy to, I think I love walking the hard road. I mean, I CHOSE this– it did not choose me! I actively searched for an opportunity to go abroad knowing the challenges it would entail. I know I made some compromises to come here– but it was a conscious choice. I feel tough, I feel independent, and sometimes I feel lonely– but there is always an undercurrent of satisfaction that I have not thrown in the towel yet. I am not a co-dependent softie– I am Geetha-the-rugged-nomadic-conqueror! No urban tribes or molly-coddling relatives needed!

So, now that I am done congratulating myself profusely, let’s talk about Singapore. Hmmm– what to say! To be honest, I have been too busy working to go into anthropological mode extensively. Locals constantly describe Singapore as “fast-paced”–to me it seems somewhat equivalent to New York City back home. A lot of professional individuals with lots of things to do…that take an absolutely uncompromised 1 hour lunch break every day. I do not suppose this is a bad thing– though as a chronic desk luncher, the custom took a while for me to get used to.

Cars in Singapore are extremely expensive to own– I do not think I will acquire one during my time here– I just cannot swallow the price. Basically– for what is costs to drive a Honda sedan here– I could probably have a pimped out luxury SUV back home. In any case– this is not an issue because public transportation is extremely organized, safe, and efficient. Cars are optional!

People here seem extremely reserved– I feel like a flamboyant loud-mouth in comparison to most of the people I meet. My first two months here, I felt quite isolated because it was so strange that I could be surrounded by so many people yet not even make eye-contact or smile at anyone for days! My sarcastic sense of humor really needs to be put on hold here– I just do not think it goes over well for the most part. Heck– there are parts of the US I do not go over well in so no surprise there! 

Coffee in plastic bags– still freaks me out a little. People can buy hot drinks…in plastic bags! It seems functional…I just do not get it yet. Are the bags cheaper than cups? Less waste generating? Easier to maneuver? Are you supposed to hang them around your neck?

Milo…I love Milo. When I leave this country I will bring a ton of it home. Why don’t we have Milo in the US?

McDelivery will make me fat– like Richard Simmons will come to my house in a bedazzled tank top and short shorts and cry with me fat. McDonalds delivers 24/7– you just select what you want online, place your order, and they show up at your door with piping hot fries and chicken nuggets…and CHILI SAUCE. Yummy, garlicky chili sauce on french fries– oh my gosh– I have always wanted to meet Richard Simmons and feel his hair– is it soft? Is it greasy?

I am ashamed to say that I live in the land of eating and shopping and all I can talk about is Milo and McDonalds. Thus far, my favorite food in Singapore has come from the Indonesian food stalls– mainly because of the fiery hot chili sauce they serve. Maybe I just like crying with my mouth hanging open– or maybe I just need an excuse to swill down some iced-lemon tea– another specialty of the country I had not experienced before.

From a race perspective– things have been interesting. I am honestly still not sure where Indians stand in Singapore. Due to the large Tamilian population, I definitely feel I blend. On the surface, things seem integrated– but I am not fully convinced. I think in some situations, my American accent has cut me a break but sometimes my spidey sense tingles with a sense that I am being perceived in a certain way because of my ethnicity. I definitely think race relations have improved over generations though– similar to the US. When I hear of the mistreatment of migrant workers etc. my heart sinks a bit– however, maybe I am being a hypocrite since I know the US is hardly pure in these matters. That being said, walking by some construction sites still makes me feel a bit uneasy here in a way that I do not experience in the US.

I have been on a bit of a cultural roller coaster ride. Yes– I am an American citizen and I am surprised how proud I have been of this lately. The US is going through tough times and I honestly left home wondering what was going to happen in the next few months, years, decades and beyond. I honestly still wonder…but looking from the outside, I am very proud of my home country. I am proud of the opportunities made available to all people that I still feel we provide more than others. I am proud that it is illegal for me not to be offered an apartment (blatantly) because of my race. I am proud of how vocal, opinionated and expressive Americans can be. I am also proud that there is always someone questioning everything (yes– even the insane people)– including the decisions of the people who lead us.

Overall– who cares what the hell I think of Singapore? Who the hell am I really? I think it is a phenomenally efficient, well-organized country. It took me less time to process my Employment Pass here than it took me to renew my drivers license in the states. If I was here for vacation, I would like it a lot. Currently, I am a little to steeped in my work life to enjoy it, but I know there is a lot to offer– especially with all the surrounding countries.

  1. There’s the key: “surrounding countries” indeed! I am a Singaporean living in the US (opposite of you) and would not even want to visit it, let alone live there – again!

    • I am sorry you dislike it so much Mr. Bhasin– especially since you may have grown up there? My feelings are still mixed– though the context in which I am experiencing Singapore may be very different from yours!

  2. Very interesting read. I suppose all transplantations always involve some level of pain, although it does sound lime you kicked the boredom monkey off your back at any rate. Looking forward to reading more about your expat experiences! What was that about apartments and race relations?! And more food posts please 🙂

    • Hi Narm, Almost every person of Indian descent I have spoken to in Singapore has had difficulties renting condo units. In my experience, the realtor told me the owner was willing to consider me because I was American– needless to say I was really shocked and had no desire to even look at the unit! This definitely colored my experience a little right off the bat to be honest.

  3. And I’m also unhappy that you’re not totally happy but when you’re ready to come home, I will send you all the Milo you could want sourced from SL joints here. Take care.

  4. Welcome to Singapore. But try not to stay too long.

    It may be efficient, clean and hums away, yet for every acne free face, there are blemishes hidden from view.
    This country exists for only one purpose: Key Performance Indicators.
    Nothing else matters ( really ). Dont let the smiles fool you. Watch your back.

    How I wish I could have a passport just like yours.

    Enjoy the Milo.

    The plastic bags of coffee is safe.. just that its a little out dated vessel for take aways.

    Why bother to cook? there is enough food outside to feed the whole of Africa… 24/7

    • Hi Veronika, Insight appreciated. I feel bad because it was not my intention to depict Singapore negatively 😦 It is really more that it has not been easy for me to adapt. EVERY country has its pluses and minuses– the US is definitely not perfect either. I suppose one can find the best and worst in any situation? Will remember your tips on bagged coffee– still mesmerizes me!!

  5. Hi,

    Thanks for the info and experience you have shared, very much appreciated. Hope you find what you want in life and live it out fully.

    I might be sent out to Singapore for some business but I am a bit curious as to how I might find living in Singapore.

    Anyway thanks again and all the best.

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