The first few weeks I felt like I was sweating on and offending everyone by being my loud, in-your-face, American self. Everyone here speaks English but with the slang, accents, and the extra ah/lah/leh/boleh and little sayings --- I have no idea what anyone is saying. I feel really silly when I have to ask someone to repeat what they said for the third or fourth time. So I just smile and nod.
actual footage of my family in Singapore when anyone speaks to us
We finally moved in to our new place. We got a helper. Jay starts temporary (until his semester starts) work in a couple days. We don’t have a car here. It’s been a month and a half since we moved and all of us learn something new every day. We’re adjusting pretty well, meeting some peeps, forever chasing our new normal.
However, the culture shock is real, ya’ll. Here’s all the things we’re loving and things we’ll be glad to leave when we move!
NUMBER ONE. All the cameras! I haven’t seen a police officer yet. The island of Singapore is mostly monitored by CCTV (Security Cameras) watching your every move. So if you’re trying to be sneaky in public and you try and get away with pickpocketing, inappropriate touching, or littering – you won't because you’re always being watched! Singapore is really strict and you’ll get fined, caned, or banned from the country. You can go to jail for continuing to hit on a woman after they’ve said no. 😱
NUMBER TWO. Helpers. OMG. It hasn’t even been a week since we got our helper and there’s already a change in our parenting dynamic. We actually WANT to hang out with our kids. We want to play with them. We want to talk to them. We have more patience and our tempers aren’t so short. I can shower in peace. I can poop in peace. My husband and I can leave whenever we want to get a cup of coffee together and we know in our heart that the kids will be okay because our helper is LEGIT. I could go on and on about how amazing our helper is. I really truly feel in my heart that everyone back in America would be a lot friendlier if every family had the option of a helper. It improves your quality of life SO MUCH that I am already sad thinking about all of the stuff I have to do when we move back.
NUMBER THREE. Thoughtfulness! Maybe its because someone is always watching you, but maybe people are just incredibly nice here. Movers? They come, take off their shoes, unpack your boxes, physically hand you your things, then take all their trash, and leave! Furniture delivery people? They come, take off their shoes, put your furniture together, take their trash, and leave. People clean up after themselves in the hawker center. Public toilets? Immaculate (for the most part).
NUMBER FOUR. CULTURE. My favorite thing is when we’re riding the bus on a weekend and the kids get to see multiple PROMINENT cultural festivals on one 20 min bus ride. The turnout is huge. Singapore is smack dab in the middle of SouthEast Asia with lots of influence from Malaysia, East Asia, Europe, and Asia so we get to see a ton of cool things! ✊🏼
The whole country goes all out for Lunar New Year. They celebrate for WEEKS after it's over!
NUMBER FIVE. Food. DUH.
NUMBER SIX. Respect. If you’re talking to someone older than you, you call them “auntie” “uncle” or “big brother” or “big sister”. Back in the states we occasionally do this (unless you’re in the south, then it’s ALWAYS!) with “ma’am” and “sir” – if we feel like it. But this is every single conversation and interaction you have with someone and I love it! My kids asked “Mommy, is that person my FOR REAL uncle?” 🧔🏻Then we explain, “No, it's just a sign of respect when you talk to someone older than you.” Its a cute conversation to have to open up more conversation about culture.
NUMBER SEVEN. Coffee. ☕️ Singapore has the best coffee and coffee culture ever don’t @ me. End of story.
NUMBER EIGHT. Work ethic. I feel like everyone I come into contact here is always striving to be better. The people here are hungry for self-improvement and people of all ages and backgrounds always make time in their day to either teach and/or be taught.
I felt horrible for moving my kids at first, but I now know that this move is setting them up for a lifetime of memories and cool social skills.
NUMBER NINE. Eco-friendly! Singapore is SO eco-friendly. All of the outlets have an on/off so if you're not using an appliance then no power goes to it! There's a Master Switch in your house so you can turn off EVERYTHING (other than the fridge, of course). They ask if you need cutlery, restaurants don't have napkins (people usually carry them), they ask if you brought your own bag, and there's a surcharge if you do take-away instead of eating in. LOTS of people take public transportation since cars are so expensive out here. So as a family we really feel like we're making our carbon footprint small!
HAPPY TO LEAVE
NUMBER ONE. How quiet everyone is here. Everyone here is so soft spoken. American kids…specifically my kids… are so loud. Like, OMG. I’m totally self conscious with how loud they are. We go to restaurants and my kids are the loudest eaters, talkers, and laughers. We’re walking down the street and we’re the loudest walkers. I can’t wait to get back to good ‘ol loud America.
NUMBER TWO.Walking direction. Singapore is a left hand driving country. So when you walk on the sidewalk or in the mall or something, what side should you walk on? The left, correct? That’s what I thought too. But Singapore is such a big mixture of so many different people in so many different countries that sidewalks and malls are kind of like: sldkfjalsdjf. It drives me NUTS.
NUMBER THREE.“Me-first mentality”. Singapore is a very young country – about 50 years old. Some of the locals have this me-first mentality -- its this scrappy, self-reliant, hungry, drive to get to the top and bulldoze over people who get in the way. That’s probably why Singapore has the best of the best minds working in its country! For example, if I have my kids with me and I’m trying to step off the bus, it doesn’t matter that my kids are with me… if we’re not fast enough off the bus, we’re gonna get shoved. Another example is when we’re waiting for a lift (elevator) and I have the massive pram (stroller) and I’m waiting with a group of people to get on… people will shove past, jam pack, into the elevator, and not even acknowledge that I was there first with a stroller waiting my turn. If I’m not aggressive enough, I won’t get a spot (excellent life lesson!) But like, the people here are SO NICE so its all very confusing.
NUMBER FOUR. How expensive it is here. Milk? $8. Ice Cream? $7. Strawberries $14. Yeah we can get by with purchasing local fruit, but you try telling a kid “Sorry bud, no strawberries. Eat this durian instead.”
NUMBER FIVE. Lines. Singaporeans love to stand in line. And they are SO PATIENT. They call it queueing. If queueing was a sport, Singapore would get top marks. You hungry for food? Stand in line for 30 mins. Have to pee? Stand in line for 30 mins. Want to buy this hot new product? Stand in line. Stand in line and wait in that line for forever until you die. I know this is a big shift from the “go, go, GO!” of America. I know I can learn a few things and test my patience by standing in line for hours, but COME ONNNNNN!!!!
The loves outweigh the leaves, lah. Did I say that right?
I will miss the food most of all.
OF COURSE I miss the comforts of home, the convenience of Amazon Prime, drive thrus, and strong American medicine. Every day I feel like we’re becoming more localized more and more and offending people less and less. I know by this time next year we’ll be totally local and I’ll hopefully stop sweating on people. <3
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