Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Being an Expat in Singapore

I really like Singapore, but sometimes I really miss the US.

Things I Miss Most:

Parents at Crater Lake
1. My family. In my ideal fantasy world, my parents, my sister, and I would all live next door to each other, and see each other pretty much every day. My sister and I have argued before about who gets to have my mom come live with them once my dad dies (he's 17 years older than her, so she will almost certainly outlive him, sob sob). Sadly B's job doesn't mesh well with my fantasies (maybe B is a little glad about this? as otherwise he would be spending every weekend at a minimum with my parents and sister).

Sister with our old dog (I think she's a college freshman here?). Isn't she cute? 
2. Grocery stores. American grocery stores are by far the best in the world.
--The selection! (Selection here isn't bad, but even so many things are difficult to find: good bread, American bacon, candy corn. In most places, though, variety just doesn't exist to the same extent.)
--The quality! (Thanks FDA! After living in China, where milk was poisonous, I really appreciate them. And even if food is safe, things like sugar, flour, jam, and so on just aren't as good. Making brownies with Chinese flour and sugar was a memorable, if futile, experience.)
--And the prices! American food is so so so cheap. Cheerios cost about $10/box here, for example. When we were visiting the US, and went to Trader Joe's to stock up my parents' house, I seriously wanted to buy everything in the store. It seemed almost free. We did fill up an entire cart with all kinds of extravagant goodies (pomegranate seeds, for instance), and it was still less than I spend in a mid-week restock of basics. No wonder Americans are fat.
--Plus, the store design: hugely spacious aisles, great lighting, fabulous freezers and temperature control... And the vegetables and fruit are so attractively arranged; it looks like a magazine spread.

3. Not being a foreigner. If you aren't a native, then there will always be things you don't understand. You never quite fit in, because there are so many little nuances you don't know about or can't pick up on. And you are always having to be understanding, because your preferences (like for not having to spend twice as long on every transaction due to inefficiency) cannot be honored (you're the foreigner, and thus the one who has to adopt the local customs).

4. The shopping. Cheap prices aren't just for food: almost everything else is cheaper in the US too (services are the exception). An outfit for R here costing $25 would cost $10 at home. Books are at least twice (and usually three times) more, as are electronics. I remember being shocked at this in China (since they make everything there, shouldn't it be cheaper? The answer is no, unless you're talking about intellectual property, which is cheap thanks to rampant piracy.).

Singapore is great in other ways though: the diversity, the travel opportunities, eating out, the weather (in my opinion, anyway), safety, medical care...I just wish a Target and a Trader Joe's would open up in the nearby mall. And if my parents and sister relocated here (say, down the hall), life would be pretty perfect.


  1. haha now that we're back home, I think my favorite place to go has been the supermarket, but I've found that food is much more expensive here than in Spain!! Meat, cheeses and fish, especially.

    Another thing I've been so shocked about at home is just how BIG everything seems. The cars, the buildings, the freeways, the side roads and parking spaces...everything seems absolutely enormous. I haven't decided yet if this is a good thing, as right now it all seems so silly and unnecessary.

    I'd love to hear more about your interaction with the locals there, how you get by language-wise, etc!

    1. Yes! The bigness is so weird (as is the bigness of the people, in my experience anyway.) Singaporeans prefer cramped, crowded environments (I think it's a Chinese thing), because it seems more lively, so the way they design shopping malls, for instance, is to be deliberately cramped.

      You make a good point: I am surprised to realize I still haven't written much about local culture, the language situation, etc. I will have to do that soon.