Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Things I've learned about Singapore

One of the things I love most about travelling is breaking down my stereotypes and ideas bred through ignorance and learning new things.  Whenever I travel someplace new, I am always surprised by what I don't know; surprised at what my ignorance has led me to believe.  I don't think it's wrong to be ignorant exactly, it's what you do in the face of that ignorance that counts. Me? I want to learn.

So Singapore. Kind of like when I first decided to move to Korea I came without really knowing anything about this small country. All I knew was that it is pretty nice and a fairly advanced city. I was also told it is expensive and because it is so small, you don't need a long vacation here (for the most part I found these statements true.)

But here's a short list of things I didn't know about Singapore.
  1. Singapore is a good gateway country to Asia for many English foreigners. Why? Because English is the primary language spoken.  There are four main languages (Including Malay, Mandarin and Tamil) and you will see all four on many signs and hear them spoken all over the city, but English still predominates. Many of the people that I met told me that English is in fact their first language, which I didn't know. See, ignorance. (As a bonus for me coming from Korea where there are not as many foreigners, there are a lot here. I don't really stand out here).
  2. I wouldn't say that Singapore has a cafe culture. Back home for me in Canada there are many coffee shops all over. Korea? Korea is coffee culture. But Singapore not so much. I walked for 40 minutes when I first got here and finally found a Starbucks, which is not what I wanted. My friend Jinyu and I hunted around Chinatown yesterday and our results revealed this really small, coffee-and-standing-room-only cafe. There are many cafe places in the big malls, but we couldn't find them along the streets. I wonder if the overwhelming heat all the time deters coffee drinking?
  3. You can't buy gum. Chewing gum is not sold in Singapore. A local told me that people used to stick their gum on subway doors and that this caused problems. So gum was banned. 
  4. You need a special licence or permit to buy a car. Another local told me the government controls the number of vehicles on the road by requiring people to buy a permit before buying a car. While this could be annoying if you really wanted a car, considering how small Singapore is, if everyone could just buy a car the traffic might be worse than Seoul's.
  5. It's basically a garden city. Giant trees are everywhere and everything is so green!
  6. Hawker centers 4 life. Actual restaurants get expensive and won't always let you experience local foods. Hawker Centers are cheap, delicious and potentially chaotic, but definitely worth it if you find yourself in Singapore. I tried a few different things and I think my favourite was Laksa, but I liked everything. Well, everything but durian.  That fruit is not for me.
And voilà! Now you know. In a few hours I head to Malaysia. Goodbye Singapore, it's been fun but more fun, adventure and learning awaits!
 Standing in front of the Singapore Skyline. Photo by Jinyu
Love and Hugs.

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