Friday 5th March 2010

The more astute readers amongst you may notice that I have changed the name of my blog. Although I am still a Tai Tai in the eyes of the Chinese, there are many other cultures making up the local population in Singapore so I thought it appropriate to diversify a little… equal opportunities and all that! I think the new title is pretty self-explanatory and although I don’t technically consider myself to be a housewife, I am never one to let the truth get in the way of a good tagline so I shall let that one go.

It’s been over a month since I moved to Singapore so it’s probably a good time to update you on my findings so far. Although I had visited Singapore many times in the past prior to moving here, living somewhere and visiting somewhere are, of course, completely different things and it’s only when you progress from spending your time sat on the beach drinking cocktails to choosing washing powder in the local supermarket that you can get a real feel for the place.

In the run up to my move I noticed how everyone I spoke to seemed to have a clear idea in their head about what Singapore was like and what I could expect to face as a resident there. When I was moving to Hong Kong, aside from the occasional “do you know they eat dogs there?” no one seemed to have any real insights to share. Singapore, however, was completely different. As time has passed I have noticed that a great deal of people’s preconceptions about Singapore are based on some deeply ingrained myths, many of which are not strictly true. I thought therefore that I would set the record straight and tell you some more about what Singapore is really like.

Myth One: Singapore is too clean

It is true that Singapore is—in the majority of places—very clean. I really don’t understand why people perceive this to be a bad thing though. Admittedly I am a germaphobe with a cleaning obsession that makes Monica from Friends look like a member of the Clampett family (hence the new name of my blog) but seriously, how can the fact that the streets and public facilities are so clean that you can perform surgery on them, be a bad thing? It is only ever in the context of Singapore that I hear the accusation that something is “too clean” and I just don’t get it. It’s like saying that you didn’t enjoy your train journey into work this morning because there were seats available and the man next to you didn’t have terrible body odor.

Now the reality is that, yes, Singapore is clean but it isn’t without its problems. In truth, I don’t think it’s any cleaner than Hong Kong was; it’s just newer and more modern. I have actually seen—Shock! Horror!—litter on the streets here, and just a few months ago there was a mass food poisoning incident at one of the hawker stalls that actually killed two people and made 150 more seriously ill. I guess the people who are seeking dirt and grime during their visit to Singapore may like to try eating there.

Myth Two: Singapore is soulless

This, together with the “too clean” description has given Singapore the reputation of being a sterile city. Admittedly I do not find it to be as vibrant and chaotic as Hong Kong was, and I can understand how people who arrive here after visiting places like India and Malaysia may suddenly suffer from some kind of reverse culture shock. I do, however, find this description to also be a little unfair. Singapore, for me, consists of many different areas that are all unique and inspiring in their own way. The Arab Quarter, Chinatown, Little India and Bugis are all far from sterile. They are thriving areas that are quite awe inspiring to observe. Even the perfectly manicured areas such as the Colonial District are far from soulless. The buildings there are steeped in history; people just need to take the time to look around them properly and learn about their history. Singapore is just well preserved and well looked after; it isn’t sterile.

So that’s this week’s rant over with. Next week I intend to cover some of the much more gritty and interesting myths; how often do people’s fingers get severed for committing crimes? Is it really Disneyland with a death penalty? And—the one you are all dying to know—what happens if you get caught chewing gum?

I suspect you’ll all on the edge of your seat in anticipation but I’m afraid you’re just going to have to wait until next week.

Read the full article: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/420957/1/.html

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