Singapore: The most “un-Southeast Asia” of Asia

by Sharon -- September 20, 2010

Singapore has been one of 2 or 3 countries in Asia that we could comfortably live in.  Before jetting to Guam, we spent a total of about 6 days in this strange Southeast Asian country/city/island place and the weirdest thing about it was the fact that it was just about the most “un-Southeast Asia” country we have been to so far.

First of all, Singapore is a very international place.  What I mean by that is when you call yourself a “Singaporean”, it does not correlate with a specific ethnicity, but rather your nationality.  Just like in the United States, calling yourself an American doesn’t mean you’re white (although try telling that to someone in Korea or China).  Although the majority of Singaporeans are of Chinese descent, English is the most commonly spoken language in Singapore and you see plenty of Caucasians, Malaysians, Indians, Indonesians, etc.  This is a far cry from every other Southeast Asian country we have seen thus far.  In Vietnam the locals are Vietnamese by ethnicity as well as nationality, and the same goes for Cambodia, Indonesia, and even Thailand.

Imagine that; an Asian country, with a mainly Chinese population, that speaks mostly English and sees every type of person in the world on a regular basis.  After traveling Asia for a year, this concept was a bit difficult to tackle for me.  We had gotten used to the homogeneity of Asian countries and the mentality that goes with it- places where they thought my Mother was Korean and my dad was American (as in Caucasian).  In other words, places where the terms “Asian” and “American” were mutually exclusive.  NOT the case with Singapore.

Not only was this very global state of mind refreshing, and frankly reminded me of being back home in the US, but Singapore was one of the cleanest countries/cities that I have ever seen.  Sure, you have your old historic Chinatowns and your dirty park benches that every major city has, but how often do you go to a city where spitting in public is illegal?  I, myself, hate it when I see people spit in public, so I rolled out the welcome wagon for that rule.  But then there are the stranger ones, such as failing to flush a public toilet after use, selling chewing gum, bringing chewing gum into the country, affection or sexual activity between men, etc.

In addition to Singapore’s cleanliness and low crime rates, we became besotted (I’ve been watching The Tudors a lot and reading a book on King Henry VIII…) with the ridiculously cheap food you can get there.  The places to get said food are called “hawker” stalls located in hawker courts.  These are literally stalls; they’re tiny and are generally run by the two people that own it.  These stalls serve everything from fresh fruit juices to authentic Chinese food to Thai cuisine and you can get a dish from as low as $2 Singapore dollars which is approximately $1.50 USD.  So cheap!

The best thing we learned about Singapore came from an awesome couple that we met, Kristy and Jeff, who were from the US but had lived in Singapore with their two young children for about 6 years.  Due to the high numbers of workers who come to Singapore to earn their living, it is not uncommon for families to have live-in maids.  Generally, these are immigrants are from the Phillippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and other Southeast Asian countries who come to Singapore because they can earn a much better living and work in better conditions.  The maids cook, clean, walk the dogs, babysit, do the laundry, run errands, and any other household task.  Think about it this way: you’re paying them much more than they would make back in their hometowns, you’re giving them great working and living conditions, and you become a second family to them.

Jason and I have decided to live in Singapore!  Well, maybe eventually.

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3 Responses to “Singapore: The most “un-Southeast Asia” of Asia”

  1. so if Cole and I do get sent there to live, we would like it!~? This is great news! I will tell his boss the next time I see him… :) Im so excited! oh and I have more good news! if you guys do go back to asia next year, Cole and I are definitely planning a vacation to thailand! woo hoo! :) so maybe you guys can come with since you’ll be close by?

  2. Come back anytime! It was great meeting you, next time we will bring the kids and head to the beach or zoo together!

    Take care and enjoy things back home.

  3. Another big city with a large ethnic Chinese population where English is spoken and where people from all over the world can be found is Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

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