A number of people have asked me, “has Singapore lived up to your expectations?” I thought I would try to answer that question before I forget what my expectations actually were when I left Baltimore in early July. So here were my biggest expectations, as I recall them, and the degree to which they have been met:
- Singapore will be hot: Met. Singapore is hot, very hot, just about all of the time. Some days it’s even hotter than I’d expected it would be. And for reasons I don’t understand, rain does not do you the favor of cooling things down. But the difference between Singapore and the US is that when it’s hot in Singapore — which is always — you just live with it. You go outside. You sweat. You don’t complain, because there’s really no point.
- Food in Singapore will be cheap, plentiful, and healthy: Halfway met. Food in Singapore can be cheap (but it can also be as expensive as anywhere back home). Food in Singapore is plentiful. Food in Singapore is not healthy (salads require a bit of a quest …).
- You can get anything you want in Singapore: Almost met. You can get just about anything you want, but you may have to look really hard for it, and it’ll probably cost a whole lot of money. Oh, and that one thing that you really think would be helpful, like a stand for your hand towel because your bathroom has no hooks — well, you won’t be able to find that at all. And the fact that you can’t find certain things will become really, really frustrating.
- Everything besides rent will be inexpensive in Singapore (and electronics will be nearly free): Unmet. See above. Even though we are just a short plane ride from China, nearly everything here (except for the bus, hawker stall food, and bananas and mangos) costs an arm and a leg. More on this to come in a future blog post.
- Singapore will be cleaner than Disneyland: Unmet. There is litter here. Much more than I expected. It’s not as bad as a lot of places I’ve been, but it’s not much better or worse than the residential streets of Lauraville.
- Public transportation in Singapore is amazing: Almost met. Public transportation here is great — and it’s dirt cheap. But it takes forever to get anywhere, and the busses don’t have a schedule — they just show up when they show up. That part is not so amazing.
- There won’t be much to do in Singapore — it’s boring: Unmet. I’ve found many things to do, and my list of plans just keeps getting longer.
- It will be easy to transition to Singapore: Almost met. Aside from dealing with bureaucratic issues like wi-fi and the “defects people” at our apartment, it’s pretty easy to live here as someone from the US who likes US comforts.
Other met expectations: Alcohol, particularly hard alcohol, is fantastically expensive. Air conditioning can reach arctic levels (though it’s usually fairly reasonable). People work hard, and working hard is a cultural value. A good chorus is hard to find. There is an improv scene, and it’s pretty active (Prescott is at a practice right now). Condos have pools. I feel safe walking around alone at night.
Other unmet expectations: Everyone will speak the Queen’s English (they speak English, mostly, but it’s not anything the Queen would recognize). Singaporeans only spend time in shopping malls (malls are popular, but people spend a lot of time outside, too). You’ll see police everywhere (I don’t see police anywhere — apparently, most of them are undercover).