Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Didn't See that Coming

I visited Singapore in June 2015 and then moved here three months later. Yes it's hot and humid, clean and safe and you can get fined for a lot of things. But here are a few random things I noticed are very different from home. 

Coffee in baggies. It's a plastic baggie filled with creamed coffee with ice carried by a string and drunk through a straw. Actually everything comes in a bag here. I took my Lululemon shoppers with my to the store and asked to use my own bags. Unlike in Long Beach where plastic bags have been banned, plastic bags are everywhere here. I hope to see this change during my stay. 

Teens hanging out in the candy aisle. Teens behave here. You won't walk by a park and see them hanging out smoking cigarettes next to a graffitied wall while they carve their names into playground equipment. When I see teens they are usually hanging are drinking tea in a cafe, studying, or walking home from school in their uniforms. But the other day I went to two markets and saw teens hanging out, talking, and texting in the candy aisle. It's cute.

Bomb shelters. Each home is equipped with a Household Shelter (HS) just off the kitchen that is used as either a pantry or a sometimes maid's room because it also has a small 3/4 bathroom. This is on the other side of The Yard.

Indoor yards. We have an area of our high rise apartment called "The Yard" as it has a large window open to the outdoors to provide ventilation. It's off the kitchen separated by a glass door and has a laundry sink with cleaning supplies, trash shoot, washer/dryer, and a door that leads to the HS. This is where you set up your drying rack if you don't like your laundry on the balcony. 

Indonesia is a cesspool. When I used to think of Indonesia, I thought of Bali. I wasn't aware that "forest fires" in Indonesia in August and September would cause a thick haze in Singapore. The range of the Air Quality Index (AQI) is 0 - 300+. After harvesting the crops farmers burn the fields to clear and fertilize them, which makes Indonesia the 5th largest greenhouse gas emitter on the planet. Burning is illegal so they call it a "forest fire." The rate of deforestation in Indonesia has overtaken that of Brazil so Indonesia can sell photocopy paper pulp to China and Japan. Ever heard of PDF?

89 AQI 

Shoes off inside. You may be used to taking your shoes off or putting booties during realtor Open Houses in the states. We did this in Singapore while looking at apartments and I assumed it was the same thing. It's not. People don't wear shoes inside and most people have shoe racks outside their doors, or at least a pile of shoes. When your doorbell rings and it's mosquito inspectors, the gas man, or people in matching shirts, they are already taking theirs shoes off as they are waiting for you to answer the door.

A car to my immediate right as I step off the sidewalk. In Singapore the steering wheel is on the right side of the car and people drive on the left side of the road. Look right when you step off a curb, not left. Remember that.

Import prices. Singapore is a small island that imports everything, so prices on many things are higher. And it's the world's most expensive city. Clothing is 50% more expensive in Singapore than in NY. I expected this with regard to clothing and utilities, but I am still surprised by prices of certain things. My dog's super premium dog food costs $150 SGD for a 30 lb bag, the same bag Amazon sells for $44.89 ($63.00 SGD equivalent). So it's more than double. I saw these little cake sprinkle things at Cold Storage for $18 SGD.

Bakeries everywhere. I take the MRT to Holland Village to grocery shop and the station smells like fresh bread because there is a bakery inside. Singapore is a foodie city and there are bakeries everywhere. The baked goods smell amazing, look fresh, and are very reasonable. I have been here 3 weeks and have only tried some fresh breads, but I am dying to try some of the Nutella-filled waffles I see. The bakeries here sell a fair amount savory pastries--rolls with sausages, pizza-like rolls, and pasties--whereas bakeries in the states seem mostly focused on desserts.

Red and white man-pointing-machine-gun-at-another-man signage. There are protected places in Singapore which may conservation areas, i.e., nature preserves, military bases and the areas immediately surrounding them, or consulate grounds. Sometimes you see the sign on a chain link fence with barbed wire. Other times you see only a sign in a hedge or on the other side of the sidewalk guardrail. However the sign is presented, it means that lethal force can be used if you decide to trespass. #notworthit

Durians are more hated that the gum you usually hear about. My first visit to Singapore I saw what looked like renderings of medieval flails crossed out and wondered why a fruit was banned with the same gusto as cigarettes and flammable goods. The durian is popular in Southeast Asia, has a spiny shell and a smell that is described as rotten onions or raw sewage. Even the dictionary function on Google describes the smell as "fetid."

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