American's often stereotype 'Asians' as one category of people, but we definitely shouldn't. Asia is a huge. When I fly to Singapore from Seoul, it is about the same distance as me flying from SF to Panama. There are lots of different cultures covered between SF and Panama, and even more in the same distance in Asia (and we haven't even gotten south of the equator yet). The Americas were conquered by a few different European races, so the indigenous cultures have been repressed/partially replaced by European cultures. Asian cultures have held there own a lot more against western oppressors. Some European influences, but except for Australia/New Zealand, the indigenous cultures have held there ground (or booted the imperialistic Euros out) such that the local culture is still very prevalent. This has started to change in the late 20th century as all the countries take a more global look, and will likely continue to change.
I am spending a few days in Singapore before heading to Thailand for a few days of holiday and then a few days of meetings. Singapore is definitely a nice place and has a much different feel than Korea. Probably the terms that come to mind when I think of Singapore are controlled, clean, tropical, affluent, and multi-cultural.
Controlled - one of the T-shirts which are sold at tourist places talks about Singapore being a 'fine' place, and then talks about all the things you an do which will get you fined. Littering, jay walking, chewing gum, unnatural sex acts, not flushing a public toilet after using, etc. Lots of laws in place. Even the death penalty for trafficking drugs. And beyond the rules, there are things like how all schools (even colleges and universities) have uniforms and things like that which make it feel like a controlled environment.
Clean - a benefit of being such a controlled environment is that it is very clean. Littering just doesn't happen. Spitting doesn't happen. Lawns and such are well manicured. People seem to take some pride in how things look.
Tropical - Singapore is less than 100 miles from the equator. Makes for a warm and humid environment year round. The areas that aren't covered over with concrete have very lush tropical vegetation on them. Has a very nice feel to it.
Affluent - this is based on the type of cars seen an how the buildings look, plus that you don't see homeless people. Mercedes and BMWs are quite common here - almost makes me feel like I was back in the Bay Area.
Multi-cultural - Indians, Malaysians, and Chinese are the most common ethnicities of the people who live here, but you also see people from just about any other country or ethnicity. In Korea, you rarely see anyone who isn't Korean. Here, you see different types of Asians and Pacific Islanders, Indians, people from Africa, and Caucasians all mixed together. I didn't notice this the last time I was here, but now that I have been in Korea for a while, it is sticks out for me.
Thankfully, even with all of these different people and all of their different languages, English is the unofficial language of choice. At least the Singapore version of English, which is a bit different than what I use. "Been there yet you?" was how one coworker asked another if they had been to a new restaurant. Only downside is that when I am with someone from my office (who are ethnic Chinese), the people they are speaking to often switch to some mix of Chinese and English to talk to each other, which quickly loses me. And they do tend to use some British terms, such as the signs on the road announcing "hump ahead".
Singapore is an island, a city, and a country, all rolled into one. There are some 2.5 million people in 240 square miles. Basically, the entire place is urbanized, except for a few parks or reserves. Not much room to grow, without filling in the ocean (which they are doing in some areas).
If there is any part of Asian culture you are interested on and want to see me write about, drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. As I get acclimated to living in Asia, I suspect things won't stand out as much for me as things to write about. I've been here two months already and it does seem like I am getting more and more comfortable every day. Any questions you may have should help prompt me on what is good drivel fodder.Previous Post - Back to Menu - Next Post