ABC of Differences Singapore

A as in Ants
Because Singapore’s air has a humidity of over 50% throughout the year, you only cool down the rooms you are currently staying in. That’s why rooms without (turned on) AC are quite humid. Therefore, having small insects in your living room and kitchen seems quite common. Even though I think ants are cool (they carry up to 100 times their body weight, whereas some people have problems carrying themselves), it is still weird to see them crawling around right after you woke up and left the room.

B as in Business cards
Business cards are an important part of every meeting in business. Whereas in Europe it seems to be more of an additional extra, here it takes up a ceremonial procedure at the beginning of the meeting.

E as in Expensive
Everyone said how expensive everything will be. People are right of course: Paying 20 SGD for a Pizza in Asia is not cheap. But there are several factors playing into this fact. Firstly, space is tight. For a room you pay quickly 1500 SGD with (hopefully) about 25sqm. This plays into renting costs and everything which is being sold out of a shop. Secondly, Singapore has very limited resources and therefore imports most goods. But in comparison to Switzerland, all over all, it is still cheaper. Liqueur is as expensive as in Canada and therefore not THAT expensive anymore. Public transit is fairly cheap, as a trip costs about 1 SGD. Food in Restaurants is comparable to Switzerland, in food courts it is way cheaper. It is also easy to lose relations with an exchange rate of 0.74 to Swiss francs. So, every price you see is 25 % too high, anyway. C

G as in Gratuity (Trinkgeld)
If you receive a bill at a hawker center or at a small company, you do not tip. As I understood, prices are made to be fair. Tips are not necessary.

H as in Hallstand (Kleiderständer im Flur)
A small but noticeable difference are missing hallstands when you enter apartments. Since there is no use for jackets, there is also no use for hallstands.

L as in Living-at-home
It is normal to live at home until you are married, sometimes even longer. I believe it also plays into the collectivistic tendency in this culture, where individuals have to overcome themselves in order to be able to live in a group. And living at home is cheaper, too.

M as in Mix / Cultural Mix
Singapore offers an unbelievable mix of cultures. Beside the obvious mix of ethnicities on the streets, meals at food stands and languages you hear, you can also see interesting shelves in shopping markets. You will find items like Nutella (Italy), Oreos (States), canned ham (England), and Ovomaltine crackers (Switzerland) and one shelve lower you find a variety of noodle packages and Chips from all parts of Asia.

Q as in Queuing
In hawker centers and other places, standing in line is a thing. The longest line is where the best product are sold. It seems to be like a hobby for some, too. Anyhow, standing in a queue is only required if there is a sign saying so. Otherwise, people pile up with no structure what so ever. Ever since I realized this, I printed a sign “q-ing here”. Just to implement a little structure into my Asia.

S as in Singlish
Singlish is a part of the Singaporean culture. It is a unique dialect which is only spoken in Singapore and is combination from the words Singapore and English. “The vocabulary of Singlish consists of words originating from English, Malay, Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Tamil and to a lesser extent various other European, Indic and Sinitic languages” (wikipedia, online). As the long lists of influences may suggest, it can be almost impossible to understand. So by adding a certain word (like Oi, Mah) at the beginning or the end of the sentence, it changes the meaning of the sentence by a lot. In formal situations, people revert back to proper English (radio, letters, doctor appointments,…). You can find more about this language here.

T as in “to-Sniff-back-one’s-snot” (Schnuder raufziehen)
Nothing disrupts the peace of a crowded bathroom in a mall like a enthusiastic “cchhhhhhhhhhhttttt” of a middle aged man, spitting out an unhealthy portion of mucous. At first you just hope that his lungs won’t follow his powerful pull. Then you are just glad that nothing else happened. In parts of Asia it seems uneducated to blow your nose in public. Reasons can be found online. My point is different: How can something so simple be so different in other cultures?

U as in Uncle
Singaporeans address older people as uncle or aunty, even if they don’t know each other. So if you talk to the taxi driver, it would be considered normal, if you address him as “uncle, can you drop us off here?”. I never tried this, but it seems normal.

W as in Water making
A small difference in our daily life is “making water”. Even though it comes out from the tap and it is drinkable, we add ice to our jug of water. Small difference. We call it “water making”.