ABC of Differences (East, 2017)

 

F as in Friendly
Oh my: Canadians are friendly. I keep forgetting how friendly Canadians are. They would offer you a leg, if you’d ask for it.

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ABC of Differences Canada (west 2008)

A wie Asiaten
Speziell in Vancouver ist mir mehrmals aufgefallen, wie gross der Anteil der asiatischen Menschen ist. Wirklich gewaltig!

B wie Begrüssung
Anstelle von drei Küsse gibt man sich hier ein “Hug”, sprich, eine Umarmung. Natürlich eher weniger im formellen Bereich, wie geschäftlichen Angelegenheiten oder sportliche Gesten (Hockeyspieler nach einem Spiel) sondern eher im informellen Bereich wie unter Kollegen so üblich.

C wie Coffee
In jeder Ecke gibt es am Morgen Kaffee zum kaufen. Seit ich hier bin habe ich wahrscheinlich soviel Kaffee getrunken wie wohl in meinem ganzen Leben noch nicht.

D wie Drive Thru
In der Stadt gibt es tausende Drive Thru. Das bedeutet, wie bei uns der Mac einen Drive-In hat, hat hier fast jeder laden ein Drive Thru. Es gibt X Food Lädli, wo man schnell etwas zum essen bekommt; Tim Hortons, A&W, Mac, BurgerKing, Boston Pizza, SubWay: nur um ein paar zu nennen…$

E wie Essen
Hier sind die Essgewohnheiten grundsätzlich anders. Am Mittag wird nur ein Lunch genommen, am Abend wird “richtig” gegessen. Braucht so seine Zeit, bis(s) man sich an all das gewöhnt hat. Beim Essen im allgemeinen wartet niemand auf den Anderen. Jeder isst für sich und legt los und hört auf wenn es ihm passt.

F wie Fahren-im-angetrunken-Zustand
Anscheinend gibt es hier nicht genug Geld für die Alkohol-Blas-Geräte von der Polizei, darum nimmt es hier keiner so genau mit den 0.8 Promill-Grenzwert (eigentlich ist sich keiner so sicher wie viel es wirklich ist, ganau gleich mit dem Natel, alle sagen, es sei eigentlich schon erlaubt während der fahrt am Steuer, oder?). Darum fallen Polizeikontrollen immer sehr einfach aus, wie beispielsweise einer Linie entlang laufen oder sich selbst mit beiden Händen die Nase berühren (ist schon zweien so ergangen, die ich bis jetzt getroffen habe). Falls man dann wirklich zuviel hat, gehe man ins Spital und nimmt Blutproben.

G wie Good-For-You
Dieser Spruch ging mir beim ersten Mal im 2008 schon auf den Wecker, nun ist er ein fester Bestandteil meines Vokabulars. Good-For-You-Antworten kommen meistens dann, wenn man soeben eine persönliche Errungenschaft präsentiert hat. Oder auch wenn man sagt was man alles noch machen wird. “Good for you” wird dann auch so betont, dass man in der Schweiz höchstwahrscheinlich direkt einen reingedroschen gekriegt, wenn man es in diesem Tonfall sagen würde. Good for you.

H wie Haus bauen
Die Kultur hier drüben ist wirklich sehr anderscht als ich sie kenne von der CH. Hier drüben baut so ziemlich jeder sein eigenes Haus. Platz hat es ja genug. Mein Gastbruder plant zurzeit sein Haus. Er habe grad keine Arbeit in Tofino. Skilehrer mache ihn nicht so an, da baue er doch lieber ein Haus in diesem Jahr.

I wie italienische Pizzas
Pizzas gelten hier an gewissen Orten als Spezialität. Aber warum? Die Böden sind so dick, dass man einen Schuhkarton daraus basteln könnte und er wäre wahrscheinlich noch stabilier. Der Käse der darauf ist, kann häufig als Schuhsohle verwendet werden. Ich vermisse die Pizzas von den echten Italianos.

K wie Kälte
Über Edmonton habe ich schon viel gehört, aber das was mich da oben erwarten wird ist unvorstellbare Kälte und Nässe. Vielleicht wird es auch einfach wie in Luzern, wer weiss?.

L wie Law (Gesetz)
Vor längerem passierte ein schrecklicher Unfall an einer Tankstelle. Ein Auto wollte ohne zu bezahlen abhauen. Ein Junge (warscheinlich der Tankjunge) rannte dem Auto nach und wollte für das Benzin bezahlt werden. Der Fahrer denkte jedoch nicht darn, und schleifte den Jungen 7 km unter dem Auto mit. Der Junge verstarb. (Keine Ahnung wie das genau gegangen war, aber so wurde es mir erzählt). Nun gibt es ein neues Gesetz für Tankstellen in BC, dass zuerst bezahlt werden muss, bevor getankt wird.

M wie Meine-Schulfachwahl
Wie einige Wissen, besuche ich bald die Uni. Tönt komisch, ist aber so. Immer stilvoller finde ich die Wahl des Sprachfachs “Spanisch”, was auch hier auf ziemlich grosse Fragezeichen trifft. Gehe nach Kanada, lerne Englisch und dann Spanisch, könnte wohl ein schlechter Werbespruch heissen. Sinnvoll finde ich es nachwievor.

P wie Preise
Es ist brutal, in einen Sportshop zu gehen. Hockeysachen sind so unglaublich günstig, dass es einem fast den Atem verschlägt. Eigentlich eine Frechheit. Die Europäische Weltkarte zeigt deutlich, dass China (Produktionsort) deutlich näher an Europa ist, als Kanada. Warum ist dann das Zeugs bei uns noch teuerer, obwohl wir näher in China sind?

R wie Rauchfrei
Hier drüben sind sämtliche Restaurants und Discos rauchfrei. Vorbildlich.

S wie Schulsystem
Umso länger ich mich mit dem Schulsystem der Kanadier befasse, umso unsinniger kommt es mir rein. Grundsätzlich geht jeder bis 18 in die Schule, und dann muss er halt schauen was er will. Anders gesagt, das System in der Schweiz macht sehr viel Sinn. Während hier die pupertierenden Erwachsenen in die Schule gezwungen werden und sich wahrscheinlich immer mehr mit der Schule verfeinden, können sie so in einen Beruf “flüchten”. Wieviele Prozent der Jugendlichen ist wirklich für eine längere Schulzeit bereit?

T wie Trucks 
Die Lastwagen hier sind extrem kraftvoll. Obwohl ihrer gigantischen Länge und ziemlich hohen Gewichts, düsen diese Dinger rum, als wäre das Benzin CHF 1.1/l. Auf dem Rückweg von Calgary überholte mich ein Truck mit etwa 140km/h. Ich will Truckerfahrer werden.

U wie Umhülle (oder auch Verpackungen genannt, aber das V war schon weg)
Verpackungen von Esswaren sind sehr merkwürdig. Gewisse Farben wie violett oder pink werden für gewöhnliche Esswaren verwendet und nicht etwa (nur) für Hundefutter.

V wie Verkehr
Es gibt in Canada keinen Rechtsvortritt. Jede Kreuzung ist mit Schildern versehen. Und zwar wirklich jede.

Wenn man an eine Ampel kommt, die Ampel auf rot steht und rechts abbiegen möchte, darf man das, wenn man den normalen Verkehr nicht behindert.

W wie Washroom (WC)
Aufgefallen ist es mir schon sehr bald, dass die WCs ziemlich verschieden sind. Also, die Toilette wird hier genau so gehandhabt wie in der Schweiz, das ist unbestritten. Aber die WC sind grundsätzlich nur umgeben von Trennwänden. Die Türe hat meistens etwa einen 1-2cm grossen Spalt. So sieht man praktischerweise immer, ob jemand drinnen ist, aber eben. Der eigentliche Sinn dieser Spälte konnte ich noch nicht eruieren.

Z wie zu tun
Sämtliche Bars, Restaurants, Discos, Clubs, Dancings und was auch immer, schliessen um 2 a.m. (2 Uhr morgens). Daher muss man sich beeilen, wenn man erst um 11 aufkreuzt, dass man dann auch ein oder zwei Bierschen erhält.

Ü wie Übergewichtige Menschen
Kleine Geschichte: Wir waren in einem Super Store (gigantisches Lebensmitteleinkaufszentrum (etwa so gross wie Shopping Emmen)). Als wir da an der Kasse ankamen, war eine “leicht” übergewichtige Person dort. Ich konnte nicht unterscheiden, was es jetzt war. Anhand von ihren Brüsten dachte ich, es sei eine Frau. Auf ihrem Schild stand “Chris” und die Stimme war auch ziemlich tief. Die Haare waren jedoch wieder so lang wie bei einer Frau.

Als wir dann rausliefen fragte ich Al, ganz höflich, nach Geschlecht des Kassiers/der Kassiererin. Er sagte nur:”Dount no, ju cän tschuus.” (Keine Ahnung, du kannst wählen)

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”.

Settlers of Catan

Between Christmas and New Years, we all sat around a wooden table in Edmonton and tried to figure out the rules for the game which has pulled more families apart than any other game. Settlers of Catan (Siedler von Catan) is a tactical game to win as many resources as possible and to build as much as you can. At first, it seems economical. You buy and build. Soon, you will encounter political actions, not even remotly driven by economical thinking. No one trades with a traitor, no one is helping a winner. As I sat there, I realized that our next year will have a lot to do with planning our resources, and how we will play that hand.

Our intentions to move away for a year were purely economical: We put our time in and take a great experience out. The negative side effects of leaving your family and friends is something we accepted by trying to see the bigger the picture.

Moving itself is nothing but planning what you can and prepare for things you can’t plan. And once you have arrived, you will start settleing in. You direct your resources towards the goals you set or the way you want to live your life. And all of a sudden, you are holding the imaginary trading cards of life, ready to play them one by one. Trying to find a gym, grocery store, pub, shoe store, place to get passport pictures taken and so on.

One of the biggest similiarties with Settlers of Catan is that there is no friendship card. Even if you have all the resources right, it doesn’t help if you can’t trade them. And again, like in Singapore, I am suprised how much you miss small things. And the older you get, the more you are wishing things would’t change, and some one would finally give you that card of wood, so you could build you own house…

Another chapter begins

So here I am back in Switzerland sitting in my long johns with a hot cup of coffee. Oh did I miss winter! I’ve been back in Luzern for one week and Chris and I have settled a bit into our new apartment. It feels lovely to have our own home and the opportunity to furnish it together. Chris is working right here in Luzern and as of today I’ll officially start an internship in Geneva with Gavi in March. It’ll run for 20 weeks, putting a bit of a hiatus on the furnishing and settling, as I’ll have to live in Geneva during the weekdays.

Leaving Singapore was strange for me, I felt ready to go home but the people I met there were hard to say goodbye to. The year I spent there changed me, something which grew evident when I came back to Canada in December. Being back in my old environment, the only home I knew three years ago, showed me how much I’ve grown through living abroad. It’s hard to describe how it happens, but suddenly you realize that the person who left isn’t you anymore – you’ve seen too much and experienced too much to see the world in the same way. Perhaps you don’t have to travel for that to happen. Perhaps that is just growing up and experiencing the world; be it in your own rural town, city or global community.

After a pretty crazy travel schedule I managed to make it to Canada for Christmas with my family (with a weekend stop in Tokyo), travel back to Singapore for a week to defend my thesis, and eventually back to Switzerland to stay. I have to await the results of the thesis examination but if all goes well I will graduate at the end of February! What’s next? I am not entirely sure. This internship will give me the chance to see how these international organizations work and if that is something I’d like to pursue. I want to use the skills I’ve been given to make a positive change in the world, so I will continue to take the steps necessary to making that happen. I’m keeping my options open, whether it’s further education or the start of a career – the world is full of possibilities and I am just going to take it one step at a time relishing in all that has been and all that will come.

Goodbye Singapore – Goodbye Summer

Eleven months have passed incredibly fast.  I think it was only yesterday when we set our sails in direction of Singapore, not knowing what will be awaiting us. What has awaited us? A short summary.

An incredible journey through countries and cities I never knew I was going to visit. Bali, Bintan, Borneo, Cambodia, Vietnam, Kuala Lumpur, South Korea. I think we scratched a little on the surface of what could be seen in SE Asia, but I am happy that we saw so much and also such a variety of cultures. All countries and cities amazed me in so many different ways that I am not sure if I have a personal favorite.

SO MUCH FOOD! Malay, Indian, Chinese, Indonesian, Thai and so on. My personal favorite became Vietnamese: Simple, fresh and tasty. But I also love South Korean food, as in a lot of meat, good sauces and vegetables. I sure will miss the street food of Singapore!

We met fantastic people. It was my first time realizing that you can basically live wherever you want on this planet, as long as you have some good people to share your life with. Living life alone is not fun, neither in Switzerland nor in Singapore.

I also started to understand development differently. While traveling it was interesting to see how far developed certain countries are and why some are further than others. My lesson from Vietnam about corruption (“corruption is only fair for those who have money”) might have been simple, but it seems like a lot of countries with economic problems also have corruption difficulties. So while 1% of the population gets extremely rich, the other 99% have to suffer. Not fair.

It is no coincidence that Singapore is so green. I really like the emphasis of the government and their clear direction on certain topics. They sure get stuff done.

To sum it up, I have learned so much about this world in the last year and I am truly thankful. What will I miss? I will miss the food, the chances of discovering something very different every month, wearing shorts every day (everyday!), our new friends from all over the world and also our condo. Thank you guys for making it so awesome!

Here some of my favorite shots:

Cambodia – more than Temples

I expected an endless amount of temples. I expected to come home and say: “Wow, there were a lot of temples!” I thought of saying this because, quite frankly, there are a lot of temples. But there is much more to Cambodia than temples.

The most famous sight in Cambodia – or probably in SE Asia – are the temples of Ankor. Even though the word “temple” covers mostly the type of building we have encountered, I never knew that they could be so different. With a three-day pass, we took our time to explore Ankor intensely and saw a variety of majestic, moss-covered, detailed and well-planned temples. A true wonder of this world, which was hard to process in such a short time.

Some temples are overrun by tourists, which does not make it a peaceful experience when you get pushed through. Tourbuses pull up, release their hounds and wait for them to come back with their trophies. There are many locals (mainly children) trying to pitch a sale, which is both heart breaking and exhausting. I am not sure if I have ever said “No thank you” so many times. A little escape was our Tuktuk with our driver Vothy. He drove us around and took his time showing us rural Cambodia, leaving more authentic impressions than during the first few days at Ankor. Next time I will go to Cambodia I will definitely explore this area more.

Cambodia went through a lot in the last few decades and a lot is still visible. There are obvious left-overs of the Khmer Rouge in the mid 70’s, including corruption and a damaged economy as a whole. We visited a Swiss pediatrician who set up five children’s hospitals, because the government is not taking responsibility for this. He offers a cello concert every Saturday evening to raise money, which we gladly attended.  We also saw a lot of people volunteering to help Cambodians in different ways, where the local government is not contributing.

I truly hope that Cambodia will not reduce itself to the temples in Ankor, forgetting where the real attractions are hidden. Only then they can develop into a stable and secure place for its citizens, where not only the current generation can benefit, but all the generations to come.