This is a glimpse of my life in Singapore:

  • Humidity. Bags left lying around too long grew pelts and damp was as dry as my clothes ever got. Scrapes took ages to heal.
  • My nose tickled permanently.
  • I shared a room with cute wall lizards that took refuge behind my wobbly air conditioning unit. Sometimes they hid in the kitchen.

    lizard in the kitchen

    Lizard in the kitchen

  • Every now and then, a dead cockroach would appear in front of our fridge and ants would march in to…well, eat it. They knew what they were doing. It felt rehearsed, perfectly orchestrated, symbiotic. When they were done, they disappeared and I threw away the carcass. This also meant that we had to be swift and organized when we were cooking, because if we left anything lying around those ants were ready to step in.
  • Spiders were the size of my hand and monkeys paraded outside my window.

    spider in singapore

    During a walk on Mt. Faber

  • Singlish. Singapore has four official languages: English, Malay, Tamil and Chinese. Singaporean English is influenced by the other local languages, turning Singlish-English dictionaries into very helpful tools to understand words like “lah” that seem to find their way into almost every sentence.

    life in singapore1

    Monkey outside my window

  • Laksa became my favorite local dish (along with Kaya toast and iced milk tea). Eating it remotely gracefully required a bit of practice though, so I watched local professionals eating lunch at the food court. Chopsticks, noodles, soup and spoon just seemed to work in perfect harmony while I was splattering soup all over the place. But I observed and practiced and, with time, managed to minimize the damage.

    laksa

    Laksa at my favorite food court

  • One day, while I was walking through Vivocity, the guy walking in front of me carried a cardboard box on his shoulder. It fell and flyers scattered everywhere. I stopped to help but he seemed to feel embarrassed. Another guy walked by and said “only a foreigner would help” – he sounded a bit rough so I thought I had committed a faux-pas, but then he put the palms of his hands together, thanked me and left. It left me dumbfounded, so I asked around why he might have made that comment. I was told that people are cautious and therefore tend to mind their own business – a result of laws and politics? Maybe, maybe not.
  • “We have an opposition but they’re all in jail,” a Singaporean cab driver once said to me.
  • Thanks to the bubblegum ban: NO gum stuck to desks or bus/subway seats!