“Oh my god, Laura. How are you going to speak over there?” said my manager at one of the gyms I taught at in London when I told her I was moving to Singapore. I gently explained to her that in Singapore they speak English.
“So yeah, how many chickens do you have in your back yard?” That was my brother over the phone when I had been here less than a week. At first I couldn’t tell if he was being sincere or not. He was. I think?
“Just promise me you will behave,” said Blair. “I’m really worried about you. No chewing gum, no jaywalking and please just don’t talk back to anyone.” This comment was a little bit closer to reality than the others. I’ve never been that good at following rules that I find personally irrelevant or keeping my mouth shut when challenged and Singapore does have a lot of rules.
“See you when you have to bust me out of jail!” I nervously joked to Blair and her husband, Patrick, as they saw me off towards Heathrow.
So far I’ve only met one person who’s received a ticket for jaywalking. That person knows of no others.
There’s something important about misconceptions.
For instance, my friends and family keep asking me if I’m having a blast. Yes, having a blast if you love re-orienting to a foreign country’s grocery store, spending a weekend afternoon wondering through IKEA and navigating wholesale furniture sales and arguing with banks and estate agents. It’s interesting and educational, but the word fun might be a stretch.
Mix in the stress of Husband’s new job, no way to commute to work and a recent housefire. There’s excitement, but it is a bit overshadowed by stress.
Jenn asked for photos. I sent her this picture of broccoli juice from the local Carrefour since I didn’t have any glamorous beach shots to send.
Carrefour in Singapore is amazing. It has every stereotype expat product ranging from certain types of fancy Italian pasta to Peanut Butter Captain Crunch. I haven’t had Peanut Butter Captain Crunch in over 10 years, but all of a sudden I NEED it.
So if we are going to get started about incorrect perceptions, I suppose I should mention my own.
I’ve been here one week and I already get frustrated. Frustrated with the bank and how the man on the phone just told me what I wanted to believe instead of the truth without even checking my account. “That’s the culture here,” a banker explains to me. Do I believe him? I don’t know.
I am frustrated with the legal terms on the lease for our house and how they blatantly favor the landlord. “That’s how leases are written here,” says the estate agent. Do I believe her? I don’t know.
Frustrated with the people zigzagging in my way in the MRT malls instead of moving from point A to point B. I have to go somewhere, people. Pay attention!
Frustrated with the people on the MRT who run for a seat or play flashy videos as they wait.
Frustrated with the way the clerks in the shop stand about 6 inches from me the moment I walk in the door. Do they think I am going to steal something or is this their version of customer service?
Frustrated that I don’t know where to buy duct tape or thank you cards not covered in glitter.
Frustrated with how as an expat I am “suppose to” take cabs all the time now instead of public transport when I just spent the last two years trying to avoid taxis.
Frustrated with how the crowds operate and the Facebook profile picture taking that goes on endlessly at what I perceive to be hokey mall events.
Frustrated at my perceptions.
Some people call this all culture shock. Others call it outright rudeness to impose my beliefs on another culture. They are probably both right, who am I to say what’s the correct way to do things?
Be gentle with me. I am new here.
“It would be different if I was on holiday,” I say. “I live here, I’ve got to get things done. I have deadlines.”
We see things not as they are, but as we are.
I see this quote frequently contributed to Anais Nin?
I start to consider all the quirks of my own country.
Did I mention that this is only the end of week #1?
Before I left England, my friend Naomi gave me a Reiki session. “Just try to be curious,” she warned. “You need to approach this adventure with wonder and curiosity, otherwise you will feel frustrated.”
And so I try. Here it goes. Here’s to week #2.