What do I love about SG that has NOTHING to do with my children?

I met a new friend a few days ago while Ellie was in school.  We had a wonderful conversation, and I look forward to hanging out with her again.  But she asked a question that threw me…”What do you love most about Singapore that has nothing to do with your children?”

I had to stop and really think.

When I’m asked what I love most about Singapore, almost everything that comes to mind are things that relate to my children–the zoo, the water play areas, the education my daughter is getting, the warmth of the country toward children, and so forth.

My immediate reaction was…and this surprised me a bit…the weather.  More to the point, I love wearing shorts and flip flops year round.  I love having the option to swim almost every day (although I will confess it’s been a while since I’ve been in the pool).  I love never having to shovel snow or chip ice off of my windshield.  Yes, I bitch about the humidity and yes, the non-stop heat does wear on me such that I look forward to visiting cooler climates with unreserved glee (Australia in May–18 degrees C sounds delightful…for the week we’ll be there).  Yes, I miss the beauty of a New England Fall and the slight nip to the breeze.  But I don’t miss winter and I don’t miss spring.

You can’t do this in February in Boston

However, we could move to Southern California and get perpetual summer.  So I feel as though I need to dig deeper.  So, here we go…a complete stream of consciousness, in no way organized list of reasons I love Singapore.

1-Learning about a new culture.

Apart from Michael Fay and a few pop culture references, I knew nothing about Singapore before December 2009, when Ravi applied to GNB and they suggested the SG office, as opposed to the London office we were hoping for.  Living in Singapore for almost 2 years has begun an education in what is truly a remarkable country.  No other country has accomplished the move from third world to first in such a short time (and we can debate the pros and cons of how that happened, and I’m happy to, but no one can deny that it is impressive).

Singapore is a mish-mash of cultures, and unlike the US, which is all about integration and submission to the dominant culture, Singapore acknowledges those cultures through public holidays that relate to Muslim and Christian holidays, Indian festivals and Chinese New Year.  I can attend distinct cultural events.


Thaipusam photo, courtesy of Paul Chapman (flickr stream here, blog here)

When I am confounded by Singapore, I have wonderful friends who help explain and give context.  I am deeply grateful to have Singapore Actually and Kirsten (among others) who are willing to answer and explain things from the mundane to the deeply complex.  Learning about Singapore has enriched me because it makes me re-examine so many assumptions I never realized I had.

2-I appreciate the United States (and Boston) more

We all take what we have for granted far too frequently.  In the US, I took everything from Target to Cape Cod for granted.  I am a Massachusetts native and I have never made it to Cape Cod…because I always assumed I could get around to it eventually.

It is so easy for me to get wrapped up in those things that annoy me about the US, such as the ongoing concerted effort to restrict women’s access to contraception, that I forget those things I love about the US.

Living in Singapore has made me appreciate my rights, especially my right (obligation, really) to criticize my government and to vocally advocate for change.

I also appreciate American “stuff” more.  Getting a package from my mom or in-laws with my favorite brand of BBQ chips (Wachusett Chips-made and only available locally to home) is cause for celebration.  Watching the Daily Show with Ravi is a ritual.  I’m happy that Ellie and Rhi have access to Sesame Street.

3-I’ve become a more serious photographer here

I had been getting more and more into photography after getting a digital camera.  Moving from Singapore turned me from casual vacation (and baby) photographer to amateur photographer.  I have been motivated to take a class and read up on how to make my pictures better, and long after our kids (or we) break or lose whatever souvenirs we leave Singapore with, my photographs will remain my favorite way to look back upon our time here.

Kirsten and I took the girls to Marina Barrage last Friday so that Kirsten could do a photoshoot of them (which turned into E after Rhi decided to sleep through most of it).  While we were there, I took this picture looking back at the city…and I can’t wait to go back there and do some more photography.  I also love shooting in the Botanic Garden, Sentosa, and around the city.

Loving this shot

4-The chance to travel to places I wouldn’t otherwise

I really enjoyed visiting Phuket…but let’s be real; I would never have gone there if we didn’t live regionally.  Australia, sure. Japan, probably.  But much of the region would just not have made my “traveled to” list because it was just too damn far away for places I only want to visit for 3-4 days (when it would take that long to shake off the jet lag).

As the girls age, I’m hoping to do more regional travel, like Angkor Wat, Vietnam, and so forth.  One of the negatives of not having a helper is that I don’t have the support person to do travel with the girls and Ravi only has so much vacation per year (although his allotment is generous, there is a limit).

Big Buddha, Phuket, Thailand

5-The Taxis

By far my most shallow reason for loving Singapore, but no less valid.

For close to two years, taxis were my primary mode of transportation.  I love that they are plentiful (usually).  I love that I can SMS for one, and it will come get me, usually in 5-7 minutes.  I love that they are cheap.  I am deeply amused by taxi uncle wisdom (usually).

Cabs in New York and Boston just aren’t even in the same galaxy as SG cabs and I would have lost my mind trying to get around SG without them.

Thanks, W, for inspiring this post!  Readers, what do you love best about Singapore?

This entry was posted in Asia, Attractions, cars/driving, customs, Expat to Expat Advice, general places, Holidays, Phuket, Pictures, politics, Random Stuff, Singapore, Thailand, Travel by Continent, Country, Uniquely Singapore. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to What do I love about SG that has NOTHING to do with my children?

  1. Claire says:

    I love this post. It made me think about all the things that I love about Singapore as well.

    I’m definitely with you on the culture stuff – I really knew very little about this part of the world before we moved here. I love discovering new things about a culture that is very alien, but yet weirdly familiar sometimes! The travel is definitely a plus point as well – there are about a million places on my ‘must-visit’ list. We’d travelled quite a bit in the region before, but have discovered some more offbeat places that we want to see as well. I love trying all the cuisine here, although there are things I won’t touch (pig organ soup anyone?!). I’m also loving the opportunity to meet people from all over the globe, share experiences and gain new perspectives.

    I also appreciate the UK more as well. I do find I really miss the seasons here. I also appreciate so much of the freedoms I had as a UK citizen – the ability to apply for any job, freedom of media/speech, better public accountability. But I also appreciate that I don’t have to engage with all the petty political squabbling and doom-mongering that goes on, unless I choose to switch on BBC News 🙂

    I feel lucky to be here, and although I have moments where I miss the UK (and my peeps) like crazy, I’m so glad that I’m living this experience.

    • Crystal says:

      I don’t think we realize how western our education system is (or at least mine was) until you move to Asia and realize you have no real understanding of things like the Pacific Theater of WW2 or how WW2 affected the region (which also makes me realize that I never learned about Africa, except as part of the unit on the slave/triangle trade).

      Pig Organ soup scares me too!

      Meeting other expats like yourself has also been a huge highlight for me!

  2. bookjunkie says:

    Loved this post so much and I have to tweet share it.

    The first thing that popped into my head. I love Singapore because my family is here…and it feels like home. No other place would really feel like home to me (that feeling I get every time I come back from a trip, no matter how short).

    Thinking about it some more…the food for sure.

    But for the reasons you like it here I don’t. I can’t bear the heat and long for winter and spring and more nature and space. Feels too claustrophobic and a physical sense and more so because I feel restricted as I don’t feel we have real freedom of speech here and I wish we would have it one day.

    You have taught me sooo much and I am thankful you came here instead of London. Thank you Crystal. It takes effort to write about your life and I am so glad you decided to blog and continue to do so even with no helper and less time due to that.

    • Crystal says:

      Thank you so much for sharing the post!

      I definitely struggle with some of the same things you do, and Singapore is by no means perfect.

      Thank you for being a patient source of information!

  3. kixes says:

    “One of the negatives of not having a helper is that I don’t have the support person to do travel with the girls and Ravi only has so much vacation per year (although his allotment is generous, there is a limit).”

    I admit that my first thought after reading this was “I COULD TOTALLY GO TRAVELLING AS BACKUP ADULT PERSON.”

  4. notabilia says:

    Love this post! I too (now) appreciate the warmth of this country towards children. I too appreciate my Americanness much more (and am more likely to claim it as my identity. As a person of color in the US, claiming oneself as an ‘American’ is questioned often, unfortunately).

    But what I cherish the most about living here are the friendships I’ve made via social media, via my work, via my mothers’ group. Some of these folks will truly be friends for a lifetime and, for that, I am truly grateful.

  5. Laura says:

    Great post and much of what I appreciate is similar to you, the opportunity to find out so much more about cultures, food etc. that I knew (and still do really) so little about. As well as opportunities to visit places that I’d probably have never have gone to otherwise.

    I too appreciate the UK a whole lot more, even for all the bad stuff there, but at the end of the day its my home, warts and all as they say. I would say too that I appreciate just how very lucky I am to have had this opportunity. I’ve learnt a lot about myself that I probably never would have if we hadn’t moved here. So I have to be grateful to Singapore for that! 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      I think you make a great point about learning more about yourself. I had some serious doubts when I moved here about whether I could handle moving abroad…that I’m closing in on two year surprised me. I’ve learned a lot about how I handle stress and how better to handle stress (especially when confronted by someone telling me “cannot”)

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