After driving on the left side of the road for the past seven or so months, I have had to focus and think hard about being on the right side of the road again. I found myself wailing to anyone who would listen that “BOTH SIDES OF THE ROAD ARE WRONG! THERE IS NO CORRECT SIDE ANYMORE!!!”
When filling my tank at the gas station, the attendant told me the total was $53 USD (66.25 SGD) and I almost replied “No, I wanted a full tank of gas,” thinking that there must have been a mistake. Then I remembered that gas is significantly cheaper here. A typical full tank in Singapore is 100 SGD (80 USD), and that is for a tank that is only 2/3rds the size of my US tank. To recap, I get 33% more gas for 67% of the cost of a tank of gas in Singapore.
Hello Reverse Culture shock
I’ve always been one to feel a deep sense of relief upon landing on American soil. Coming home has meant that things finally make sense to me again without having to process or think–that I reflexively “get it.”
I’d heard of reverse culture shock but assumed that since I’m American as Apple Pie it would never happen to me. That when we eventually moved home, I’d assimilate right back in without so much as a hiccup.
However, after two and a half years, it seems that my automatic sense of “just getting it” isn’t so automatic anymore. That I’m out of step here. Confused. I got lost when driving to a mall I’ve been to hundreds of times over the course of my life. Perplexed by stores that are no longer there. Looking for friends who have moved on from Massachusetts and the US. Unsteady.
I’m not sure that we could ever use sidewalk chalk at our condo in Singapore. But at my in-laws, Ellie is free to draw with it in the driveway and decorate the path to their front door, and no one cares if it doesn’t rain for a few days, knowing it will be washed away sooner or later.
I am very used to the way retail transactions are done in Singapore, and it has shown in my two weeks here.
When trying to buy some stuff at a drug store, I handed the credit card to the cashier with both hands. WRONG-I should’ve used the machine.
I tried to insert the card into the machine to let it read the chip. WRONG-I should’ve swiped it.
I waited to sign the slip. WRONG-I should’ve signed the machine’s screen.
I’ve also used cash when I didn’t need to because I’m so used to credit card minimums. In the US, you can charge almost any amount. Often, when the transaction is less than 25 or 50 USD, you don’t even need to sign for it at all.
I know there are parts of Singapore where the sky is so big and so gorgeous it just blows your mind. But due to where we live, where Ravi works, and where Ellie goes to school, the majority of my time is spent in the high rise mecca of the Central Business District. Seeing so much open sky and so many 1-2 story buildings shocks me at times.
Amusing anecdotes aside, the major change is ME.
I love being home. I love seeing my friends. I love having grandparents who are happy to babysit (for free, even!). I love the long hot showers. I love being able to shop for clothes that actually fit my body. Oh, American Food–it’s so good that I’m only eating you for a few weeks–I can’t bear to think of how many calories I’m eating.
I’ve done some shopping–mostly for clothes for my non-pregnant, soon to be non-breastfeeding (or significantly reduced breastfeeding) body. I’ve picked up Halloween costumes for the girls. Some books. A few dvd’s. And we’ll fill a suitcase with food to be sure.
I’m not running to Target, desperate for anything familiar, terrified to find alternatives. I think of the food we took to Singapore, so certain we’d crave it, only to have it still sitting in our cupboards. The tons of dvd’s I’ve bought only to not have viewed them as of yet. Ellie wears uniforms five days a week–there’s no need to spoil her with a ton of new clothes, and Rhi is inheriting a ridiculous wardrobe from Ellie. I’m more comfortable in the knowledge that if we truly need something, my in-laws can send it–or we can just live without it until our trip home in November for a cousin’s wedding. In the 8 months since our last visit, the only thing I ran out of that was an issue was my preferred salon-sold shampoo and conditioner, and I bought more today. I think it is a real possibility that we leave a suitcase or two here in the US instead of buying the two more we could to max our luggage allowance. Sure toys are cheaper here (and so are books) and I’ve bought a couple, but…meh.
There is actually very little here that I couldn’t live without in Singapore (with the exception of my clothes and shampoo…and maybe a bag of my favorite bbq chips). Realizing this is quite a shock to my system.
Singapore is home. The way life works there, incomprehensible to me as it might be at times, is my “norm” now.
I find myself scouring my twitter feeds in the morning to catch up on my SG tweep’s doings. I’ve joined in discussions dissecting caning (we’re against it), why women in SG aren’t procreating at the government’s preferred speed and volume, and rolled my eyes when people here think that the “National Night” video by Mentos is something to take seriously (also, I get most of the references!). I’ve been in Singapore long enough to understand some of the political and social issues of the day well enough to have an educated opinion.
Ellie keeps asking when we’re going back to Singapore, and I think I finally understand why. While I’ve enjoyed the trip “home,” I’m happy to heading back to the little red dot, which has also become “home.”