31 July 2011


Well, it took me a few months but I think we are truly settled in our new world. The following is a short list of ways we found to fit in with the millions of people here in Singapore:

Get used to the weather
There are three weather classifications – hot, breezy and rainy – and nothing else. It takes about three days to realize this and about two months for a body to adjust to the climate. No one watches a weather report because it is always hot and sunny with a chance of rain. Umbrellas are made to fit inside purses and hair ties are as present on wrists as this season’s bangle bracelets.

Meet people
Before moving, someone told me that the most important thing to do upon arrival was to create and stick to a routine. By knowing what I could do each day, I would keep myself from going crazy. For me, I found that the most important thing was to meet people.

When I lived in Columbus, I spent most of my time at work so it should be no surprise that I regarded many of my colleagues as close friends. Without a job, I had to make an effort to find people with whom I could be social. We were introduced to one couple through a friend in the U.S. The couple is on their second Singapore expat adventure and we have had a great time with them. Paul met a few people through his work and I joined the American Women’s Association. I have to admit, I should have joined the AWA upon arrival as the friendly female connection has made me feel much more at home than I did felt alone in a new apartment while Paul was out of the country for a week at a time.

Exploring the island took a little more effort because I was raised in the technology age. I was fording rivers along the Oregon Trail before I learned cursive. This dependency on technology and reliance on Google Maps caused me to stay in my apartment all alone (when Paul was gone) until we have suitable technology that could direct me to where I needed to be. Consulting Google Maps and writing down detailed direction to a location worked out well until I realized that one cannot often get home the same way one arrived. That is how I wound up lost in Little India our first week here.

Now that I am more familiar with the transportation systems and how the island is mapped out, I am much more eager to get out and explore. I have visited parks, gardens, museums, shopping areas and restaurants with tables for one – ok two, but I only needed one chair.

 Learn the language
While I believe I am getting better at understanding Singlish, I do still have trouble understanding local pronunciations. Paul gets particularly frustrated with “th” sounds and wants to break into schools and just make all of the students say “th” over and over again. Recently I started to ponder English pronunciations. I am not sure the Americans are always right.

In America, yes, one may use the American pronunciations. But when it comes to words like “salon” and “butter,” which is correct: “sal-on” vs. “suh-lon,” “butter” vs. “but-tah.” With the overwhelming Aussie population and the slightly fewer number of Brits in the area, I am starting to believe that we should be speaking like them.

Be confident
When one is used to being in the cultural and national majority, one must adapt to being in the minority. What I may think is not always correct. What I may want to do may not always be right. People may stare at the fair-skinned white girl in a sundress in Little India. I have learned that maintaining a demure confidence helps me fit in with others around me.

There are many more lessons to be learned here in Singapore, so stay tuned.

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