Sunday, November 22, 2009

31 MORE things that are Different

1) Drinks sometimes come in plastic baggies- like a Ziploc bag full of juice, with a straw in it. If drinks come in plastic cups, you're often given a small plastic bag with a handle, in which to carry your plastic cup, or you get a kind of plastic sling for your drink, like this:

2) No free refills at restaurants!

3) Magazines, like movies and the internet and books and TV, etc., are also censored. Racy magazines like Playboy and Playgirl are banned. Cosmopolitan was previously banned, but the ban was lifted a couple of years ago. Now it can be sold, but it's sealed in a plastic bag with a sticker on the front that says "Unsuitable for the Young".

4) Eggs come in so many different varieties- duck eggs, chicken eggs, quail eggs, and a bunch that I don't even recognize. The eggs are on the shelf at the store, and they aren't labeled. I buy the package with the picture of a chicken on it and hope for the best. Also, eggs aren't washed before they're packaged, so you often find feathers and matter on the eggs. And they come in packs of 10 instead of a dozen. I just figured that out like two days ago.

5) Public holidays are quite different. American holidays that I had come to take for granted like the 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Veteran's Day, President's Day, Columbus Day, etc., are, of course, not acknowledged here. Completely different holidays that I'm unfamiliar with are celebrated- Hari Raya, Deepavali, Vesak Day, and Chinese New Year are a few. And of course there's some overlap with both the U.S. and Singapore celebrating Easter, Christmas, and New Year's. Below are some of the crazy decorations on Orchard Road.
6) The Internet is censored. I'm not sure about the details of this- it's hard to know what's blocked when you can't see it. I know that porn is blocked because porn is illegal in Singapore, and I believe that the "f word" might also be censored. And we don't get hulu or pandora!

7) People here live longer. Singapore has the 4th highest life expectancy in the world, with people living to be 82 years old on average. I suppose it's not too surprising when you consider that Singaporeans basically live in a giant sauna, eat tons of rice and vegetables and very little red meat, and walk everywhere they go. The average U.S. life expectancy is around 78 years (ranked 50th in the world).

8) The obesity rates are way lower in Singapore. The U.S. ranks 1st in the world for obesity, with over 30% of the population fitting into the obese category, which doesn't even include those who are considered overweight but not obese. I couldn't find any rating for Singapore, but it's not in the top 30 countries, so its obesity rate is lower than 9%. Hmmm...lower obesity rates and longer life expectancies- who knew?!

9) Atheism doesn't seem to be as stigmatized in Singapore as it is in the U.S.- it's the 3rd most popular "religious affiliation," ranking above Christianity. It's often referred to as "free-thinking" rather than atheist, and is an option when you fill out forms that ask for your religion.

10) When you turn on a light, it flickers on and off like you're in a horror movie before it actually comes on and stays on. I think it has something to do with the type of lightbulb used here.Bold

11) Instead of getting mice in your apartment, you get geckos!12) There are no screens on the windows.

13) Movies and TV shows here always have subtitles. If a show is in English it will have Chinese subtitles, if it's in Chinese it will have English subtitles. Things get really interesting if a show is in another language like Malay, because then there are subtitles in two languages on the screen, and the screen can get a little cluttered.

14) There's no hot water in the kitchen or bathroom sinks of the apartments. Really there's no hot water anywhere except the showers, which have their own water heaters attached to the wall. So, if you want to wash your dishes with hot water, you have to boil it. When Bryan asked a Singaporean friend at work if he boiled water to wash his dishes, he'd never heard of such a thing. We've been doing it the S'porean way and just using soap.

15) As I mentioned in the previous entry, we have a lot of American chains here. However, the foods they serve aren't always the same. For example, McDonald's serves seaweed shaker fries- regular french fries covered in flakes of seasoned seaweed. Starbucks serves something called jelly coffee, which basically looks like iced coffee with a blob of grape jelly in the bottom.

16) The drinking age is 18 instead of 21.

17) Movie ratings are different here, and for some movies you have to be 21. As a result, I often get asked how old I am when we go to the movies.

18) Homosexuality is illegal in Singapore, and is punishable by imprisonment.

19) There is no Daylight Savings Time in Singapore, so for part of the year my friends and family in Ohio are 12 hours behind, and the rest of the year they're 13 hours behind.

20) More lingo. Smoked gouda, my favorite cheese, is called "Dutch smoked cheese" here, which took me awhile to figure out; baby strollers are "prams"; vacation is "holiday"; and soda, is, under no circumstances, called "pop", so "pop machine" is also not used.21) Although Singapore has conquered a lot of the diseases, such as malaria, that plague tropical areas, dengue fever is still a problem. Dengue is a nasty, mosquito-borne disease that makes some foreigners (*ahem*) a little wary of mosquitoes.

22) The government is dead serious about drugs (the penalty for drug smuggling is death), so people here generally just avoid them all together. On American college campuses, casual use of marijuana and other people's prescribed drugs (e.g. Ritalin, Adderall) is pretty common, but that is certainly not the case here. I talked to a couple of college students about this, and they responded with shock when I said that I knew people who had done drugs, saying that they had never seen or heard of such behavior here in Singapore.

23) Every stray cat that I have seen has been missing the tip of one of its ears, and most of them have short tails. It appears that the ears have been clipped, not injured in a fight. In the picture below, you can see that the tip of the cat's left ear is missing (Update 2/22: Bryan and I found out that strays are caught and spayed or neutered, and then their ear is clipped to indicate that they've already had the procedure done. It's all done to control the stray cat population. Mystery solved! Still not sure about those short tails, though.)
24) There's something here called VCD. It's like a DVD, but requires a different type of player- a VCD player.  VCDs (Video CDs) are cheaper than DVDs.

25) Singapore is small, so you can travel to pretty much anywhere in the entire country in less than two hours. It's strange after living in the U.S., which now seems impossibly large in comparison.

26) Although S'poreans speak English, they don't use the same slang as we do in the U.S. So sometimes common American expressions aren't understood by people in Singapore- e.g. Singaporeans get confused if you refer to someone falling down as a "wipeout" or say that someone doesn't "have their shit together". The other day I spent about five minutes trying to explain what makes someone a "redneck". It was a lot harder than I thought, and I eventually resorted to bad, old Jeff Foxworthy jokes ("It's like someone who puts their living room couch out on their front porch, or goes to WalMart in their bathrobe" which then led to "What's WalMart?")

27) We've noticed a big difference in the Singaporean concept of customer service and what we're used to as Americans. Here in S'pore, when you eat at a restaurant, food often comes out whenever it's ready, so rather than everyone being served at once, you get food in phases. As a result, if you wait for everyone else to get their food, yours might be cold by the time you get around to eating it. Once you have your food, you can't rely on anyone coming back to ask you how things are. And if you need something, you can pretty much count on not being able to get your server's attention- the waiters and waitresses here seem to have an uncanny ability to never, ever make eye contact. And at the grocery store, lines pile up as the checkout girls take their sweet time, chatting with one another and ringing up items at a tortoise-like pace. And when you finally get to the front off the line, you inevitably have to watch them do something annoyingly careless, like toss a can of soup into your bag right on top of your bananas.

28) When people get sick here, they wear surgical masks in order to prevent the spread of germs.

29) As I mentioned before, cars are pretty expensive, and so are a definite luxury. Another interesting difference is that there are virtually no SUVs. The island is small and streets are crowded as it is, so driving a big, unwieldy SUV here would probably be pretty tricky. It's nice to see normal-sized cars and not unnecessarily large, gas-guzzling SUVs everywhere I go.

30) Singaporean government is set up in an interesting way, with both a prime minister and a president. It is my understanding that the prime minister is the true head of the government while the president's role is more ceremonial in nature.

31) We get American TV shows, but we get them a season behind. So, the shows that are new this season will get to us next year, and the shows that are coming out on DVD back in the US are just airing on TV here.  So, no, I have not yet seen Glee.

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