Strictly: Summary (2015 Edition) – Part #1

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First, an apology. Dear readers, I’m sorry I’ve been gone so long. I did Langkawi in September, then descended into some kind of exhausted fug until the middle of November, when I realised there were only a few weeks left until my trip home for Christmas and I got a little excited Christmas shopping and trying to get all my washing done. But now Christmas is over. I have been home and made it back to Singapore (something that I imagine quite a few of my readers didn’t expect me to do a year ago) and I’m officially entering into my second year of actual, full time, responsible work. Crazy, I know. I’ve got some holidays planned over the next few months so there will be a few posts on those but, as my mum never tired of telling me that my best posts are the ones about life in Singapore I will try my best to knock out a few of these first. No promises on the quality of said posts, but I’ll try my best.

I’ve officially been living in Singapore for a year and, I think, if you spend long enough somewhere there are things you start to consider as normal and everyday. But going home for a few weeks has made me realise that I’m living in a very strange part of the world and that a few things I’ve mentioned in previous posts are worth bringing up again, along with one or two other observations. I don’t think I have any photos for this post, so I’ll apologise for that now, it’s going to be wordy.

First stop, the people of Singapore. When I was at Exeter there were an awful lot of Asian students studying in the business school, and it was a bad, bad day if you were running late and got stuck behind a group of them on the way to lectures because, oh my, did they walk slowly. I kind of presumed this was an isolated incident, being that Exeter is very hilly and you generally saw them moving in large groups which tend to go slower. Moving to Asia has proved me wrong. Slow walking is a cultural thing which angers and baffles me almost every second I am outside. And I don’t just mean leisurely Sunday walk in the country slow. I mean I could write a nobel prize winning literary epic in the time it takes some people to get to where they’re going slow. I don’t think it helps that walking isn’t something people really do here. You’re much more likely to see 50 people cram onto a bus for a 2 minute journey to the neighbouring stop than seeing them actually doing the under 10 minute journey by foot. This is partly because of the heat and humidity in Singapore, but, also, people just do not like moving their legs. And they definitely do not like moving them quickly. Even in shopping malls, which are air-conditioned to within an inch of their lives, you will not encounter a local moving faster than a very old, frail snail, and it’s a miracle if anyone does so much as twitch on an escalator. I work in Woodlands, in the north of the country, where the problem is particularly ridiculous. We have a little joke that Causeway Point, the near-by shopping mall, is basically another country because of just how slowly people walk. And also how erratic their movements are. This leads me onto my next point, the Singaporean obsession with technology.

Until I moved to Asia I hadn’t thought that much about the type of technology I own. I bought a new laptop because my old one revolted against me and nearly caused me to have a mental breakdown in the middle of my third year at uni, and my phone was old and slow, but it worked just fine. And pretty much everyone I knew had the same attitude – own something until it breaks or is lost, then replace and repeat. Maybe this attitude was just because we were all students, but I’m going to take a punt and say that the majority of Brits are not all that fussed with the technology they own as long as it works for them. Singapore is pretty much the polar opposite. I often wonder how people here would survive if there was suddenly an apocalypse or similar global breakdown and everything went offline. I think they would probably just disintegrate or cease existing, so reliant are they upon stuff. Half the reason you can’t get anywhere at a decent pace is because every other person is staring fixedly at a screen. Not just texting, but reading, playing games and watching TV. And not just on their phones. Yesterday I had to avoid a man who was watching TV on his iPad while trying to cross the road. How you can walk and play Candy Crush I will never know, but people do it. Not successfully mind, they tend to shuffle along and occasionally stop suddenly in front of you. It’s frustrating as hell, but a great test of reflexes. People are also glued to their screens at dinner, in the cinema (yesterday I saw a man car shopping on his iPad as Star Wars was starting), and when they’re actually with other people. Not that the other person ever seems to care, they’re also staring silently and slightly manically at whatever it is they’re holding. This is very much bordering on a rant now, so I’ll quit while I’m ahead, but I am surprised that anyone manages to actually do anything, ever. The technology obsession in Singapore is real, though. I don’t think there’s a single child in any of my classes who doesn’t have better technology than me, and barely a week goes by when I don’t have one tell me they got, or are getting, a new iPad for their birthday. I think I’ve talked enough trash about the locals now, I feel kind of bad. Well, not really, the slow walking does really get to me, and I’ve only been back 5 days.

I wrote a fair amount a little while ago about shoes, and I do still find it weird that people don’t wear shoes indoors. But I’ve definitely started to pick it up as a habit now, and back home my reflex was to remove my shoes as soon as I’d got inside a house. At least at home I pretty much constantly wore socks, I don’t really here and I get very cold, dirty feet (particularly at work). I have become more successful at buying shoes though. I did have a small trauma a little while ago where my shoe broke en route to the Botanical Gardens, and I’ve pretty much stopped shopping at the place where I bought the infamous broken shoes from, for fear of a repeat episode, but I’ve managed to locate properly sized shoes throughout the malls on Orchard Road, proving that it’s important to know where to look. It is almost impossible to shop in the cool, local shops though, because I am most definitely not an Asian sized person. For one thing, I’m generally too tall for local clothes (and I’m not especially tall), for another, I am not a twiglet, so I generally can’t fit into anything that’s long enough anyway. I’m sadly still sticking to H&M and Forever 21, and will have to indefinitely, unless I start lopping bits off.

This post is threatening to turn into a ramble, so I’m going to stop now and put my last remaining thoughts into a part 2, probably later this week. Get ready for the next fun-filled instalment featuring shopping malls, toilets, weather, the intricacies of Singlish and supermarkets. And still no pictures.

Leah Out X

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