25 Things I've Learnt from Living in Singapore

1. If you're not East Asian, and you've never lived in East Asia before, you're probably holding your chopsticks wrong. Even if it works for you, it's wrong and you're a dork and there's a much less painless way to do it.

2. Where there is space, there will be a themed café.

3. Don't jaywalk somewhere unless you've seen an auntie do it before.

4.  Whenever you're in Singapore and you are black, you will get excited every time you see another black person. When you go to a European city with lots of black people, you might strangely find yourself excited to any type of Asian person. 

5. Sometimes people will stare at you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable. Sometimes they're bored, sometimes it is out of prejudice, sometimes it's a creepy old guy who assumes you're a prostitute (yup) and sometimes, once in a while, that's literally just their face.

6. You will endlessly be amazed by the numerous but very nuanced ways in which Asians are similar to Africans.

7. There will be days where you don't see a single non-Asian person.

8. Those will be surprisingly lonely days.

9. It is incredibly insensitive for a foreigner to tell a local how to behave in their own country. Whether that's how they chew, how they dress or what their beliefs are, it is not anyone's right to look down upon someone for doing something that is part of their culture when you are merely a guest in their country. However, it is ok, and highly encouraged, to tell fellow foreigners not to be d***s.

10. There is a particular brand of foreigner (*cough cough cough*) who is obsessed with being a Buddhist and says 'namaste' and possibly even writes poetry about the Sun. We all know one. Stay away from these people.

11. Asian Movies > Western Movies. Bollywood. Korean. Japanese. Hong Kongese. Just so good. 

12. Korean dramas are everything. So are the cosmetics.

13. It is nearly impossible to eat ban mian whilst reading a book.

14. Though the prices of drinks in Singapore are high, being a woman will often make them free. I like to think of it as a small reimbursement for the price of actually having to be a woman.

15. Western media will lose its collective mind about some moderately attractive viral-guy who is "shattering stereotypes about Asian men" and you will roll your eyes because you can name hundreds of more attractive men who have always existed and don't need to be fetishised in the name of 'progress,' or in order to make people feel less ignorant. 

16. Forget everything you think you know about Chinese food.

17. And Japanese food.

18. And Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, and Korean food, for that matter.

19. You will feel an eternal loss and blinding rage when you return home and eat "Asian" food. 

20. No one makes better fried chicken than Koreans.

21. K-pop is not only 'pop' but is actually incredibly diverse,and to be a Korean star requires an incredible amount of talent and hard work. Here's my article on what you should listen to. You're welcome.

22. The Chinese language is so thoroughly fascinating, difficult and awe-inspiring, yet many English-only speakers will make fun of Chinese people's accents and grasp of English. Stay away from these kinds of people too. They're the same people who think 'will Will Smith smith? Yes, Will Smith will smith' shows the marvellous complexity of English and yet there's a beautiful and long poem in Chinese entirely made up of different intonations of the word 'Shi' that you could never dream of pronouncing correctly.

23. It is advised to never say "I'm basically part-Asian," no matter how much you may love any Asian culture. Living in a culturally-rich country for six months or even a few years hardly gives you a true understanding of what it means to be from said country. If so many born and raised citizens cannot fully answer the question 'what does it mean to be [insert nationality here],' then, my dear Becky, what makes you think you can?

24. No white dude has ever sounded cool whilst attempting to say 'lah.

25. Most of your unexpectedly eye-opening memories of Singapore will come from having a meaningful friendship with someone who is actually from Singapore. Some like to pretend the expat bubble is not elitist and sterile, but it is often exactly that. My most heart-warming experiences have often come from the most obscure places in Singapore that I would never have known about without the incredible friends I've made along the way.

 

Pepper & Söl