16 August 2013

guest post: singapore memories from ireland

it's friday once again, time for a new post on our "singapore" series. my next guest writer sits on the other side of the globe in ireland! when we got news a couple of years ago that she was moving to europe, our initial reaction was: wow! and then we were concerned.  to us who are here in singapore, i think we're not too bothered about being alone here: we usually have a circle of friends we can run to. besides, the philippines is a few flight hours away. but moving out of your comfort zone, half the world away and on your own takes a lot of guts.

my friend nina was a kindred spirit the moment i met her. we both loved books and art. so we can go on for hours with our talks (along with our other friends). after six years in ireland, she recalls her life in the little red dot. 

From tourist to expat

My first time in Singapore was to visit my sister for a quick holiday. I was impressed with the transportation systems, the infrastructure and utterly delighted to see a Kinokuniya bookstore. Even so, I was not 100% convinced I wanted to work there.  It took few more months before I decided just try my luck. My first job was as a technical consultant in a  local firm. The first 2 months were heartbreaking, but I decided to stay put and strive to make it work. I got a new job the year after, and it got better.

I like the diversity of culture in Singapore, (imagine having to celebrate Malay, Chinese and Indian holidays). Everything is efficient: I got my bank card in less than an hour, transportation is smooth, libraries are large, lots of health and recreational facilities within reach. The museums are beautiful and there are lots of international exhibitions being put up. No matter what other people say, I think hosting an Art Biennale is still brilliant.

The Makan (eat) culture is on  a different level. For some countries, food hawking is not viewed as sanitary eating. In Singapore, eating hawker is a way of life: everything is sanitized and standardized.  I enjoyed ticking the boxes for the hawker shops listed in the Hawker Legend pamphlet . Food was always the main topic as well every time I ate with my teammates. Local teammates are more than eager to share their view and suggestions of places to go.

friends in singapore

The experience of visiting Singapore as a tourist is very different from working in Singapore. I guess having a diverse culture is a double-edged sword: you learn new stuff but you also get bad experiences due to the cultural gap. I guess it is important to be very patient and unassuming on almost everything: I remember having a hard time to determine if the person I was talking to was angry or just naturally spoke that way.

Efficient systems require faster turnaround time, so everything needs to be done fast (as they would say “not now, but now now!”), and the pressure is very high. To keep you sane, it is very important to be in touch with friends and families. It does not mean to meet them every day or every week, but a quick catch up (ex. breakfast sessions) is enough to recharge a weary soul. Another way to beat the blues is to go out. Just go out, aside from travelling to other countries (Singapore is an excellent travel hub), go get a walk in the Botanical Gardens, the Zoo or to the museums.

visit the national museum of singapore

On leaving Singapore

I decided to leave Singapore in 2007 to go to Ireland  as a technical consultant. Despite the fact that I enjoyed my stay, met "very-good-and-not-letting-them-go" friends, and lived with brilliant housemates, I never felt I was settled or accepted in the society anyway. I am an introvert, who needs a lot of alone-time. I do socialize, but I do take my time to energize myself. There is also that part of me that needs to travel to other places, but I like to do my traveling in phases rather in one go, so I need to be based in the region I’d be exploring. It was a very hard decision. I did not mind leaving the place, but to be very far away from your family and friends  (distance and timeline wise!) is the big bummer.

greetings from ireland!

In the near future,  I’ll definitely come back to visit Singapore, to visit my friends and especially my  two beautiful god daughters based there. It’s only been 6 years and yet so many things have happened and have been built in Singapore, so it will be like seeing a new country when I come back.

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