“Singaporeans love to queue!” exclaimed our Grab driver. His funny, self-aware, cultural joke was not wrong. For weeks now there has been a queue waiting for the Swatch store to open. I have no idea what they’re waiting for but it must be “exclusive.” Shopping is a sport here, seriously, and I’m sure the love for queueing partly comes from that. During our own shopping adventures I’ve noticed so many people with luggage. My first assumption was there must be a sale at the Tumi (high-end goods or bust). But then I realized it’s how the shoppers transport their goods from store to store. I mean, there could also be a sale at Tumi but I think it’s just the practical Singaporean way of shopping till you drop.
Speaking of high-end goods, the love for luxury is real. I was reading a post on Facebook recently in which the poster was asking for suggestions for gifts to bring from Singapore. Someone, jokingly, said to bring everyone a Chanel handbag. It’s true. And it it isn’t Chanel it’s Louis Vuitton. And if it isn’t Luis Vuitton it’s Gucci. I have a Gucci watch from when I worked in jewelry. It was part of a mega blow-out sale of items that were long past their “fashionableness” and I also got a discount. I probably put it on a credit card. That is how I came to own a very small piece of Gucci.
Another uniquely Singaporean trait is how quiet everyone is. I’m sure it’s not true for the entirety of the country and, once I did see some men fighting in the street (you wouldn’t believe the shenanigans I’ve seen at 6:30 in the morning) but on the whole it is so quiet here. We Americans are loud.
Singaporeans also walk at a snail’s pace though I’ve determined that is why they never look like they’re sweating buckets (like me). They walk at a leisurely pace so as to not break a sweat which is almost impossible but I rarely see a Singaporean looking as disheveled as I feel 1000% of the time. As soon as I can learn how to manage my time better I may stand a chance of not always looking like a drowned rat when I walk to appointments. Side note: Did not give myself time today. Showed up to yoga disgusting.
This next one I only came to understand because of another expat’s Instagram page (@alisoninasia). Because the weather never changes here (hot and humid) it would be silly to make small talk about it, such as we do in the States. Instead, Singaporeans make small talk about “taking meals.” The first time I was asked if I had eaten yet I wondered if I was about to asked on a date. I laughed and said, “Yes, I’ve had breakfast,” followed by awkward silence and then a hesitant, “Have you?” because it’s a weird question to be asked by a stranger and I didn’t know what to say. Now that I’m aware, I find it quite endearing though I’m still trying to figure out the best way to respond. Like, in response to “Have you taken breakfast?” do I give a full rundown like, “Yes, I had two eggs and some fruit and then I was still hungry so I had some toast but I accidentally burned it so I had to start all over and then I discovered that we were out of butter and jelly and so I had to eat it plain which was just the worst.” Or, should it just be a simple “Yes” or “No”? Is it rude not to ask the question back? I could use a little guidance on this one.
Finally, one last observation. Singaporeans are cautious. The indoor mask mandate has just recently been lifted and we are no longer required to wear them in most places with the exception of hospitals, public transportation, etc. I predict most will continue to wear them. When the outdoor mask mandate was lifted in April (we had to wear them outside unless exercising and yes, it was brutal) there still remained a very large majority of people who wore them when outside. Even still, after all of these months I would guesstimate it’s 50/50 those who wear masks outdoors and those who don’t. I am curious to see how long it takes the majority of Singaporeans to feel safe enough to not wear a mask indoors. Of course, it is quite convenient the indoor mask mandate was lifted considering they’re gearing-up (pun!) for the Formula 1 in September.
That’s all I have for now. I’m sure as time goes on there will be more observations. I am hopeful that without the requirement of wearing masks it will be easier to gauge how friendly Singaporeans are. Are they smile and wave to strangers people like we are from the southern States? So far, I say “no” to that but wearing masks makes any sort of interaction difficult. To be continued…