Mind you, this is by no means an extensive list. Also, due to our location and living in a rather high-end part of town, my life in Singapore is quite skewed. But, for the most part, these are some of the things you can expect upon a visit to Singapore:
1. If there is an item left on a table in a hawker center that is signifying the table is taken and it’s called “chope.” A packet of tissues is usually the item used to designate a taken table but other items can be used as well. Since the country is so safe, leaving a valuable like a purse or phone wouldn’t be completely out of the question though I haven’t tried it yet because I am not that trusting. You can take the girl out of the U.S. but you can’t take the U.S. out of the girl.
2. Speaking of a packet of tissues, I recommend you always have some with you because napkins are not freely given out in restaurants, especially hawker centers. There have been plenty of moments where I’ve forgotten, and we’ve ordered the messiest thing you can think of. That said, you can usually find a hand washing sink nearby.
3. You have to wave-down your desired bus because otherwise it will continue on. I’m not a city girl so this may be true all over the world.
4. People walk and look at their phones everywhere. This one is a bit much. I can’t tell you how many times someone has just come to an abrupt stop in the walkway because they’re looking at their phone. Or my personal favorite is while they’re playing a game, they’re also weaving making it impossible to get around them. Be prepared to be annoyed especially if you’re coming from any other part of the world where this would A. Be dangerous, and B. Is more fast-paced.
5. Stand on the left of the escalator to allow people to pass on your right.
6. Walk on the left as well. Not everybody does this. Some people have an uncanny ability to take-up an entire sidewalk with their body. It’s truly baffling and definitely has something to do with number four, above.
7. Smoking is really only allowed in designated areas. I mean, it’s not uncommon to come across someone smoking in a non-designated area but it’s rare.
8. At restaurants you have to ask for the bill. Plus, the servers aren’t coming up every five minutes to ask how things are going. If you need something, you need to hail them down. Tipping is only necessary if the service was above and beyond.
9. When getting on a subway car there are lines indicating that passengers boarding should do so from the side and allow alighting passengers to leave through the middle. I mean, it shouldn’t have to be said but it’s genius that they literally lay it out for us plebians.
10. On the subway and bus, there is absolutely no eating or drinking. Don’t even try it. You will get called out for such rude manners or, worse, you’ll find yourself on a tattler Facebook page.
11. There also isn’t really even talking on the subway or bus. I’ve grown so used to how quiet it is that when I do hear someone talking loudly on their phone, I can feel the annoyance of everyone around me. Also, I’m not totally mad about this unwritten rule.
12. Just about everyone speaks English. The only thing that is a little complicated is their accent can be hard to understand but, after a year and a half, I feel quite confident in my abilities to decipher. Unless it’s an uncle wearing a mask. They are notoriously our taxi drivers, and I frequently cannot understand what they’re saying and eventually give up and just try and keep-up the semblance of a conversation by nodding and saying “ohh.” Pro tip: If you’re asked where you’re from and you’re American, say you’re from Canada. That way you won’t have to explain why Americans are so obsessed with guns.