First Impressions – Part II

Hello again, I hope you enjoyed Part I of my first impressions — Following this topic, a third point I heard a lot and interesting enough to mention is how Singaporeans are actually proud of the cleanness, greenness of their city-state.

Raffles Terrace

I mean sure, it’s quite clean (as there are a bunch of cleaners, maids, etc.) but then gums sale is forbidden in the country, littering will give you a considerable fine, and there are others interesting laws as well (but not as interesting or funny as the one in the US I must admit). So yes, I think the city is clean but it comes with a price.

This is a funny picture I found online illustrating the ban.

This is a funny picture I found online illustrating the ban.

As far as greenness is concerned, Singapore is heavily urbanized, but there are still a lot of green area mostly with parks, natural reserves, and golf courses! Singaporeans enjoy it and despite the heat, you will often see people walking around with their kids in parks, or simply walk along different rivers. It’s actually nice and Singaporeans really like it, it’s a bit different to their rival brother Hong Kong, which it’s often criticized for its extensive urbanization, non green area, and constant pollution.

Lastly, they are proud of the overall safety of Singapore. I mean, I agree although people sometimes stare at me, I still feel very much safe here. But then, I think about all these laws, especially how using drugs will lead you to death penalty here! It makes you think twice before using herb. I also heard stories about the Police force here, apparently they don’t joke man (even more so if you’re a foreigner). At least that’s what I heard…

Don't even think about it here.

Don’t even think about it here!

On the other side, locals and expatriates (mostly with children) value that security. For them, it means kids can go home from school without worrying, it also means you can take out your latest smartphone on a bus or subway without any issue, or just walk back home safe from a nightclub at 3am.

MRT (Singapore underground name)

MRT (Singapore underground name)

So yeah, to sump up Singaporeans like their country, they like the way it’s perceived in Asia and in the world. They like (or not so much anymore) the fact that foreigners want to come here to work, and use the city as a hub to travel around Asia.

I think it’s good to like your country as opposed to not to. I grew up in a place where putting the country flag on a window was not really common, and can easily be perceived as nationalist, hence Not coOl!! Not the case here, and if you are planning on coming here, you, just as me, will just have to get used to that “extra” love of the country.

For those of you still skeptical about that huge pride they have, below are some pics and a video of landmarks the country built to improve the condition of living of the Singaporeans (with some foreign help of course)!!

 

Singapore skyline but with iPhone quality…

Next time let’s talk fOOd!

IMG_0082

First Impressions – Part I

Having traveled a bit around the globe and seen different countries, cultures, and nations the one thing I have always been fascinated with is how closely or not inhabitants are attached to their country. It often falls under two categories which are “quite proud” or “don’t really care”.

Overall, my first impression is that Singaporeans are quite proud of their country (and that’s fine by me). After all, I’m the foreigner who left home and moved here for work. So let me explain to you how one can easily feel Singaporeans’ pride.

In the afternoon I landed, after unpacking and taking a good cold refreshing shower, I went for a walk to see what was going on around my neighborhood (remember from my first article The Journey starts!, this area is inhabited by a majority of locals).

This is what I saw…

I was like “what the (f**k)?” I have never seen so many flags hanging on the windows, doors, stores, and etc. I said to myself this can’t be possible, I mean it’s just a small island and, no offense, but maybe some of you enjoying my blog couldn’t even locate Singapore on a map. Yes, we have heard about Singapore, its famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel, the upcoming F1 Singapore Grand Prix night race, and others stuff; but still, how come a so small country can be that proud and putting up flags everywhere?…Well, as an ex-Londoner, I said to myself:

keep-calm-and-find-answers

…About a month ago or so, Singapore celebrated it’s 48th National day. Two friends (one european, and one asian) told me the government, public schools, and even kindergarten give free flags to Singaporeans before independence day. They hang them on their windows for national day, and apparently tend to leave them afterwards. This kind of reinforced my first thoughts about Singaporeans being proud; however, that wouldn’t really tell me what is behind all that pride. Luckily enough I did interact with few locals and below is my first analysis…

Kenneth (on the far right), his classmate (on the far left), and a stranger!

Kenneth (on the far right), his classmate (on the far left), and a stranger!

First, Singaporeans are very proud to be Singaporeans. As mentioned previously, the country is made of several ethnicities (friendly reminder: Chinese, Indian, and Malaysian). So here, after you ask where someone is from, expect the person to say Singapore, and nothing more. You, on the other end, shouldn’t ask more questions regarding their origin (simply because you’re thinking this guy looks like an Indian or a Chinese, hence he must have other origins). NOPE! DON’T GO THERE “Keep Calm & Continue the conversation”

In fact, a Singaporean who was born in Singapore, and probably his parents too, and also his grandparents will feel very much Singaporean and may not appreciate to be affiliated with any other origins. My advice is if you want to know more let the person tells you. Maybe at some point he or she will start speaking another language, and you can drop a line like “oh this is not English, where does that language from…” You got it!

Singaporeans walking on Orchard road

Shopping Street = Women around!…like everywhere 🙂

Singapore Crowd

Then, Singaporeans are also proud of the overall economic success of their country, and understandably so. In less than 50 years, and thanks to an efficient government with very little corruption, the country has become a world powerhouse in Finance and Technology (for the latter, I am not so sure because Internet is very slow sometimes). It’s funny because I remember a decade ago in high school learning about Singapore as being part of the “Asian Tigers” (four leading Asian economies), and now it has even become a world leading financial center. Well, it helps to understand natives’ pride with their country…

That’s it for now. Part II will be live tomorrow, meanwhile you can enjoy few shots I took of the CBD, and the city.

 

Singapore-Flag

The journey starts!

After a 13 hours flight with the giant A380 airplane from Singapore Airlines, I landed on Sept 2nd 2013 at the only Singapore civil airport, Changi.

The trip was very pleasant and I actually didn’t feel the half-day trip in a plane. Maybe it was due to the entertainment available on board (music, movies, learning languages exercises, etc.), but it was probably more because I was lost in my dreams and expectations of living in Asia for the next few years.

Plane landed at 9:55am GMT+7 – Local temp: 32°C or 90°F

Singapore-airlines-A380

First thing I was amazed with was the efficiency and rapidity of the Singapore Customs and Changi Airport staff; it literally took me less than 5 minutes to get my passport stamp and take back my luggage. It was probably not a busy period, but still I felt that this country like efficiency. Well, me too!!

I took my luggage, and went straight to take a taxi towards my condominium, located in the Balestier/Boon Keng area just west to the Kallang neighborhood of Singapore. I will talk more about all theses different areas later on, but for those of you who are curious you can check both wikitravel and wikipedia for more information.

Just to give you a quick overview; Boon Keng and its surrounding is an area of the island that houses a majority of Singaporeans, although one may meet a foreigner once in a while. Indeed, I see only few condominiums (high-rise apartments that usually include amenities such as pool, gym, jacuzzi, and if you put the money it can be wilder), a lot of public housing also call HDB which consists of high-rise apartments, but without the amenities mentioned above; and finally, houses which are most likely own or rent by Singaporeans (according to their size). Condominiums usually house expatriates and/or upper middle class Singaporeans, whereas public housing is where the locals stay, but you’ll sometime find some foreigners as well, especially students as the rents are quite low compared to condominiums.

Below are different types of accommodation I have seen…

Boon Keng area isn’t particularly attractive, but I find it a good spot to live for a newbie in Singapore. Indeed, it offers a fairly good experience of the Asian/local life; from local Singaporeans’ houses, small shop houses, local food and market centers, and not to forget temples, mosques, and even local schools with Singaporeans kids (as opposed to international schools where most of the expatriates have their kids.)

Here, few pics from the Boon Keng area…

Having said the pros of living in such an area, there aren’t really any cons yet, not that I have seen so far. But I’m black, there isn’t really much black people around; and, to be honest, I have only met one so far. There are, of course, persons with dark skins (think Indian-like), but really ain’t seen any brother yet. It doesn’t really bother me, it’s more a fact than anything…and again I live in a very Singaporeans local influenced area. Indubitably, in the downtown area (CBD, nightclubs area) I should see more diversity, but not necessarily more black people.

Talking diversity, what does a Singaporean look like? Actually, it’s a pretty tricky question. The indigenous population is made of three major ethnicities: Chinese with a little more than 74%, Malay with 13%, Indian with 9%, and the remaining are folks like me (and probably like you) from Occident, Oceania, and obviously from some other parts of Asia.

Below some Singaporeans kind enough to accept a picture…

Unfortunately none of the Singaporeans women have succumb to my charm (yet!), and allowed me to take a picture of them. I mean I don’t blame them, just imagine the local Singaporean girl (who may never have been outside of Singapore), and a brotha come to her asking a picture for his blog bla bla bla…yeaahhh riighttt! Next!

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this first article. Please feel free to give me your comments, feedback, or else.

Next will be my first impressions and thoughts about the country and its people.