Another blog, another update from Asia (here's the last one). This time, I am presenting you the 5 staple things you have to know before you head out for the wonderful city(state) Singapore. I have gathered all my knowledge through several sources and my own experiences, which resulted in this brutally honest list.
Something that people warned me about before heading to South-East-Asia, was the climate and how (very) different it is from what I am used to in the Netherlands or Belgium.
To begin with, in Singapore, they have never heard about seasons (slight exaggeration, for comedic value) because there is the same climate all year round: a temperature that varies between 28 and 32 degrees Celsius and a humidity level which will often reach 80 percent. If we want to get scientific for a second, it is apparently due to the fact that Singapore is so close to the equator, which means that we live in the same conditions all year round, with an almost perfect 12 hours of sun to accompany that climate.
The only exception which withholds the climate to go full circle is the rain season. So, when you thought it couldn’t get better when you already have a constant humidity level of a Turkish bath, think again! From around the end of summer until the beginning of the new year, there will be a Monsoon season (rain season) which basically entails that sporadically there will be heavy rain falls. Fortunately, they do not last long, which means that most of the time you will be back to basking in the sun in no time.
Butter chicken and garlic naan
When I think about a typical Singaporean phenomenon, the famous hawker centres come straight to mind. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, they are pretty much big, open canteens where different food stalls are located, with cuisines from all over Asia. You will find an abundance of Japanese stalls, Chinese, Thai, Korean, Indian… if it’s Asian, you’ll probably find it! Having said that, it becomes quite obvious why Singapore is known to be a culture hub.
The majority of the stereotypes which are out there in the world, are most often extreme exaggerations of behavioral patterns of a sub-group in a culture. However, as I have come to learn during my time here on exchange, is that some stereotypes can be true. Most Singaporeans are known to be very efficient and do not waste any time when not necessary. This mentality can be found back in many aspects of their lives, including the consumption of food. When the clock hits mealtime, Singaporeans will rush to hawker centers or food courts, and quickly indulge a meal and get going again.
Although food seems to be an important aspect of the Singaporean lifestyle, given that you can find hawker centers and smaller restaurants at every corner of the street, it does seem like they oftentimes rush through their meals and enjoy it in a different way than what I am used to, for example, in Belgium. Where we like to take time, and talk over a nice meal, Singaporeans will enjoy their food, but quickly get going again once it has been consumed.
Now, to get to the most important portion of this section: what to get when you are in Singapore? Well, some of my personal favorites are the following: Laksa (a curry-noodle soup in which you can put ingredients of choice), butter chicken and garlic naan (chicken in a creamy tomato sauce accompanied by Indian flatbread and garlic), hot stone bibimbap (a Korean meal which literally means “mixed rice” or “mixed meal”, served in a hot stone bowl) or a classic chicken rice (pretty much self-explanatory, yet the most classic Singaporean meal out there).
Malls in Singapore? E-ve-ry-where.
The attentive readers will remember that I previously mentioned the nice, yet sometimes physically challenging, climate Singapore has. Due to this phenomenon, the city-state offers the opportunity to refresh yourself with some cool AC in pretty much any public building.
My guess is, given the prominent consumption culture and the climate, it has resulted in shopping malls popping up everywhere in the city. And we are not talking about small shopping centers, we are talking about full-blown malls with several stories and endless hallways. Basically, any shopper’s paradise. Some malls however, will be dedicated to one specific type of goods as for example the Bras Basah Complex which is known for selling books, art supplies and other crafty products. In other malls, such as the famous Marina Bay Sands mall, you will be able to primarily find luxury items with price tags that will make any sleep-deprived, 20-year old student uncontrollably sweat (although there is an AC blowing 16 degrees’ Celsius cold air right in his neck). Whatever you may be looking for, some mall in Singapore will most certainly have it.
If you feel like setting your inner-traveler free, Singapore is just what you need. Given its central position in Southeast Asia and huge international airport, you can be in a different country in no time. Want to go to Thailand for the weekend? 80 euro’s and 3 hours later you could be laying on the beaches of Phuket. Want to unwind and scooter around on one of the many beautiful Indonesian islands? No problem! Two hours, a few bucks and a ferry ride later and you’re all set.
Although Singapore might not be the cheapest city(state) to be based at, it is definitely worth it due to the incredible travel opportunities and many destinations available. Not even to mention the incredible Instagram shots you will be able to take in the matter of a few weeks (inner white girl starts screaming).
The last point, which I came across during my research on Singapore, and which was also reinforced by multiple sources, was the cleanliness and safety here in the city-state. I have never witnessed a city environment in which I could actually eat on the floor if I wanted to. Every single pavement, street or public area for that matter, is of an extreme cleanliness where not a single cigarette bud or chewing gum can be found. Given that it’s not usual for big cities to be defined as clean, you can imagine the shock I had when I discovered that.
Another element that I had never encountered in a big city before (or at least not to this extent) is the incredible feeling of safety. I can, for example, walk anywhere in Singapore at any given point of the day, whether it be in the afternoon or in the middle of the night, and not fear for something bad to happen to me.
You may wonder now, “what makes Singapore so different from any other big city(state)?”. Well, I can easily answer this for you: their laws and the way people respect and comply to these laws. From a Western perspective, some of the laws may seem very strange and even extreme to a certain extent, but when looking at how Singapore functions in harmony, everything starts to make much more sense. On the one hand, people might be restricted in the sense that they cannot just smoke cigarettes wherever they want, but only in designated areas, but on the other hand, this results in little to no cigarette buds in the city. As for anything in life, if you want to make it work, you pay a certain price for it.
Can you simply not get enough about Singapore or Asia for that matter? Make sure to read my first story about my adventure in Singapore and stay updated on any new stories on the College Life Magazine.