Have you watched the movie Crazy Rich Asians? I found the movie quite entertaining. Yet what brought back nostalgic memories were the many scenes shot in Singapore. You see, I lived in Singapore for close to twenty years and it’s amazing how much the country has changed me. Let me share some stories with you.
Every tourist will tell you that Singapore is a ‘clean city’. And I agree – that’s because people have the habit of throwing waste in garbage bins. In shopping malls, the bins are available everywhere, you won’t miss it. That is why, even after I re-settled back in Manila, I was always on the lookout for the nearest bin rather than throwing my trash on the floor.
Another thing, you may find it hard to believe but back in 2006, Singapore had a smile campaign, hoping that its citizens would smile more. I realized how different races were. It is a natural Filipino trait to smile and joke. I guess, it is our way of coping with the difficulties of living in our country. But in Singapore, where its citizens are better provided, they needed this campaign to remind themselves to be gracious to others.
I noticed that this lighthearted Filipino trait is what made us endearing to Singaporeans. Filipino nurses were preferred for their affectionate nature. Employees gather around their Filipino colleagues, laughing at their many stories and jokes. In all those years in Singapore, I have forgotten to smile sometimes, probably because the fast pace of life can be stressful. I am slowly reconnecting to my Filipino nature of smiling at the slightest reason.
But let me be clear – Singaporeans make up for their lack of smiles with their clear-cut procedures, in both government and private companies. Their step-by-step instructions are very easy to follow. Sadly, this is not the case in the Philippines. Since I have been back in Manila, I experienced many frustrations with the vague processes. But as one bank slogan says, “we find ways” – a life skill that was dormant when I was overseas. But now, I can happily say that my resourcefulness is back.
The normal Singaporean would leave a tissue pack to reserve their seat in the food court. They call this practice ‘chope’. In Manila, however, both ladies and gentlemen always carry a handkerchief. Even now, I carry a pack of tissues in my bag.
Another Singaporean trait is being ‘kiasu’, meaning ‘being afraid of losing out’ and this includes getting the best deal on purchases. Always buy from a shop that offers freebies. So even in Manila, I always buy based on additional ‘offers’.
Lining up is also another thing. Singaporeans will always line up and never cut lines. In Manila, I noticed that people have started lining up to public transport. But there are still a few who will find a sly way to get ahead in line.
In Singapore, people usually carry water bottles and have fruit as a dessert after lunch or dinner. At first, I found this strange because we Filipinos would rather drink soda. My first few weeks in Manila were a ‘sugar rush’ from eating those yummy cakes to the sugary sodas that are part of each meal. But now, I am back to having a water bottle in my bag and looking for fruit sources in the mall.
These are just a few of the stories I remember. It is true that being immersed in their culture has definitely changed me. I have acquired a few of their good and bad traits but I will always look back with fondness at Singapore, my second home.
Jocelyn Abay is a freelance content creator who has written newsletters and ebook as a ghostwriter. She follows the latest news in personal finance, real estate, and home organizing. Previously, she worked as an IT professional in banking and insurance. She blogs at Top Rated Virtual Assistance.