|Stormy weather at Changi Sailing Club|
Greetings from a murky wet and grey Friday in Singapore. Woke up this morning and Kevin commented that it could be a November day in the UK except it’s a few degrees warmer outside than it would be over there and the AC has been on all night in a bid to keep the air cool and dry enough to sleep comfortably.
Like many a Brit settling here before us Singapore has rapidly felt like home. Thinking about why this should be we decided there is a certain familiarity about streets with rows of little shops and the names of long dead British generals, colonialists or politicians. There is even a High Street, the first street established by the original planners though it is now tucked away behind Fort Canning Park and no longer a main thoroughfare. The shops themselves carry many familiar brands and stores like Robinson’s, one of several big department stores, would fit right into any UK city. There are many similarities in every walk of life, perhaps not surprising when you realise that next year the Little Red Dot celebrates it’s 50th Birthday since independence so is a very new country with long time ties to Britain.
|This row of converted shop houses
would look quite at home in Britain despite the orange paint and the shutters
|The exotic – a tiny temple|
|Quirky Singapore – racks of fancy dress costumes in a back street|
Familiarities and difference aside, we’ve also noticed quite a few quirky things which make Singapore just a little different from the rest of the world, here are my top five in no particular order:
|Sweet & Sour Fish supper|
1. The number of eateries…yes that is what they call them not “restaurants” or “cafes”. It’s a broad term covering everything from posh hotel establishments to familiar chain burger places, from hawker centres to hot chestnut stalls and local restaurants. It seems most of Singapore eats out most of the time; there is always food available whether you fancy a bite to eat after a night at the pub or some breakfast on the way to work. I am sure if you were to wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning hungry there will be somewhere not far away open. In fact at almost every event or place we’ve visited there is invariably food on offer and people eating!
2 Hunting for change for parking is not something you ever need to do in Singapore. Every car has an IU on the dashboard and you purchase rechargeable cash card to slot in it. The unit is read by the entry barrier to car park and then on exit it deducts the right amount from your cash card. This is actually the secondary purpose of an IU, it was introduced to pay tolls on entering the ERP zones (electronic road pricing aka congestion charges) – expressways and the city centre. In practise the tolls don’t reduce the number of cars, car taxation does that, meanwhile every off-street carpark has adopted the system even our own apartment block, not that they charge us, the IU simply enables them to identify resident’s cars, opening the barriers (the main gate and the car park) automatically to allow access.
|Spot the foam “snow” – Gardens by the Bay|
3 All the shop assistants here really mean it when they say “Merry Christmas”, “Good morning”, or as one person wished me recently “Have a really nice day”. Most genuinely want to engage their customer in conversation even in the bigger, busier stores so expect to take time over your purchases. The Red Dot is a very friendly place.
4 Almost everyone young or old will be consulting their phone at the bus stop. There are a plethora of routes, frequent services and a choice of excellent phone apps to help you plan your route, inform you when the next 970 bus will arrive and even where to find the nearest bus stop with buses heading in your direction. Boards at the stop too are clear to understand – red labelled bus routes have disabled friendly buses for example – and every bus stop has both a name and a number so is easy to identify. But buses here can also either be late or early despite what your phone says. I know, I have waited 10 mins for a bus the app tells me has ARR (arrived) and missed a bus the app said was four minutes away; bus services here are then just as anywhere else in the world but shhhh don’t tell the Singaporeans that!
5 Parking backwards why? Everybody but everybody except for the odd European expat reverses into the parking space – quick getaway perhaps?
|Parking backwards seems to be a national obsession|
|Spot the odd one out – Valley Park visitors|
That’s it my top five quirky things in Singapore I’m sure there’s lots more and that other expats will almost certainly have a different list! For now can we wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Fair Winds for 2015.
|“Trees” – Gardens by the Bay|