Thursday, August 16, 2012

My Journey of Reverse Culture Shock (or is it just regular Culture Shock?! I'm confused) part 1

Greetings from Singapore!

I've been here for a little over a month now and it has been a whirlwind of emotions. I am still playing tourist in the city/country that I grew up in and also my birthplace. It has changed so much since I left over a decade ago. 

Oh, little red dot. You have reinvented yourself. I don't recognize you anymore. 

The last time I visited was 2008 and even then, I was a foreigner in a place that was very much my home growing up. 

Some changes based on my observations:
1. The once deserted Marina Bay area is now a sprawling behemoth casino & shopping center known by residents as MBS a.k.a. Marina Bay Sands. 
2. Tanjong Pagar has become a mecca for working expats in the nearby financial area to get expense account dinner & drinks. The old shophouses are now turned into multiple trendy eateries, bars, spas, lounges. 
3. There are so many new condo buildings all around the island! The housing market in Singapore is robust and thriving. Rental rates are through the roof here (even more expensive than Manhattan!)
4. Lots of younger expats. I've noticed that there are a lot of foreigners working here that are around my age bracket. When I was growing up here, most of the expats were older and had families. Now there are quite a number of folks that come here are single, un-married, no children, and younger. 
5. New shopping malls crowd Orchard Road and they are also building up shopping centers in areas that were predominately residential neighborhoods. 

Will post more observations in my next post....

Culture Shock....or rather Reverse Culture Shock

The humidity and heat. I'm constantly sweating. Some days, it will rain and I feel grateful for that because its not as hot. Living in tropical weather has never been comfortable for me. My hair has sucked up all the humidity and moisture in the air resulting in flat, limp, greasy, and life-less hair.

I miss my easy-to-style hair. I like to curl my hair and in the States, I don't have to apply gobs of products to make the style stay put (with the exception of Summer in the East Coast). I have to apply lots of products here and it will still fall limp at the end of the day.

I talk and act differently but yet I look like everyone thus resulting in weird stares. I'm feeling the "hidden immigrant" role that everyone in the TCK world talks about. Back in New York, everyone is from all over and the society embraces the crazies. You have to really work hard to stand out. I stand out here because I talk and act differently but if I were walking on the street, you wouldn't peg me as different. When I open my mouth to talk or make a social faux pas, everyone stares. They are probably either thinking I'm a) an idiot or b) a snob for speaking and acting differently. *sigh*  I'm neither here nor there.  

Such is a confused TCK.

More to come....


  1. I also saw a lot more young expats arrive in Dubai during my time there. I think it's a general trend, particularly in cities like Singapore and Dubai with high expat populations. Whether it's driven by companies or just a boon to them, I'm not sure, but certainly younger expats are usually cheaper (no school fees) and because they have fewer commitments are often willing to work longer hours and travel more.

    Love the "hello stranger" photo! That says it all :)

    1. My strong suspicion lies on the fact that the younger expats traveled to find the work b/c their home country or country of residence (some could be TCKs - since we're such a growing trend) and ended up here in Singapore.

      I'd love to visit Dubai.

      The photo was taken at the SIngapore Arts Museum last month. That work is made by a local artist who predominately works in the genre of pop culture.

  2. I lived in Singapore when I was 12; that's almost 40 years ago! I went to visit where we lived and found 3 gigantic expat houses standing where our house once was. I knew Singapore had changed but it was far beyond what I could have imagined.
    I'm a Japanese TCK and I had the same feelings you had every time I went back to Japan. Feeling battered from the constant knocks around the globe, I shied away from reproachful stares.
    Big difference, though, was that I didn't have a support group of mad friends back then but you sound like you have an awesome circle of crazies! Just think what absolutely crazy stories you'll have for them when you get back to NYC!
    Enjoy all the bits of Singapore you LOVE and stare back at the ones who stare. They've never seen anything quite as crazy as you and you're probably scaring the pants off them!
    Would love to see your dance troop. Let me know if you're ever in London!

    1. Thankfully, the physical homes that I've lived in still exist today. I made my mother drive past the apartment building I spent my growing years in and it still looks the same, if not better since they repainted the entire building and made the gardens more colorful. Its crazy how much this country has changed.

      I'm not shying away from the stares, I get really annoyed and angry actually. Especially in situations that doesn't warrant incessant staring. If I catch them, I stare back and they stare at their feet.

      I'm a person that can make instant friends and will talk to anyone. I've always been this way since I could talk as a little toddler. The funniest memories are during family dinners out when I was merely a talkative child living in Indonesia. I would quickly finish my dinner, excuse myself from the table and let the grown-ups talk; I would wander the entire restaurant and made friends with the entire waitstaff! Never shy to strike up conversations with anyone - over the years, I've had to learn restraint and not try to strike up conversations with everyone. LOL. Living in New York is obviously not the place you want to strike up conversations with just anyone especially in the subway. hahaha.....

      I hope I make it over to Europe to teach workshops and perform "Chameleon, the Experiences of Global Citizens" there in the near future. Its definitely on my list.