You’ve just entered a country with four national languages and a hella ton of love for our plant friends. It’s also super expensive!
Wait, are we in Switzerland? No, it’s Singapore.
I’ve been strolling around this wonderful city-state for the last few days with a lot of wonder and awe. I am without my other half for the moment, but Rio will be joining me here next weekend for some fun. Luckily Whatsapp keeps us connected and we Skype every day. There are three things that immediately jump out: the mix of language and people, green spaces galore, and the cost of living $$$.
First off, the slight culture shock of seeing tons of white people once again. As I walked down the terminal my eyes were popped open as I spotted hordes of my own skin color once again taking up space. In Jakarta, a foreigner is like a lone entity. There are a few Australians, Americans, Arabs, and others but they are few and far between. Sometimes I feel like I’m talking around with a big huge target on my back in Jakarta because I stand out immediately. I am taller, fatter, and whiter than most of the people in any given general vicinity when I am in Indonesia. While in Singapore however, the only reign I continue is being the biggest person on the block (go team U.S.A.!).
The people are what make Singapore so interesting and rich in culture and heritage. By the time I left the airport I’d heard 4 identifiable languages and tons I couldn’t make out. The city has definitely been experiencing incredible growth in population and diversity. With 5.6 million people, it is estimated that 1.32 million were foreign workers in 2014.
While my current home Jakarta does offer more and more green spaces, the city still leaves a lot to be desired. Not here in Singapore! I don’t believe there’s been a single landscape shot I’ve taken here that didn’t include some plants. The airport alone set the tone of the relationship between the city and green space. There are a bunch of gardens generously sprinkled throughout the airport. I saw the most splendid set of orchids, watched Koi fish swim peacefully, and plenty of art installations while I recharged my electronics and helped my friend figure out how to use Roll20.net for a possible DnD campaign. I kept feeling like I’d stepped into some ridiculous botanical garden that just happened to also function as an airport terminal.
There were also leg massage chairs all throughout the airport. They were always filled up, then I finally found one empty and realized they were completely free. As I enjoyed my massage, a woman sat down next to me making polite conversation. We chatted over broken English as she explained I could get to Butan and she could give me a great vacation package for just $250. I politely exited the conversation, and eventually the airport. With a U.S. passport, you can enter the country for up to 90 days without a visa. Woot woot!
While there’s a generous amount of green space and people, the city-state is facing continuous increases in cost of living. It’s discouraging to many of the people who have been continuously living here long term. Sure there are advances in technology and industries are attracting world class talent, but at what cost?
All in all, Singapore is a lovely place, but the costs are high. It’s a tightly regulated and efficiently running eco-system with condos and apartment complexes being raised every which way. There is a slight possibility that I may join its ranks as one of the many expats if Rio lands the gig he’s currently interviewing for, so I’m tending to look around with a studious eye. We’ll see what the future holds.
In the meantime, all my complaining about Jakarta has given me pause. Dead fish and rats in the kitchen aren’t that fun. But if we move to Singapore, no longer will I be able to find cheap food for less than a dollar or listen to the security guards playing their instruments at 2 in the morning while they entertain themselves during the night shift. While I don’t appreciate the noise, I honestly love the laid back and relaxed nature of Jakarta. Why just last week I watched the police cart away the stools and benches that groups of men used on Friday nights to sit around on our street. The local vendors watched the police with a weird grin, I suppose knowing it was bound to happen eventually, and then they just went about making new benches. That night the regular street crowd still showed up, squatting and enjoying each others company just the same! Nobody was mad about the lack of benches, the same way nobody stresses inside buses during a traffic jam. People just don’t take life that seriously there. It is always “santai” in the streets of Indonesia!