DukeEngage Independent Project, 2017, Singapore
Living in Singapore for four weeks now has opened my eyes to the similarities and differences between this culture and my own. In this blog post, I would like to share some photos that highlight the remarkable parts of Singapore that may be unique or different from my own culture as well as some of the exciting experiences I’ve had.
Egg tarts are one of the most common and most popular desserts in Singapore. They are very very tasty but be careful not to eat too many– although they may seem healthier because they’re contain lots of eggs, they are still desserts so don’t be fooled!
Public transportation in Singapore is extremely reliable and widespread. In fact, most people do not own a car and rely solely on public transportation including the MRT (subway), buses, and taxis. One of the reasons why many people do not own cars is because they are extremely expensive here! You must first buy permission to own a car, and then must buy the car itself. Once the car dies or 10 years pass, you can no longer own the car and you must repeat the process all over again, starting from re-purchasing permission! Since Singapore is very crowded, the price of acquiring a car is made to be so high and public transportation is so efficient and attractive that it discourages many people from buying cars, preventing congested and noisy roads. This picture shows the escalator down into one of the MRT stations, which are below ground. It gets very busy around rush hours so people make sure to pack themselves in the MRT trains as tightly as possible!
Don’t be put off by this picture of a squatting toilet! Bathrooms in Singapore are actually quite different from those in the US, and are very interesting! While squatting toilets may be the minority in Singapore, most bathrooms do not provide individual toilet paper dispensers in each stall. Instead, there are communal toilet paper dispensers at the door of each bathroom and you must remember to grab some on your way in. I can tell you from personal experience that forgetting to grab the toilet paper is not a pleasant experience! However, you are quite in luck if you encounter a bathroom with communal toilet paper dispensers because some bathrooms do not provide toilet paper at all! Therefore, people usually carry around a pack of tissues with them at all times.
A vending machine for loaves of bread. Need I say any more…?! 😀
This picture shows the living style of local Singaporeans. A while ago when Singapore was becoming increasingly crowded, the government had the foundational idea of building up instead of out so massive apartment complexes like this one started popping up, and now can be found all around the city. Since the cost of living is so high, it is rare to own a townhouse, let alone a stand alone house. You can also see the family laundry hanging on sticks coming out of the windows. I thought that was pretty neat and inventive.
Durian!! The dreaded fruit. You either love it or you hate it. Inside, it is yellow and extremely pungent– so much so that you are not allowed to bring it into the MRT (subway). I have tried a durian popsicle and a durian puff and must conclude that although the puff was bearable and better than the popsicle, it is not something I would like to eat everyday. 🙂
This picture tells the story of the time I was tricked into eating frog porridge. 😀 Don’t worry, it was all in good humor and it tasted good! Let me back up a few steps. My friends (pictured above) took me to this “chicken and fish” restaurant. SY (R) spoke to the waiter in Chinese, ordering the food. First, the fish came out. They told me it was Stingray and it tasted amazing! Then two large pots came out (pictured above). “What is this?” I asked. “It’s a really small Chinese chicken! Try it! It’s good!” SY said. So I started eating it and indeed, it tasted like chicken! But I still didn’t completely believe that it was chicken because it really didn’t look like chicken. So I asked again, “Are you sure this is chicken?” Another international student sitting at the table started jokingly teasing me that it was frog, not chicken, to try to freak me out even though he too believed it was chicken. After a lot more of this back and forth and SY insisting that it was chicken, SY eventually said… “Ok! It’s frog.” and proceeded to laugh extremely hard. Needless to say, the look of bewilderment on the other international student’s face was priceless when he said, “Wait. I was joking. I thought it was chicken.” 😀 Trickery aside, I was really glad that my friends helped introduce me to this new food and integral part of Singaporean culture.
Here I am in the Marina Bay area, one of the more touristy and iconic areas in Singapore. Behind me on the right is the Merlion: Singapore’s mascot. It is half-lion, half-fish and represents both Singapore’s original name “Singapura” aka “lion city” as well as Singapore’s origin as a fishing village (read more on wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merlion). On the left in the distance you can see another icon of Singapore– the Marina Bay Sands: a very expensive hotel that has a boat-like patio on top with a reflecting pool, club, and an amazing view.
My friends (local and international) eating a traditional dim sum dinner. In Singapore, the majority of the tables are round because eating is a time for people to come together and enjoy each other’s company. There is also a rotating mini-table in the middle of the larger table because dishes are typically shared between the table. This communal aspect to meals makes them super fun!