On being an expat in Singapore
I attended a photography exhibition event last night held by some of my previous colleagues. It was a night of flowing drinks, great pictures and interesting catch-up conversations. While I was rubbing shoulders with these people, I noticed two very interesting things that kept occurring.
The first was the popular photograph choices. Everyone I spoke to seemed to be gravitating towards the ones that display Singapore’s more ‘ghetto’ and charmingly annoying quirks. The hawker center uncles, the fish market bossy lady, the minuscule grandma pushing a grocery shopping trolley across the road. These were charming, not because of the images itself purely, I think, but because it represented a stark contrast to what we’re used to seeing. It kicks the glossy, pretentious Singapore image in the ass.
The second was the comments made while discussing these photos. More than once I found myself sipping my cold beer and bantering over a picture with expat guys. One guy, Chris, says that he wants the fish market picture because it’s what he wants to remember Singapore as when he leaves the country. Not the towering, impending concrete jungle, but the small things you see during a Sunday walk. Another guy tells me he’s definitely getting the trolley grandma photo because it’s an image so quirky, he’d love to bring it back home to display so his less traveled friends could ooh and ahh over his scintillating Asian living experience.
I started noticing how the majority of these guys were telling me, albeit subtly, that they plan to leave Singapore in the next few years. These pictures were going to be memorabilias from a place they once called home, even though not so fondly. Which brings me to my useless banter of the day - how Singapore is such a transitory country.
To many expats, Singapore is a mistress. It’s glamorous, it’s flashy, it can boost your status, it’s fast-paced, its something you can brag about later in life. But no one wants to take Singapore by the hand and whisper it sweet nothings, let alone settle down and commit to it for life. No, siree. After three or four major Facebook album pictures of the observations of life here, we begin to grow lethargic. When all that’s new has been discovered so easily, it no longer leaves an air of mystery. A mistress only thrives when mystery and excitement exist - without it, she starts to leave a bitter taste. One starts painfully longing for the comforts of home, or even the thrill of new and better mistresses to meet. For countries that seem to promise a long term commitment, one you can really fall in love with.
There really isn’t a point to all this - except to let out my thoughts to words. But as a expat female living in Singapore myself, I’ve surprised myself for enduring this mistress for so long. The only things that keeps me going is the fact that I’ve got my eyes set on some I can perhaps settle down with. And that being here is a stepping stone for me to finally end up there. :)