Long Read: The Diversity of Singapore

If someone were to ask me what my single favorite element of Singapore was, I’d probably tell them of the immense diversity the city-state has: in its food (most of it is Peranakan, aka Chinese x Malaysian, but most kopitiams[1] have a variety of Asian cuisines and maybe one Western stall), its national holidays, the variety of random things to do[2], its environment[3], and its languages spoken[4].

Well, dangit, this was originally going to be a full-blown post about the national holidays in Singapore, but I typed out all the footnotes, decided that I didn’t want to delete any of them, and then also didn’t want to burden my blog readers with /too/ long a post (though if you dislike maximalism in writing then this blog is defs not for you). So. I’mma end this here.

[1] Food courts; literally translated from Malaysian as “coffee shops,” though they’re more like low-end coffee shops run by aunties (what locals call older female service workers here, plus uncle if male, but not to be used in more formal or polite settings) where you can get soft-boiled (like, liquid) eggs and toast with kaya (coconut jam) and butter for SGD$2.30 (<US$2).

[2] Singapore’s a city, so evidently it’s going to have a lot of events going on in addition to local hobbies like hiking and karaoke, but have you ever heard of prawning, where you try to catch shrimp indoors? How about escape games, where you’re locked in a room and given an hour to solve riddles with your friends to “break out”? Or cat cafés, which is kinda just like paying to go to my future self’s living room, but still worth trying once? There’s also board game cafés, time cafés with freeflow snacks and games where you pay by the hour, a small but happening tabletop gaming (and gaming-events) scene if you know how to look online and don’t mind playing with strangers, gaming/cyber-cafés as is ubiquitous across Asia. The only problem is that all of these (except the hiking) cost a significant amount of money.

[3]  I’ve been to a small organic frog farm among a cluster of farms, the rushed heart of the Central Business District, parts of it where it’s incredibly suburban, parts that seemed a tangled tropical wilderness, and old ports where the shore meets the ocean. I hear thunder more than I see rain, and I miss the cold pattering of heavy raindrops in California as opposed to the soft, warm torrents of Singapore. Most of all I miss stars.

[4] Singapore, despite being Asian by a vast majority, is one of the more heterogeneous places I’ve been to, and its languages showcase that. In addition to the 4 official languages of English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil (very few people know all four, though generally speaking, most are bilingual), many of the students I’ve met immigrated from other countries during secondary school or even university on scholarship to study in Singapore (Korea, China, Vietnam, Indonesia…), which adds to the number of languages known by a significant portion of the population. And because it’s an economically-prosperous English-speaking Asian city, its population of 4 million people also see 7 million tourists a year–obviously per year as opposed to everyday permanent residents, but nonetheless.

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