“Greetings Sir!” I say to an old Asian man as I walk passed him.
He looks at me as I pass with a face filled with confusion and a little alarm, then without missing a beat he continues to hobble away from me, muttering something I can only assume was “Get away from me immediately, monkey boy!”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you, I’m just practicing” I mumble, half turning away as the distance between us slowly lengthens with each of his nobbled steps.
‘Well I sure hope the people in Singapore are friendlier than that guy’ I think. Practicing talking to Asian people is proving way harder then I initially expected!
It’s not my fault that I’m just awful at understanding foreign accents.
You can ask my girlfriend, I have no idea why; I mean you’d think that given I was born in Hong Kong and lived there for about a decade I’d have some innate communication advantage passed along to me through cultural osmosis or something. But no, any hint of a foreign accent and I’m about as dexterous a conversationalist as Forest Gump. Oh the irony!
In the past this has proved somewhat annoying for me, yet hilarious for other people. About 18 months ago I was in Quebec City and spent roughly 10 minutes utterly perplexed at why an old French man kept trying to get me to move places on the bus stop bench, eventually I decided that he needed directions, and spent a further 15 minutes trying to direct him to a location on my map. As it actually turned out he was helpfully tying to explain that the bus I was waiting for no longer existed and the new bus stop was down the road. Ok my bad.
Right, so this may be a small problem given I’ve just agreed to move to Singapore. Hence my uncomfortable attempts to ‘practice’ a bit before I get there; a ‘helpful’ suggestion from my girlfriend.
Okay, okay I know Singapore’s the most ‘Western’ city in Asia and obviously I don’t need to learn Mandarin to get by, but hey, it is still Asia. So once again I’m quitting my job and heading away from the giant, brown flat bit of dirt we lovingly call Australia into the unchartered territory of distant foreign lands. Thur be Dragons!
So why am I moving to Singapore? Well it was more or less picked for me since my partner is there right now for work so the choice was really either become bachelor of the year, or move to Singapore (sorry ladies!). But why the hell not Singapore?! I can practice my ‘Singlish’, get the next iPhone one day before the rest of you plebs and I can learn to sweat like a champ. It’s also on 90% of flight itinerates, which will make future travel way easier (and cheaper) than living in Australia. In addition the food’s awesome and the melting pot of cultures should make for a genuinely interesting life experience. Also I hear they deliver McDonalds right to your door..
Don’t get we wrong, I love living in Perth, we have something pretty special going on here, and I’m proud of being Western Australian too. As much as we love to poke fun at our beautiful city for not being as trendy a Melbourne, as happening as New York, as cultured as Paris or as [insert a positive adjective + city here], we all understand how lucky we are to be living in arguably one of the worlds best cities.
Still moving to another country is an interesting experience and for me living overseas long term is certainly on the old bucket-list so I didn’t really have a good leg to stand on when it came to ignoring the weighty carrot now dangling in front of my eyes. It’s a new experience, and unless the island literally sank beneath the waves the second my feet hit the ground I knew that there was almost no way I could regret the decision.
Moving somewhere is really different to just visiting, it’s permanent. You need to think about things like, how to pay the rent (which in Singapore is more like ‘how to give somebody else all your money), making new friends, insurance, banks, where to buy beer, what’s the emergency number, foreign tax, etc.. etc.. the list of real life goes on.
So over the upcoming months I’ll be writing a number of posts around living in Asia as an expat and all that comes with it; the good, the bad, the ugly and everything in between (as well as, of course, my usual musings about travel) starting with the moving process and the quiet joys of plane travel, so stay tuned.
In the meantime bring on McDonalds delivery, paying $5 for taxis and more sweat than a fat man on a Stairmaster… Hello Singapore!