I’m an Aussie to my fingertips, and I really can’t imagine ever being anything else. My only overseas trip was to the States many years ago with family, which doesn’t really count because their culture is essentially the same as ours (only with more lawyers). So it was with great trepidation that I boarded a plane in November for my first visit to another culture – the island city of Singapore.
I’ll admit, it’s not somewhere I ever thought I’d go. Before a few years ago, Singapore did not loom very large in my perceptions of the Family of Nations. I knew very little about it, other than it was a Commonwealth country and Australians were fighting to defend it when it fell to the Japanese in the second Great War (no, I won’t go into detail about the war. If I do, we’ll be here all day).
When I landed, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. On the one side I had my beautiful girlfriend telling me about her home, and on the other I had my fellow Australians’ stories about their experiences as tourists, and the stories didn’t quite seem to gel. I was getting two very different pictures of the island city – and suprisingly, they were both accurate.
With a foot on both sides of the fence, a very interesting picture can be painted. On the one hand, there’s the Singapore the tourists get to see. Beautiful gardens, bright lights, advanced technology; a city that is more Western than Asian, but with just enough Oriental flavouring that visitors can’t help but feel it’s unique. On the other hand, there’s the real Singapore. Dirtier, harsher, but also much more honest. The Singapore where people can quite literally work themselves to death, where the people are distrustful of strangers, and where the class divide is absolutely enormous.
Don’t get me wrong. Singapore is a beautiful city, and I think it’s a very good sign that it is possible for East and West to co-exist in relative harmony. Every city has it’s bad points though, and Singapore goes the extra few yards to try and hide them. As a country they’re in a precarious position, so it’s understandable they’d take any opportunity to present themselves better to the world.
I don’t think I will EVER get used to calling people Aunty and Uncle though. That’s just TOO bizarre.