Singaporean SHARAN KAUR shares her views of living in England and the British quirks she has now become accustomed to!
You would think moving from Singapore to Blighty shouldn’t have to be too much of a culture shock – right? After all, we are taught the Queen’s English in school. I was very wrong! You only realise how Americanised Singapore has become after living in England. And it doesn’t help with us having our own twist on English known as Singlish.
I needed to educate myself. Thankfully, my English husband helped me with this – or laughed at me whenever it suited him. The latter was frequent. It’s been seven years now, and I am starting to look less like a fool as I endeavour to master the art of deciphering British quirks.
I was only into my first week when my husband suggested ordering a Chinese takeaway. “Shall we get a Singapore noodle?” he said. “I’m sure you’re missing that.” With my eyes like saucers and brows almost merging with my hairline, I asked, “What on earth is a Singapore noodle?” It turned out to be rice noodles cooked with curry powder. I had to convince him that there was nothing Singaporean about these noodles – just like the British take on chicken tikka masala. I added that he must never attempt to order this in Singapore as it doesn’t exist!
Why is a Jaffa Cake called a cake? It is a biscuit, for god’s sake! (Really delicious, I should add.) And Yorkshire pudding? It isn’t a pudding. I was looking forward to trying a sweet delicacy from Yorkshire after a Sunday roast, but instead it came with the roast. I felt very misled.
Brits seem to find any excuse to have a cup of tea. The kettle is on as soon as you walk through your front door. If someone wants to have a chat: “I’ll put the kettle on!” If you’ve had a bad day: “I’ll get us a cuppa – that’ll make you feel better!” Tea is the go-to, and it certainly seems to make a daunting situation manageable. I cannot dispute that.
The miserable weather is always a topic of discussion. It’s something that unifies the English and can be a real icebreaker among strangers. The weather takes up a good three minutes of airtime on the news; in Singapore, because the weather is identical every day, it’s just a quick list of other countries and their temperatures. The weather is a hit with my in-laws. The volume gets turned up when it’s on, and anyone who speaks gets shushed.
Speaking of weather, what I find most amazing are the scantily clad women tottering in impossibly high heels on cobblestone paths from pub to pub in Arctic temperatures. For some, the copious quantities of alcohol help to keep the teeth-chattering at bay, though for others that can also provide for a very undignified ending to the night, sprawled on the ground and leaving nothing to the imagination.
I would not trade my bewildering experiences for anything else at this moment. These varied perspectives might leave me scratching my head sometimes, but they definitely put a smile on my face.
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This article first appeared in the October 2019 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase a copy or subscribe so you never miss an issue!