By: Geeta Colaco
For a long time, many moons ago, not many travelled – or not much, at least. Or they travelled only for work, took a few scenic pictures, got their feet wet and went back home. Home was constant. Travel was incidental.
Then came the traveller; not the one who hikes quietly in mountains, but the larger-than-life “must take a picture with every sculpture in Madame Tussauds” kind of traveller. The one that made trips intensely and frequently.
And then came the rise of a new creature – the Expat Creature. This creature is from somewhere permanent, but hasn’t lived there in so long that home is now a vacation spot. They are up-rooted and re-rooted ever so often for an indefinite period of time. It’s almost like a new state has emerged that has no distinct location yet is identifiable in its characteristics.
And so this Expat Creature moves to Singapore, from wherever, and develops a new band of “settling in” tactics. Undoubtedly, if this is you, the following thoughts would have crossed your mind at some point.
– Just a flight away, I was two dress sizes smaller. And the number of stores that carry the upsize seems to have shrunk. Everyone here is clearly eating all day and never moving from XS. I don’t need a dietician; I need a shrink.
– Speaking of shrink, everything else from real estate to parking lots seems to have shrunk. Is that really a bedroom? Will a bed and a person fit in it?
– Next comes the hair – beach hair at its best. But you aren’t at the beach. So you try a blow dry, and then it goes back to beach hair. Then you try products and – whoa! – they help and you feel pleased again. Then it rains; and the short run from the car into your destination brings the beach hair right back.
– What has happened to the price of cereal? How can chicken porridge be cheaper than cereal? Is wheat in short supply?
– And, really: wine! The second coming needs to be advanced – someone needs to turn water into wine, and quickly. Ah well, where can I find the schedule of champagne brunches everyone’s talking about?
– Is Singlish a language? Has “can” moved from being an auxiliary verb to being a whole sentence? Why is it if I have more words, I’m less understood? I have to practise saying “Tonguelin Mall”.
– Does nobody get my humour?
– Isn’t the knife missing from the cutlery in the food court?
– Why can’t I return stuff for cash back?
– So I either live in a home, or drive a car, it seems… that decision was made faster than I thought.
– I went to check out some of the international schools. Found one that’s simply perfect for my six-year-old. Yay! The waitlist is four years long; my contract runs out in two. Many decisions are being taken faster than I thought.
– Balinese teak is clearly the new Ikea.
– So when the back of a box says “store in a cool, dry place” it means the refrigerator!
– Singapore does have a winter: in cinemas and conference rooms.
– What is hand, foot and mouth disease? Why do bugs sound so much scarier here?
– There is a world as fluid as mine is – from support groups to shopping – it exists “online”. Ah well, I think I do too.