The story of a Dutch Ang Moh in Singapore
Discovering new cultures is a valuable experience as there are so many things we can learn from it. After moving from the Netherlands to Singapore earlier this year, I have been exploring the Singaporean culture and I would love to share with you some insights on how this process has been evolving for me, and several things I’ve encountered during my first few months as an ‘Ang Moh’ here in Singapore! After all, Singapore is a great place to live and from time to time it is good to realize and cherish that! After surviving my first six months, I will probably continue to explore the local culture and maybe even pick up some Singlish lah!
Okay… where to start? The difference between the Dutch cuisine and the Singaporean food culture is HUGE. The traditional Dutch food routine starts off with sandwiches for both breakfast and lunch, and by the end of the day we come home to a hot dish of potatoes, boiled vegetables, and either a meat or fish item: day after day… Having a one-hour lunch break over here, as compared to the 30 minutes I was used to back in the Netherlands means I can now actually enjoy my food and the company of colleagues! You can imagine how my food loving brain reacted when it first saw the many hawker stall choices and the amount of restaurants across the city. Side note: although my love for food is cheering like crazy, my mirror reflection keeps telling me to take it easy.
Although many locals have told me before that they would love to experience the different seasons throughout the year, to me, the Singaporean weather is just perfect. Of course it can be quite hot sometimes and the start of a heavy rain storm once you are walking to the MRT doesn’t make me feel like dancing in the rain (I still forget to take an umbrella – one of the signs I am not totally integrated to the Singaporean life yet). However, the warm temperatures allow you to step out of the house easily. In the Netherlands, we are always stuck in our houses due to the cold temperatures and believe me, snow looks very pretty if you are nestled on the couch with a blanket and a hot chocolate. But once you have to go to work or meet up with friends, you won’t find it that pretty anymore! Besides the Dutch wet and cold winter months, there is a summer period as well. Once the temperatures hit tropical temperatures, all beaches are overcrowded as everyone wants to take full advantage of the few summer days we have (average of only 20 days above 30 degrees Celsius per year!).
Although the MRT network in Singapore is super-efficient and will take you wherever you want to go across the island, I desperately miss my bike. In the Netherlands there are dedicated bike lines in every street and majority of the society commutes by bicycle. Greatest thing, it is actually a perfect workout as well, so there’s no need to go for a run after you’ve biked home from work. Besides these practical advantages, the most memorable party moments for me were definitely the rides back home from the club, on a bike. YES, Dutch people actually go drinking for a whole night and then go home by bike. I don’t think I need to mention it, but you can probably imagine that a high percentage of the Dutch population has some sort of scars due to our epic post-party biking.
The way Singaporeans love their malls, is a kind of passion I cannot explain to my friends back in the Netherlands. The national appreciation of luxury products and true craftsmanship is something that is interesting to observe. Dress codes seem rather important over here and for business occasions – proper attire, whereas at most of the Dutch offices casual Friday has been extended to casual week. I definitely prefer it the Singaporean way, it is so nice to finally take out my heels and dresses again to feel like a true business woman: I LIKE!
As a Dutch person in Singapore, the question I get the most about my home country is what the official name is: Holland vs. The Netherlands? As the Singaporean culture has already learned me a lot, I am happy to end this personal blog post with a little video that will hopefully explain the situation to you (or perhaps make you more complicated): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eE_IUPInEuc
Until then, happy reading!
By Rebecca Aalbers