The Culture Shock When I Moved To Singapore 10 Years Ago


I was a fairly simple-minded person before I moved to Singapore, just because Ipoh was such a small town that nothing much was happening, and we lacked access to information. I felt like I just came out from a small kampung (village in Malay) when I moved to Singapore, a first-world cosmopolitan city.

1. There is no dialects on screens or radio channels. My favorite Hong Kong dramas were no longer my cup of tea! There are just so many things lost in translation when the shows are aired in Mandarin version. I should praise Malaysia for keeping some sorts of diverse cultures here. Those Taiwanese dramas too. Oh! I forgot to mention Doraemon in Malaysia is aired in Malay version (and all other cartoons too, I actually thought they were originally Malay shows). These cartoons are in English here.

2. There are kissing and make up scenes on screen here! In Malaysia TV shows we hardly see any kissing scenes, maybe at most a quick smooch of 1-2 seconds. Anything beyond would be chopped, very abruptly. You would see two actors moving in closer and then suddenly it’s cut, you just see these two actors bounce back from each other, and the background music continues off track. Including those movies in Cinemas! They are all chopped, if not banned.

3. Even songs could be cut or banned in Malaysia. I was recently in Malaysia and radio was airing the song, “That’s What I Like” by Bruno Mars. I wondered why did the chorus sound so strange, then I listened closely and noticed the song was cut and pieced together for the chorus, to replaced the more obscene lyrics: Sex by the fire at night replaced by the same first line of chorus: Gold jewelry shining so bright. No sex babe, no! The number one hit song Despacito is banned in Malaysia.

4. Guys hang out in tank tops and slippers in Singapore. They walk around neighborhood / shopping malls / lecture halls / everywhere else requires no dress code in this mode. I don’t remember seeing Malaysian guys do that often though, we cover up! However I shall give credits to Singaporean guys here, somehow in general they look fitter to me and when they do dress up, they look like they know fashion. Whereas some Malaysian boys either look like malnutrition or triple my size, or still with a yet-to-grow-up kid look. (no offense! why are you so serious?😆)

5. Speaking about the guys, I must mention, I had never seen a guy wearing hairband until I moved to Singapore.

6. Ang-Mohs!! (Hokkien dialect, means Caucasians) I hardly saw any westerners in my hometown but here they look like they own this place. I met different types of people coming from various backgrounds all over the world, I already felt intimated to talk to Singaporeans by then, less the fuss to talk to ang-mohs. I was mute with my Malaysia A1-grade English in this country.

7. They add ketchup or chili sauce in all dry noodles here. It tastes so weird! I must say, except for chicken rice, Malaysian hawker food is so much better. (Gentle reminder that Ipoh is famous for delicious food!)

8. People are rich here. No one would use any imitated brands / no-brands items here. You would see OLs (office ladies) going to work with their LV bag, Chanel purse, Ferragamo shoes and playing iPhone on a MRT train. I remember volunteering at a charity organization for under-privileged children when I started working. Materialistically speaking, I look more like under-privileged compared to them; they all in branded sport shoes with smart phones and talked about all the high-tech stuff that I didn’t even know existed.

9. Even the dogs and cats are rich here. Hardly any stray dogs or cats, the others visit salons regularly and look like big fur-balls. Their owners would walk their dogs in parks and play with them, hardly a scene like this in Ipoh. I did not know any branded dog breeds and till now I could still hardly name a few.

10. Yes, the city is rich and happening. Every weekend there is some sort of social / sports / art / musical events, all the buildings / infrastructures here are neat and new. I was blown away and until today I’m still very fascinated. Look at the contrast of my school bus and the fully aircon public transport here, you’ll know why.

Now that the shock was over and I’m blending into local culture here, I’m glad that I experienced those. It helps me to understand things in different perspectives and appreciate more in life; let us not take things for granted. Be grateful, always 😇

My school bus was like this, you can still spot them these days on the road. (photo credit: School Bus Rental Service Malaysia)

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