Dear Singapore: Happy B’day! And 9 Things I Love About You

sg flagSo Singapore baby turning 48 huh?! Two years away from the big five-oh! Well salutations my love you’ve never looked better.

Oh Singaporeland you are home, and I know you better than any place in the world. Moving away from you has, as it always does, given my glasses a sweet rosy tint. Like bandung.  You are a little red dot and technically you are an island-state but to me you will always be a city. My City. And I adore you… Here are the top 9 things I love about you darling. Enjoy the party tomorrow. I miss you!

1.  I love the way you eat

Can you tell for real I’m Singaporean now? I love my food. I love how you, as a nation love it too. I love how passionate you are about it. I love that you take photos of every meal as soon as the food arrives, and instagram plus filter without apology. I love how you TALK about food, good food, Faaaaaaamous chicken rice and faaaaaaaamous bak kut teh (stewed pork in garlicky peppery broth). But I also love the variety of cuisines and price points. From $3 mee sua (BK EATING HOUSE ON CIRCULAR RD – I WILL INHALE YOU UPON MY RETURN) to $300++ degustation at Pollen to a $15 green curry and prawn toast at Thai Express. Any price, any cuisine. It is so hard to have a bad meal in Singapore. And your drinks! I love your caramel-coloured teh tarik (sweet, milky tea) and your jet fuel-like kopi gao (sweet, lethal coffee) and your indulgent calorific Iced Milo Dinosaur. You make my mouth water and my stomach rumble and you make other bits of me stir and need some time alone. I want to Eat. You. Up.

2. I love the way you queue

Put a bunch of Singaporeans together and we WILL form a queue. The queue is not to be defied. (I suspect this is a gift from our olden times Colonial British gah-men). If you wanna see placid, non-confrontational Singaporeans lose their shit, simply attempt to cut the queue. You will feel the wrath. “Eh hallo, scuse me! Got Q one you know!” Non-Singaporeans are expected to respect the sacred queueing system. No exceptions! Take a number and wait for your Hello Kitty Freebie like the rest of us!

3. I love how you look in the moonlight

Whenever I look out at the sky between 7 and 7:30pm. My breath catches in my throat. That blue light – a curious hue of frosty Nordic eyes – and that sweet evening breeze. As Tom Cruise said to Thandie Newton in Mission Impossible 2: “Goddamn you’re beautiful.”

4. I love the music you make

Local artistes are at such an exciting time – I wonder if they know it. The quality and quantity of home-grown talent right now is just off the chart. And all genres! From rock bands like Lunarin & Caracal to hip hoppers like Bonafide, Shigga Shay and Lion City Boy Kevin Lester. Jazz artists like Alemay Fernandez, Nathan Hartono, Chok Kerong, Michaela Therese. And electronica honchos Cherry Chan, Van Detta and KFC.  I don’t confess to be an expert but I friggin DIG all these dudes. And just 10 years ago there’s no way I would’ve been able to name this many local acts I enjoy. People keep doing what you do. We are SO PROUD OF YOU.  You have no idea.

5. I love the way you talk

Wah lau eh, Singlish is damn awesome can?! There is no better patois for expressing annoyance. Singlish turns complaining into an art form. The dragged-out, nasal vowels (Aiyoooooooooo), the economy of grammar (Can or not? Cannot, just say!), and the complex, intricate list of suffixes (suffices?) ah, lor, leh, meh, mah, and the sacred, brilliant mother of all Singlish words;  the divine “lah”. Baffling in its syntax. Much more specific that it would have you think. (No, people, you don’t add it to every sentence. It’s ridiculous and you sound like an idiot.) This parochial patois is the greatest exultation of our multikulti meltingpotness. And it’s our unifying force.  “When are you going to lose your Singaporean accent?” My friends in my new adopted home asked me. “Never,” I replied.  HMPH!

#epicfail  Pic credit:

Pic credit:

6. I love when your English is an #epicfail

OK awesome as Singlish is, there is a fine line between GOOD SINGLISH and BAD ENGLISH. Admittedly it is a privileged few who tread this line well. We flip easily between English and Singlish, carefully discerning which situation calls for which. It’s mostly the middle-class jiak kantang (literally eat potato, meaning ‘westernised’) among us. Please forgive us for teasing Singapore. But I love when you blur the lines of English and Singlish and get it completely wrong because it is hilarious. You make your most spectacular cock-ups in the workplace where you use unnecessarily convoluted words when simple ones will do. Must we liaise regarding the matter forthwith? Can’t you just tell me? Why are you awaiting my soonest reversion? Pls stop it. Oh  Singapore, sometimes you mangle turns of phrase rendering them unrecogniseable. “Kindly double confirm receipt of the attached for your easy perusal at your earliest convenience.”

7. I love how safe you make me feel

Jokes aside Singapore baby. There’s nowhere I feel as at ease as in your loving arms. Leave the house wearing glorified underwear? No problem. Walk home after drinks alone? Don’t sweat it. Leave your bag at the table while you order? It’ll be there when you get back. Even the red light districts are safe enough to bring your mum. (And you might, for the awesome beef noodles on Lorong 26). Singaporeans  are the worst at taking this one for granted – because we don’t know any different. But this level of never having to think twice about where my wallet is; how am i getting home; will i be harassed – this is a gift. Singapore you make me feel so protected….

Artist unknown pls contact me if u are the artist so I can credit this pic

Artist unknown pls contact me if u are the artist so I can credit this pic

8.  I love your exotic racial mix

I may be pushing the personification a little, but you have one helluva sexy mix my friend. All those races, in a melting pot, it’s what’s created your national identity, that diversity, and may I please say – you do diverse really well. You actually have groups of various ethnicities and religions who pretty much mind their own business and get on with it. Now I know there are bigots, and I don’t discount the close-minded among your (our) people…. But it just takes one look at how other countries simply do not get the meaning of racial & religious integration (banning Christmas songs is not the way, seriously!). Our Benetton ad population is one of my favourite things. I’m still not used to walking into a restaurant where everyone is the same colour. I know that you ain’t perfect at this racial harmony thing, Singaland, but I think you’ve done a fine job, especially considering your young age. I am so proud of our multikulti-ness.

9. I love watching you grow up

I see your people, my people, second-generation Singaporeans questioning, challenging, toppling the status quo. Telling the nannies of our nanny-state that all this nannying is not on. Telling them with your votes. I see you changing, my dearest, and it is beautiful. You are maturing, growing, blossoming into a better version of yourself. I watch you like a proud parent and I watch you an awe-struck child.

Singapore,  You’re pretty awesome my island home. And no matter where I go or how far I roam, you’ll always be home. Truly. Surely.

Enjoy the party tomorrow, I miss you.


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