Germany – Only The Usual Stereotypes
I don’t remember having any expectations when I moved from Singapore to Germany to be with my partner. No expectations other than the usual stereotypes that non-Germans have about the country and its people – polite and efficient. And well, the cars. (The West And Asia – Racism And Sauerkraut)
I was excited about the change. It’s something every young Singaporean dreams about. Ask if they would like to live abroad and you’ll be sure to get a slight rolling of eyes, a sort of huffy impatience, and, a “duh” in response. It seems none of us can wait to leave. I was glad for the chance and I was looking forward to living our life out in Europe, far from the reaches of my mother’s apron strings (oh, but don’t they just go on and on). Far, also, from the stares my partner and I – we’re a mixed couple – receive when we walk down the street.
Looking Behind The Curtain
The first few months in Germany were alright. There’s always a foggy period in between arriving at your destination and seeing a place for what it is. The average tourist doesn’t linger long enough to get over that initial bit when you mostly have your head stuck behind a camera/guidebook/map. Blinded too much by the strangeness of it all to really look. It took me some time to get over the new environment: old European architecture, the cobblestone streets, the pastries (which accounted for a ten percent increase in my weight until I banned myself from visiting the neighborhood bakery).
“Germans Are As Kiasu As Singaporeans”
Then, somewhere between the constant drizzle and my forlorn search for a good Asian restaurant, I lost my rose-coloured glasses (an aside: apparently when asked what overseas Singaporeans miss most about their country, literally everybody cries, “Food!” and then starts to go on about chicken rice and bak chor mee). Anyway. I was out buying bread, waiting for my turn at the counter when I realized that several Hausfrauen behind me were pushing in and trying to get in front of me at the queue. They practically had their noses in my hair. Bloody hell, I thought, these people are kiasu. And they are. Germans are as kiasu as any auntie in Singapore. They are the ones standing first in line two hours before a budget airline is due to board. They are the ones who will sneak in if you leave just an inch between your body and the person in front. Same with public transport. I always have to fight to get off the tram (I am quite small for these parts) because once the doors open, everyone just barges right in. Sound familiar, anybody? (Asia And The West – The Image We Leave Behind)
Have You Ever Eaten Dog?
After a while, I found all this pretty funny. Particularly because these minor irritations faded in comparison with other things. Things like being constantly stared at (so much for leaving that behind in Singapore). The absolute lack of good service – locals call it the “service desert”. Unabashed racist treatment I got from Germans (most of all from salespeople). People asking me, with utter seriousness, if I ever eaten a dog.
I’m in no way trying to paint with a broad brush. But living outside of Singapore has made me appreciate my home country a lot more. When I’m back, I say Hi and Thank You a lot more because after so many months of being frowned at and ignored, I light up just having someone smile at me. Even if it’s while I’m handing over money for my pack of chicken rice.
How Is Your Life Overseas? Share Your Story!
If you are from Singapore and you decided to move out, leave the country, for work, for love or for any other reason, please send me your story about how you feel, live and experience your new home. I will publish your story here, with a link to your web page or blog.
Common Singaporeans, how is your life?