I’ve officially been home from Singapore for 11 days. Going back to American culture (specifically Dayton/Cincinnati) has been odd and more of an adjustment than I expected. I now see my own culture differently in both a positive and negative view.
Living in Singapore for 4 months has challenged me creatively, lead me to adventures, and gave me new perspectives on other cultures… But the biggest effect it had on me was changing my perspective on America.
Disclaimer: I recognize that everything I write below are generalizations to a degree. Please don’t over analyze because I am trying to demonstrate my basic initial impressions instead of giving an depth analyses.
Positive Observations of Culture in Cincinnati:
1. American grocery stores seem enormous now!
The stores have incredibly wide and plentiful aisles, huge amounts of food varieties, larger food packages, giant parking lots, giant shopping carts, etc.
2. Americans seem more personable and extroverted.
Random people in the grocery store smile at me, employees come up to me asking if I need help, the cashier takes the time to ask me how my day is going (and seems genuinely interested), and I got a random compliment on my outfit from a stranger. I don’t mean to say that Asian cultures are unfriendly… But they definitely seem more closed off, formal, and private overall.
3. The landscape is so spacious.
My first observation was how everything seems so spread out. It was weird to see so many wide buildings with big yards, huge spaces between the next building, and parking lots.
4. The landscape seems more simple and desaturated.
Cincinnati seems so desaturated in comparison to Singapore(especially in the winter). Buildings have more muted colors, the grass is yellow or brown, the trees are brown and leafless, and there are no tropical flowers around. I never noticed this until I lived in a tropical environment where everything is so vivid, bright, and colorful. I appreciate both aesthetics, but I oddly missed Cincinnati’s color pallet. It is more calming and a nice change from the constant stimulation.
5. There are so many amazing travel opportunities in the United States.
I never took advantage of traveling in my own country. After spending time in Singapore and learning how to plan complicated weekend trips to nearby countries, I’ve realized how easy it is to take road trips and domestic flights to see amazing places in my own country. I don’t have to deal with language barriers, currency exchanges, visas, etc. Now that I have learned how to travel, I want to take time to explore places in my own country like the Grand Canyon, Danali National Park, Yellowstone, Seattle, Portland, New Orleans, etc.
6. My favorite produce is more affordable.
In Singapore, most produce I regularly buy in America cannot be grown in the tropical environment. While I did greatly enjoy dragon fruits and papayas, I really missed kale and sweet potatoes. For example, one large bushel of organic kale from Kroger in Cincinnati is about $1.oo. A genetically modified bushel half the size and quality is a whopping $6.00 in Singapore ($8.60 SGD).
7. Gyms are more affordable
My L.A. Fitness membership in Cincinnati was approximately $30 a month with an initial payment of $100. It wasn’t cheap, but in comparison to gym prices in Singapore, it was. I looked into joining 4 different gyms and Singapore, but decided to just stick with home workouts due to the outrageous prices. All four gyms I looked into ranged from $1oo to $300 ($150 to $430 SGD) a month with an additional initiation fee of around $130 to $350 ($200 to $500 SGD) and usually a 6 to 12 month contract. Yikes.
8. Smaller crowds
The population of Cincinnati is is around 300,000. The population of Singapore is 5 million… It isn’t a good comparison, but the size difference definitely affects the quality of life. It was such a relief to go to a restaurant such as Panera in Cincinnati and have almost no wait. (I previously worked a co-op in New York City for 4 months and it was more comparable to Singapore)
9. Better work life balance.
I am mostly comparing my experiences of my 3 internships in Cincinnati and my 1 internship in Singapore. My Singaporean and American friends have also told me about their internship experiences. Singaporeans work much longer hours, aren’t afraid of making work their life, are a little more disorganized in the workplace, and have a significantly more intense and busy atmosphere. If I stayed late in any of my Cincinnati co-ops, it usually was not past midnight and it didn’t happen more than about once a month. In Singapore, I stayed past midnight several times a month and was stunned if I ever left work at 6pm. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing because I learned a lot, accomplished more work, and was never bored. However, the American work culture suits me a little better.
10. Winter is wonderful.
While living in Ohio, I always dreaded winter. I hated snow and always savored summer. After going through an Ohio summer and then trading Ohio’s fall weather for Singapore’s hot and humid fall weather, I found myself frequently feeling overheated, exhausted, and missing winter. Upon arrival in Ohio, I surprisingly celebrated the snow and finally learning to appreciate cold weather.
11. Privacy is underrated.
As an introvert, I greatly struggled with the lack of privacy in Singapore. I lived in extremely close quarters with Anna (no offense to Anna. I sincerely enjoyed her company overall and thought she was a good roommate), worked in an open environment all day, and was constantly surrounded by people on the streets and MRT. I found it almost impossible to get any private time for a phone call, meditation, or to just escape the world for a short bit. If I needed to get away, I’d have to take an extra hour to travel to a park (but because of my work hours and weekend travel plans, I almost never had the time). In Cincinnati, I have my own room and am always been able to find a decent break room or go for a quiet walk in nature if I need it.
12. It is much easier to be healthy and fit in Cincinnati.
Long hours at a desk job, trying all the new foods, expensive produce, not having access to a kitchen, and high stress made it very difficult to maintain my fitness. I had to work extra hard to maintain my weight and keep at least a basic level of fitness in Singapore.
13. Wifi is better in Cincinnati.
Free wifi is much easier to find in Cincinnati businesses and it works better. I found several coffee shops in Singapore that did not have any wifi. Even “Selfie Cafe” didn’t have wifi! My work and hostel wifi didn’t work well, so I had to rely on my painfully slow 3G service on my phone most of the time and suffer when I used my computer. Using the internet in Cincinnati for the first time was heavenly.
14. Roller coasters in Ohio are unbeatable.
I took a trip to Universal Studios in Singapore and was disappointed after riding the roller coasters. The line management was incredibly inefficient, the rules were so strict that it wasn’t as fun (Ex: My friend got kicked off a ride for having his wallet in a zipped pant pocket), and the rides were way shorter and less intense. I missed Cedar Point and King’s Island.
In conclusion, I do not mean to say that Cincinnati is better than Singapore overall. The two cities are just very different. My next blog post will be about reasons I like Singapore more than Cincinnati. Stay tuned.