Europe vs. Singapore

Write about the difference between living in Singapore and European countries based on your travel experience (Non-edited)

Ever wondered how it would be like to travel thousands of miles away from home for a vacation? To many of us Asians, not to mention the Singaporeans, who mostly have habits of travelling out of the small and congested island at least once in a year, our dream vacation destination may be Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, or the United States of America. All of these countries have something in common: they are all very different in many ways from our Asian continent. Say Europe for example, is different from Singapore in terms of their weather and climate, the emotional atmosphere of places in the night as compared to the day, the discrimination of other races in the locals’ countries, and the economic environment of the countries. The following seeks to address the differences of living as a local in Singapore as compared to living as a Singaporean tourist in Europe.

Primarily, the cooling but sunny weather and temperate climate throughout the year in many European countries may be the first noticeable difference as compared to Singapore when travelling there. The first physical sensation felt by one’s skin when arriving at the airport is likely to be the chilly wind blowing through the gaps between the aeroplane door and the air-bridge. Since Singaporeans experience summer or a tropical climate the whole year round, and are never able to experience cold temperatures of any less than 21°C naturally in the country, most will be excited or anxious to live in such a climate in the beginning. For instance, some teenagers were so enthusiastic about experiencing the cold weather that they could walk around in their T-shirts and bermudas shorts, as mentioned by several experienced tour guides over the years. Not surprisingly, these ebullient people caught colds right after one or two days of their arrivals. This is likely to happen especially since local Singaporeans are not adapted to living in cold temperatures of below 20°C and sudden warm temperatures of 25 to 30°C when indoors with heaters present. Hence, most Singaporeans travelling to countries experiencing cold temperatures are required to invest in huge coats stuffed with goose feathers or anything else useful in keeping them as warm as their accustomed body temperatures. They are likely required to repeatedly put on and take off jackets as they move from place to place, especially from indoors to outdoors and vice versa, often carrying along additional winter wear such as scarfs or gloves, more than what the normal European men or women would as their bodies are better accustomed to such temperature changes. This brings about inconveniences of burdensome baggages that may degrade the quality of their vacations. Therefore, the temperate climate in many European countries is likely to cause many Singaporean tourists to be eager or anxious about the different experience.

Coupled with the changes in temperatures is the difference in the humidity of the air in temperate regions of most European countries as compared to the tropical climate in Singapore, where most temperate climates come with dry air, and subsequently, dry eyes and skin. Since Singapore is known for her high levels of humidity, having an average humidity level of 85% throughout the year, it is likely that Singaporeans going through such a drastic downward change in humidity levels to an average humidity level of 70% may encounter problems like itchiness and irritability on their body surfaces. People may be required to bathe with body lotion while living there, which is a rare occurence in Singapore, and moisturiser to keep the skin moisturised. Another problem possibly faced by many people living in Europe, including Singaporean tourists, is the dryness of the lips, which can cause lips to crack and bleed if preventive measures are not taken. In cases as such, it is often required for the person to apply lip moisturisers before getting out of the hotel on every morning of their stay. Henceforth, the difference in level of humidity between the two regions cause the change or addition of certain actions to cope with the atmospheric effects on the skins of people.

Along with the changes in climatic atmosphere is the difference in cultural atmosphere in the city areas of Europe in comparison with those in Singapore, where city areas in Europe are more lively than the conservative Singapore city areas. Unlike the Singapore’s Orchard Road, European cities are usually lined with many more bars, nightclubs and a plethora of types of people on the streets. There are buskers, there are beggars, there are tourists. Many locals would often stroll by the shops with their friends to have large portions for a meal, a heavy dose of alcohol and a convivial conversation. The image these evokes often showcases the diversity of the European culture, which is a rather different sight from what Singaporeans are used to seeing in our main city area: Orchard Road, where only a few authorised buskers are allowed to work, where begging is illegal, and where Singaporeans normally shop at and enjoy food without high doses of alcohol. Due to our unostentious culture, many Singaporeans are likely to deride those who display outgoing exuberance in public areas. These result in a city with people showing little expression of their emotions through their behaviour, which is a stark difference from how the people in European cities openly display their emotions and talents. Therefore, it is likely to be a shock or a fascination to first time Singaporean travelers to Europe to experience such a lively and diverse culture without much restrictions.

The difference in economic environment in Europe and Singapore evokes a sense of appreciation towards Singapore’s relatively stable economy. An important point to note about the economic environment in Europe is that many locals depend on tourists’ spending for their income, which is a risky situation when compared with many Singaporeans who strive for stable and lucrative international business dealings. In Europe, it can be observed that their most lucrative sales come from branded goods, where survival of the firms is highly dependent on tourists’ spending, as it is unlikely for majority of the locals to purchase so many of their own country’s costly products. This is evident from the fact that many branded products stores line the city areas which are mostly dominated by tourists. An example would be Al Corte Inglas, which are shopping malls that cater to tourists who desire purchasing branded goods, like Rolex and Cartier. These shopping malls are so welcoming to tourists that they have huge tax refund counters, which act like one-step shops for each shopping mall, for the convenience of tourists, reducing waiting time and cumbersomeness of having to carry so many tax refund forms. In the event that tourist numbers decline drastically, not only will the high-end businesses be affected, people such as coach drivers, tour guides, souvenir shop owners and beggars will also be short of income. However, the effects are likely to be less in Singapore when such a situation occurs, as many Singaporeans work in companies that cater to the locals or even worldwide if they are successful enough, bringing up the level of stability of their income as compared to many Europeans. Furthermore, the sight of homeless Europeans sleeping on the streets in the night brings about more feelings of gratefulness toward the Singaporean government for taking such good care of Singaporeans even in times of financial instability. Therefore, traveling to Europe and seeing for myself the lives of people there stirs up a sense of gratitude for the people who made Singapore financially stable today.

With great dependence on tourists in Europe comes the distinction of different races and racism. Since many who purchase branded goods and services are tourists, mainly from Asian countries such as Korea, Japan, Singapore, and especially China, sales personels are likely to be extremely courteous but provocative in persuading when they catch someone with yellow skin browsing at their products, thinking that they are likely affluent enough to purchase the costly products. If Asian customers are to show disinterest in their products, the opposite is likely to happen, where sales personels may show disregard or even disdain toward people not of their Caucasian race. This is also likely to happen when the Chinese race visits Europe’s countrysides, where people are less dependent on tourists’ spending and are less welcome to foreigners stepping foot in and dominating their land. In the worst case scenarios, people may even openly and rudely shout at Chinese to return to their homeland. In some other cases, big groups of Chinese were not allowed to enter cafes and restaurants, or be served much later than Caucasians who ordered their meals after them. Moreover, Europe is known for its high pickpocket rates from tourists, as many locals target Chinese tourists due to their views that they are wealthy. The fact that many Europeans only see tourists, sometimes specifically Chinese, as an asset to invest in, is a clear sign of their superiority concept of their white race to other races, causing many Asians to feel unwelcome or even frightful for their safety at times. Henceforth, the way local Europeans portray their countries’ stance toward foreigners is a contrast from the relatively safe and multiracial country Singaporeans live in.

Another thing to admire or hate about Europe is the vast plains of land, which inversely causes the long bus rides when travelling from a town to another. Generally, tourists going on holidays to Europe will have their itineraries planned in ways where many of the famous tourist sites are covered, such as by travelling from the Eiffel Tower in France to the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy, which has a linear distance of a thousand kilometers away from each other. In such an example where a tour group decides to travel directly from France to Italy to solely view the two iconic places, they will likely have to stop by toilet stops 5 times or every two hours, which is a law set by the European Union that coach drivers must stop and rest for at least 15 minutes after every 2.5 hours of driving. Furthermore, since the European Union also dictates the maximum number of hours coach drivers are allowed to drive a day to be 12 hours, this will mean that they will have to travel for more than 10 hours at 100 kilometers an hour or more to reach their destination in a single day. However, since this is such a long journey, tour agencies have learnt to stop by many other tourist areas in between the two iconic sites to shorten each time tourists sit in their coaches, or to simply travel by the high speed train which takes approximately 3 to 4 times less travelling time. Nonetheless, there will inevitably still be long journeys of 5 hours or so, due to large plains of land with little things to see or do. These plains may seem beautiful to see, but sitting on the coach for too long may be tiring for people as well, which is something we may never experience in Singapore, where there are no large plains of land and only approximately 800 square kilometers of land to travel, many thousand times smaller than the European continent. Hence, the coach may become your home in Europe other than your hotel, as tourists are likely to spend half or more of their stay sitting in the coach, which may cause tourists, especially Singaporeans, wish for more magnificent mountains and nature in their own country.

All in all, living in Singapore as a local is very much different from living as a tourist in Europe, due to the differences in weather and climate, cultural and economic atmospheres, and the treatment from locals. The holiday to Europe can be seen as a time to enjoy, a time to appreciate my own country – Singapore, and a time to hope and improve Singapore for the future.

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