Wednesday, July 8, 2009

About Me: From Singapore, to the U.S., to Switzerland.

A while ago, Olga had asked:
How do you find living in Europe after Singapore and then the US?
Where do you like it more and why?

Before we start, perhaps a little background information.

I was born and raised in an independent country called Singapore, a tiny island just off Peninsular Malaysia.
Yes, it's so tiny you can't spot it on the map.

A zoomed-in map showing you the expressways and residential districts of the island of Singapore.
I did say it is small, 710.2 km2 (274.2 sq mi) according to Wikipedia, though not small enough to make it to the list of "Smallest Countries in the World".

In 2004, post-graduate studies brought The Hubs and I to the east coast of America.
It was a quiet, peaceful university town in New Jersey. He was a Student, I was on a non-working dependent's visa.

4 years later, in 2008 (that was last year, wow) a job opportunity brought The Hubs, myself,
and Fluffy -our Jersey boy- to Zurich.  He is now a Staff member of a university, Me a full-fledged Domestic Engineer.

With each location, our financial circumstances differed, which undeniably affected our social situation. With that, it also shaped the way we lived. Going along this, I'm listing my humble opinion.

Living in Singapore:
  • It is relatively inexpensive, compared to the U.S. and Europe.
  • I have a small circle of friends. The numbers dwindle over the years as many move out of Singapore. Our families are there.
  • It is multi-cultural, safe, and has a considerably good infrastructure.
  • People are busy. Everything is competitive. Men push and shove.
  • While it is a city with many shopping and dining experiences, I often feel stifled. One way to combat this was find quick getaways to neighbouring countries. That didn't happen too often though, as it meant taking flights, and time away from work, which was the constraint.
  • The country is young and progressive -- new facelifts and tall buildings sprout quickly, within months; I hardly have a place of childhood memory left. Call it dynamic, if you will.
Living in New Jersey:
  • It was expensive for us initially, but we got used to being frugal and managed.
  • Apart from an old friend in Jersey City, and The Hub's handful of university peers, whom I've met no more than twice a year, we almost had no friends. (We are not extroverted, anyway.)
  • There is a welcoming feeling for diversity. It is safe, quiet, and we needed a car to get to do something as simple as grocery-shopping.
  • People are warm and friendly. Ladies do go first, and you know someone will always hold that door for you.
  • There were no language or cultural barriers.
  • We were poor, but happy, in a small town of a large country with many great opportunities for things to see and do. With all that time spent at home, I grew more domesticated, and started getting crafty. (As ever-so encouraged by said good friend.)
Living in Zurich:
  • It is frighteningly expensive.
  • I have a small, growing number of friends from all over the world. Non-German speaking, of course. Still no Swiss friends to speak of.
  • It is slightly diverse in its demographics, safe, and has a fantastic infrastructure.
  • Men push and shove, with a few exceptions. The elderly can be such dear sweet things.
  • Right smack in the middle of Germany, France, and Italy, I adore the idea of a travel opportunity just waiting for me to grab it. We are no longer scrapping for scraps, but 'once you go Frugal, you never go back'; we are not sightseeing as much as I'd like to. Besides, I worry about Fluffy all the time.
  • In my opinion, it may be difficult for us non-Swiss to fully integrate here, unfortunately. (In terms of language, and the quiet and reserved nature of the people.) Perhaps all it takes is for me to put in a little effort.

Olga's questions:

How do I find living in Europe after Singapore and then the US?
14 months and loving it. The culture here is not unfamiliar to me. Also, I like to think we adapt and adjust to the surroundings without fuss. I believe Singapore has acquired many influences from the U.S., so, no "culture shock" while in New Jersey. On the other hand, the Swiss have done a fine job in conserving their traditions and way of life, which is something I appreciate. They are known to be "quiet and reserved", something I've grown up with. I also love the way we do not need a car to get around, because I do not have a sense of direction, even if my life depended on it.

Where do you like it more and why?
With the way things are, I prefer it here.
BUT, in an ideal situation, I would be having this level of comfort-of-living, good friends near-by, all set in a strategically and conveniently located English-speaking country, with the same gorgeous natural scenery that Switzerland offers so readily. We'd always bring with us our passports, because we may spend a weekend some place warm and sunny this time, or an afternoon in a mountain the next. All a train or boat ride away.
Oh, and may there be many, many thrift- and craft-shops that friends and I will be spoiled for choice on how to spend our good money in the afternoons!

I hope I've answered the questions? Sure went a LONG way about it.


  1. Really, you need to move back here! :)

  2. Fascinating. I really enjoyed this post Juanita.
    Oh, and I didn't realize that Singapore was such a small country.

    Lisa :)

  3. That is fascinating, Juanita - thanks. Having moved a bit as a child, and now having settled in a second European country, I also wondered what your moves have meant to you. I learned a lot about you and about the places you have lived - thanks!

  4. Thank you for an insightful and interesting post! I've lived in Sweden, England and the US, and I agree with many of the things you wrote. I'm still looking for that "perfect" place to live :)

  5. This was a lovely post, thanks Juanita! Ditto-insightful!
    Looking forward to brocki-ing with you!

  6. Hello Juanita, I would be your (first?) swiss friend, bu I'm living in Geneva...I stay for one year in Minnesota, but never in Singapore!
    I am a retired art teacher.


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