Smells like Singapore

Flats in Singapore

I left Singapore on 30 Dec 2004, arriving in Auckland New Zealand on 31 Dec 2004 just in time to welcome in a new year, a new life. The decision to leave Singapore, known as OE (Overseas Experience) in NZ, was made in a short space of 2 months. The window of opportunity snuck open on my trip to Vietnam and was fully prised open following a quick trip in late Oct early November. The story about leaving the safe shores of Singapore to give New Zealand a chance is a story for another day.

Photos in this post were taken from my trip back to visit mum in Nov 2019.

As much as I love and call New Zealand home, Singapore still retains a pull in my heart as the place of my birth and where I lived for 28 year years. It is a place of wonderful childhood memories and painful awkwardness that mark a young person’s rite of passage.

I cringe at the recollection of those events in my life where I was so certain. So certain that I was trendy in my stone washed jeans, so certain that I was in love and so certain I got everything figured out. Only in retrospect and with the passage of time can I laugh at that confidence. This is not to say I am brave enough to face all those memories head on.

Every memory of Singapore seems to be held together by humidity, my community of family and friends and good food. Singapore is a multicultural and multiracial country. A country of migrants, a member of the commonwealth and a country forced to grow up very quickly. As fortunate I was to grow up in Singapore, I feel that I did not really make use of the opportunity to experience the diversity I was surrounded by.

Being an introvert (with strong extrovert tendencies), I prefer quality to quantity in terms of friendships. However, in a country with a population of 4.5million, I think I really missed the boat to build more quality friendships with people from different races and cultures. I only had a handful of non Chinese friends. But thankfully those friendships were wonderful. My exposure to different cultures came from food. I love Indian, Malay, Peranakan, Chinese the melting pot cuisines that came from the rojak (mixing) of all these cultures.

Life in Singapore like many places in the world can be as simple or complex as we make it. Conformity is generally the norm but it does not mean there aren’t a lot of avenues for self expression. Living in a populous small island country does mean respecting other people’s beliefs and space but even in those confines, creative expression abounds and the sad thing is that I only being to uncover that level of creativity after I left Singapore. Thankfully I still have family and friends who share the work of those amazing creatives with me even when I’m in New Zealand. Here are some of the creatives and organisations I like.

Author: Jason Phang

Hailing from Humid Singapore, I’ve been calling Auckland, New Zealand home since 2005. I love making photographs and I generally veer towards street photography.

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