LIVING ENVIRONMENT From my observations, Singapore is a very clean, safe and orderly city-state. Regulations that prohibit the import and sale of chewing gum and restrict smoking in public are strictly implemented here. To my surprise, I have rarely found any mosquitoes here even with the constant scorching heat and clinging humidity. Despite its small geographical size and lack of natural resources, I am very impressed by the island-state’s advanced infrastructure and rapid economic development. Its urban planning policies are praiseworthy indeed, particularly in the areas of housing, transport and recreation. In Hong Kong, property prices remain high and youngsters usually find it hard to afford the flats. In contrast, public housing at subsidized rates is guaranteed in Singapore. On the other hand, I have always taken pride in Hong Kong’s beautiful skyline, extensive rural landscapes and wetland reserves. In my opinion, while both Hong Kong and Singapore have developed efficient public infrastructure, the former’s living environment pales in comparison— for instance, air quality is always considered a serious problem. Hong Kong is a crowded metropolis, packed to the brim with people, shopping malls and towering skyscrapers. The lifestyle of a typical Hongkong-er is thus fast-moving and pressurized, and the high population density, hectic urban life and small living spaces have become significant sources of stress. Singapore, by comparison, does not have as many high-rise buildings as Hong Kong, and the whole city is covered with plenty of sunshine, refreshing lush gardens and parklands. On the whole, I feel that I have led a more
comfortable and relaxed life in this pleasant Garden City.
CULTURE Relative to Hong Kong, Singapore is a more diverse country with a wide variety of cultures, races and religions. What appeals to me most is the multiculturalism that you find here in Singapore. The population of Hong Kong is composed primarily of Chinese, whereas in Singapore it is a closely-knit community comprising of not only Chinese, but also other ethnic groups such as the Malays and the Indians, as well as a good mix of expatriates from other foreign countries. This harmonious embracing of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds can be easily spotted on campus in NUS. While wandering around the country, you are bound to come across a host of Hindu and Buddhist temples, churches and mosques, often in close proximity. English is widely practiced here, although I am still puzzled by the tone and cadence of the language spoken by some of the locals. Singlish does take some getting used to. Another significant feature about Singapore that captivates me is the incredible cultural diversity and variety of food that is available. Hong Kong’s cuisine is largely a fusion of Eastern and Western flavors: a wide range of Chinese dishes can be found, with Hong Kong-style teahouses (also known as “cha chan teng”), fast-food chains, dim-sum and seafood restaurants being the common food choices. On the other hand, food outlets are everywhere in Singapore, ranging from upmarket restaurants to bustling centres of local food like Bugis Street, Little India and Chinatown. I can easily
find different kinds of cheap and delicious local delicacies and exotic dishes here—char kway teow, kaya toast, laksa, nasi lemak, Indian mee goreng, Hainanese chicken rice, prata and bak kut teh.
AC A DE M IC L I F E I found that students at Singapore seem to adopt a rather dedicated and focused attitude towards learning. Furthermore, they adopt a more active and independent mentality during the lectures and tutorials, initiating thoughtful discussions with peers and professors. This contrasts with the academic culture in Hong Kong, which I feel is more passive and conservative. However, this passivity does not extend to matters of governmental policy and societal issues, where Hong Kong students tend to appear more critical and vocal—I have witnessed students initiate several movements to question policies which were felt to be lacking.
PA RT I NG T H OUG H T S Despite some striking similarities between the two dynamic Asian cities, I nevertheless feel that the time I have spent here on exchange is well spent. Going on exchange has led me to see how one can assimilate into another cultural setting, to broaden his or her perspectives about world, as well as to discover the strengths and limitations of your home country. Being able to adopt a critical mind and discover the intricate connections between different
nations, values and people is truly one of the greatest privileges of being an exchange student.
Published on Apr 6, 2013