Singapore Adventure

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

by venitha

After my sister Vadrian was an exchange student in Australia, an Aussie friend came to Wisconsin to visit. It was a surprisingly warm early spring day, and as we drove by a bank clock displaying the temperature, Vadrian and I were surprised: "Eighty degrees!" A few seconds later the display changed to Celsius, and Fiona had the same reaction: "Twenty-seven!"

Singapore, like its neighbor Australia, displays the temperature in degrees Centigrade. Of course, the temperature here doesn't vary much, so this is pretty easy to get used to. The temperature scale, that is, not the tragic lack of variation in this endless stifling brutal life-sucking mind-numbing heat. But, it's not just temperature that's measured differently from what I'm used to. How long will it take for me to start thinking in these new terms?

Fortunately, currency is another easy one. It's all still dollars (sometimes called sing) and cents, and the exchange rate (US$1 = S$1.65) just makes everything seem really expensive, which is probably saving us money: $100! That's way too much!

And of course, Singapore has embraced the metric system. Distance to MRT: 300m. Serving size: 15ml. Elevator capacity: 1000kg. I spent several mornings smugly satisfied with the astronomical number of calories I'd burned on the stairmaster. Then I realized the awful truth: the weight that I entered was in kilograms, not pounds. So it thought it was being used by a sumo wrestler. Bummer! And here I was hoping that your body just burns lots more calories at low altitude and that I had discovered the reason that everyone here is so thin!

It's not that they don't eat, because there are plenty of grocery stores. Prices on produce are displayed in dollars per 100g, as in $0.65/100g. That's Singapore dollars, of course. I've made valiant attempts but have at last had to concede that it is impossible for me to perform such conversions in my head without hurting myself. I just buy items and then look at the receipt afterwards.

I expected the difference in date display (22/06/2005 instead of 06/22/2005), but I was surprised that digital clocks all display military time. This is somehow appropriate for this strict and very regimented society, though I haven't noticed anyone actually speaking in military time yet.

Lastly, the award for most annoying different standard goes to (drum roll, please): paper size! It's A4, which is just enough longer than our beloved 8 1/2 x 11 that it doesn't fit in folders, binders, and envelopes. Doesn't fit in my folders, binders, and envelopes, Jim points out. Yeah yeah. It's still annoying.