Go big or go home…

Archive for July 2009

Just spent an awesome two weeks in Europe.

Had so much fun, saw so many people, ate so much food. Especially drank so much booze – I expect my liver now resembles Champagne-scented fois gras.

It’s a good opportunity for comparisons. I mentioned psychological contracts in the post below, and I think these constitute the easiest thing about England/hardest thing about Singapore.

Spending time with people I know inside out is great because it’s so socially easy – getting to know people in Singapore is a more tentative process.

The other thing I loved about being back in London was the diversity. Singapore thinks it’s diverse because it’s vaguely multicultural, but really it has no idea what the word means. London teems with cultural identities, personal identities, brass bands,

goths on bicycles, dogs in hats – every stupid thing you can imagine. On Saturday morning I saw a guy on the tube, pilled off his tits, discussing Murakami with an Australian woman in a twin-set.

Singapore has (chooses her words carefully) rather less individual identity, although there are good side effects with that – no beggars (if there are homeless people here I don’t know where they go – they certainly don’t beg under cash machines), no shootings, no glue-sniffing 12-year-olds (again, not that I’ve seen).

Even so, I expected to feel pretty sad leaving the UK yesterday, and certainly for the last hour of the plane ride I was quite down, but I had a lovely sense of home when I returned to my flat here. Even driving out of the airport into the late evening sunshine, I felt a bit of a smile return after my previous brooding.

To bastardise Tibor Fischer, after I die and they split open my heart, they will find a tiny model of London inside, but that shouldn’t stop me enjoying other cities while I’m alive. I think infidelity suits me.

As you may have gathered, I’m back in Europe for two weeks. I’ve been very excited about this, mainly because it’s been six months since I saw my friends and family. I’ve also been looking forward to being a tourist in my home town – when I lived in London I spent most of my time working and my holidays elsewhere.

It’s a natural stock-taking point, not least because I’ve spent the past four days answering questions about how I’m getting on. So, how am I getting on?

I’m enjoying myself – it’s a good, easy, happy life – but there is a ‘but’. We’ve made some really lovely friends, but we are conscious of trying hard to fit into a slightly different culture. For me the main difference is sense of humour, for J it’s interest in politics.

I have been thinking of these differences in terms of reference frames. I have grown up playing different games, watching different TV, reading different books, and those things affect how I see the world and my place in it.

I was discussing this with a guy I met yesterday and he talked about the same thing in terms of a psychological contract, so that the focus is not how one person interacts with his world, but how two people interact with each other.

This is really obvious yet I haven’t considered it before. Whenever we interrelate we have expectations – it’s acceptable for you to do this, it’s not acceptable for me to do that. This is true of any situation – going to work, buying a bus ticket, meeting friends in a bar.

Except that these contracts vary, for all the hundreds of reasons I haven’t really gone into here (culture, psychology, history &tc), so that often in Singapore people don’t act in ways I’d expected, and likewise I don’t know how I’m supposed to respond.

This is definitely challenging. It’s really noticeable how easy it is to chat to strangers back in the UK, but the flipside is that you consider your motivations and responses more when there isn’t a fixed schema to drop into.