As a self identified nerd and culture fanatic I love to see how those two things collide and why. Recently I took to the skies and flew 23 hours to finally explore both Singapore and Indonesia. First off, Singapore is a country infamous for its strict rules and even stricter punishments. However, on my journey there I found it to be a country of contradictions. While very old world in its external pressures of conforming to the laws of the land, Singapore also possessed a level of modernization that rivals and in many ways surpasses major cities back home in the United States. I am not so ignorant to not have known Singapore was a modern nation I’m just adding context here for the uninitiated.
While engaging in my battle against the ever menacing jet lag, I stumbled and fumbled my way over to one of the many malls of Singapore. One of the most fascinating things I found was the hilarious concept of how many major malls there were. It feels like someone in the Singaporean government watched a shit ton of 80s movies and thought to themselves, “Hey look how hip and cool all these American kids are hanging at the mall so much. Let’s build them EVERYWHERE!” There are 90 malls in a country that’s only 274 square miles; that’s a lot of shopping. Needless to say the mall I went to, Vivo City, was spectacular looking.
As I walked around I had my first interaction with a Singaporean and it was glorious: As with any mall you can be accosted by random people trying to sell you stupid products you don’t want. No I don’t want your special rain gutter covers. No I don’t want the latest in crappy Iphones cases. No I don’t want your random hand scrub! Ok that last one is relevant. So a woman stops me and immediately asked where I was from. Since I am much larger than most people there I wasn’t afraid to answer. I promptly tell her I am from the U.S. and her response, “Oh My God...you look just like Kobe Bryant!” For the record I don’t, not even close. Kobe and I are similar in no ways except skin tone (and perhaps our jumpshot...KOBE!). I chuckled and let her talk me into some hand scrub demo (idiot me). During said demo I was informed of her love for the Lebron James, her dislike for the Spurs, why the hand scrub is great because it lightens my skin (ummm no thanks), etc. It was hilarious to me because I don’t watch sports and she knew it better than me. Even though sports is hardly nerdy, it was cool to see something so American specific like the NBA make it all the way to the salt hand scrub lady in the mall in Singapore. Even with her issue with the color complex she seemed nice.
So I continued my mall quest while managing to not buy any of the scrub; dodged that like Neo in the Matrix. As I’m walking I begin to engage in my favorite free pastime, people watching. There is a constant discussion in the United States as to whether we are obsessed with our technology. Gripping mobile phones tighter than a life preserver seems to be the American way. While I think technology is a serious player in our daily lives I wasn’t even remotely prepared for what I saw. It was like dodging speeding bullets in Singapore as I saw the vast majority of people glued to their cell phones and tablets. Walking completely unaware of the world around them. It was like every 14 year old you see in the U.S., but with people of all ages. Many times I wouldn’t move and just wait until they almost walked into me; it was a fun jet lag game. Later in my trip I was hanging with some American and European ex-pats who confirmed this obsession. I was regaled with stories of Singaporeans on a date both staring at their individual phones playing candy crush for an hour while not speaking a word to one another. This shit is bonkers!
Join me as the stories get odder and the nerd culture of Singapore becomes more and more apparent in Part Two. In the next installment I go to the movies...