October 17, 2012

Culture Shock in “Asia-Lite” Singapore

Today we’re featuring guest blogger Linh Tran, who recently moved to Singapore with her two kids, daughter age 3, son age 6.

Travel with Kids

Our family lived in the San Francisco Inner Sunset neighborhood where numerous Asian-Americans live.   Stroll down Irving Street, pass 20th Ave and see store fronts with names and banners in both Chinese and English.  You’ll hear people speak in different languages intermingled with English.  It’s much the same here in Singapore compared to the Sunset.  Perhaps that is why some people refer to Singapore was ‘Asia-Lite’.

travel with kids to singapore

Early in my career, I conducted cross-cultural training programs for families who were about to move abroad on an international assignment.  The night before each training, I would take a glass bowl and put a few large ice cubes in it.  “Culture is like an iceberg,” I used to say, “On top the surface of the water are all the things we can easily identify that are different between the U.S. and your new home.  What might be different could be food, language, buildings, clothing, transportation, and people.”  I warned them at some point during their stay in X country, they’ll experience culture shock- that’s the larger piece of the iceberg that is below the surface that is not so obvious and will make you ask the question, Why.

Travel with Kids

Some claim that children adapt quicker and easily to new environments compared to adults.  My children don’t seem to shocked by many things so far here in Asia-lite, but they have certainly asked a lot of why questions:

Why do have I have to take my shoes off (at a public play structure)?

Why do they sell small packets of tissue (at a hawker stall)?

Why did you call him (the taxi driver) uncle?

Why is there no mac-n-cheese?

Why do they have Christmas lights up? Is it Christmas?

Why is do they look in my mouth with a flashlight?

Why are there octopuses with hats on the taxi?

Why is that leaf so ginormous?

travel to singapore with kids

To foster their curiosity whilst helping them through their temporary states of culture shock, we encourage them to be news reporters and ‘interview’ locals to get the answer to their why questions before using the internet.  Being only 6 and 3 years old, they usually get me to doing the questioning and do the internet search themselves  but I don’t mind because we do it together they are learning how to satiate their curiosity.   Hopefully, when we move back to San Francisco the signs in Mandarin will be less foreign to the kids and their experience living abroad fosters their global citizenship.

Travel with Kids