April in Singapore – First Month, First Impressions

I am PhD student in Raphaël’s group, now in Singapore, where I will spend two years of my PhD working at the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE).

In a couple of days it will be a month since I moved here. On my farewell night out in Liverpool, Raphaël asked me if I was going to write a post for his blog once in Singapore, I thought, why not! The idea of a blog post from Singapore then became a monthly blog from Singapore and I am now writing about my April in Singapore.

The first thing I want to talk about is quite obvious: the food. The food is great and inexpensive. According to The Economist, Singapore is the most expensive city in the world, but I am sure they haven’t considered the food prices when they came to this conclusion (they might have considered the cheese prices though 😉 ). Here there are food courts, which are food centers with stalls selling food ranging from pig’s organ soups to the five different types of Chinese noodles, from Indian fish head curry served with paratha to Singaporean chicken rice and Japanese tempura. The food courts can be fancy ones when inside air-conditioned shopping malls or open-air with more traditional dishes. And when I said that the food is inexpensive I meant that with £2 you can eat a proper dish! I am then not surprised that people here do not use to cook!
The Institute where I am working is inside the National University of Singapore campus and so far I have been in three different canteens that are basically food courts inside different departments (almost as it is in Liverpool 😉 ).
Also, the first time I went to the supermarket I was surprised to see all the products that Singapore imports from Europe; I found many Italian and French brands that I have never found in Liverpool. Huge modern shopping malls are everywhere with quite impressive lists of restaurant/fast food chains inside. I have also found the French bakery Paul and it brought back nice memories of when I used to live in Paris.
On one hand I find Singapore deeply Westernized, the number of shopping malls is something unbelievable (and somehow scary) and in each of them  there are the same fast food chains and more or less the same shops, but on the other hand I think that the culture of  food here is great and different from any other place! The food traditions of the different ethnic groups who migrated and live here (Singapore is 74% Chinese, 13% Malay, 9% Indian, and 3% Eurasian) have resisted the westernization of the country and made the Singaporean food very unique; I would even say that Singaporean cuisine is the coexistence of other Asian countries cuisines over 710 km²!

The Parkroyal Hotel Garden in Singapore. I found it very suggestive with gardens and plants merged in the glass and steel.

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