In the first episode of Culture Shock Moments Foreigners Had When They Moved to Singapore published on The Smart Global‘s YouTube channel, a few expatriates had the opportunity to weigh in on what surprised and even shocked them the most during their stay in Singapore.

Their experience ranged from chope-ing tables and chilli oil on the food, to what time is appropriate for eating dim sum and wearing slippers on Orchard Road.

The episode, which debuted on YouTube on Nov 23, shows hosts Brenda and Shin, who are from Singapore, talking to Arthur, who hails from France and who’s been in the country for seven months; Chris, from England, who’ll have been here for five years in January and calls himself a “half-local”; Nicole from Hong Kong, who’s been in Singapore for nearly ten years since she was in Secondary 3; Victoria from Canada, who’s been around for six years; and Millie from the UK, who’s been here with her husband and two children for almost three years.

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When asked for an example of what has been a culture shock for them, Chris quickly mentioned the phenomenon of “chope-ing” or reserving a table at an eatery. This uniquely Singaporean habit has left Chris with “mixed feelings,” he said, even as he admits that he does it himself. “I think it’s a great idea, but I also think it’s a selfish one as well,” he said, adding that “some people leave their whole wardrobe on the table,” which made everyone laugh.

Victoria chimed in that she learned that in Singapore, “chop” means to stamp a document, based on the sound the stamp makes. Learn something new every day!

The expats also praised how safe Singapore is, with people leaving laptops or other valuables on the table when they go to the bathroom, or even leaving things in the car, without worrying about these items getting stolen. Millie mentioned how safe it is for her son to go to school on his own.

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“But in the UK, I wouldn’t let him do that,” she added, before saying that in Singapore even strangers watch out to make sure her kids get the right amount of change.

Nicole remarked that in Hong Kong, flats are much smaller and more expensive than in Singapore, even with rising prices.

She also said that she was shocked by how Singaporeans add chilli oil to all the dim sum that they eat, as well as the timing for eating it. Dim sum is supposed to be eaten only for breakfast or brunch, Victoria added, but in Singapore, the hosts said, they can be eaten for any meal.

Nicole also said that when she first arrived, Singaporeans stuck her as dressing very casually and that her mother would scold her for only going about in slippers. “Guilty!” Shin, the host, quickly said. “When I came here, I saw everyone wearing slippers in Orchard Road or Raffles,” Nicole added.

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Shin told everyone that his friends and he had the impression that when they see anyone on Orchard Road wearing slippers, they think “this person is definitely rich, because this person is able to wear slippers on Orchard, so his house must be nearby.” /TISG

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