Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Notes from an Even Smaller Island by Neil Humphreys

Decided to take a trip down memory lane and reread this! I remember it being side-splittingly funny and luckily my memory isn't as bad as I feared. If you haven't heard of the book before, Notes from an Even Smaller Island is basically a collection of essays by Neil Humphrey, an ang moh who moved to Singapore from Britain.

I remember the book being funny the first time round, but I didn't remember it making such good points. The book actually tackles issues like depending on filial piety to support the elderly, education in Singapore and even the kampung spirit (of course, there are many chapters on the funny people that Neil knows so this is by no means a serious book). I found that I agreed with a lot of his points and I like that he made them with humour.

On thing that I particularly liked was when he was talking about our (and expats) tendency to congregate together. In Singapore, expats tend to have their own enclaves. Overseas, Asians tend to stick together. This isn't a bad thing, but I do agree with Neil that it's a bit of a waste if you do overseas and end up replicating the life and social circle that you had back home.

Also, I did not realise that as recently as 2001 (ok that isn't so recent) there were Singaporeans who would go on tour to America and have Chinese food for almost every meal! That is seriously inconceivable to me (and I think many people now) and I'm glad that we've outgrown that (I hope).

The book does feel a little dated because he's describing a snapshot of Singapore, but there is so much warmth and humour here that I found myself enjoying this reread as much as I did the first time. In fact, I may have enjoyed it more this time round.

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