Singapore's Great Gatsby Years


The scent of freshly damp soil and young hibiscuses overflowed the air as the sunrise farewelled the early monsoon, welcoming another cloudless day in paradise. As a true island-hedonist with a serious addiction to sea water and peach skies, celebrating a friend’s big birthday at a private oasis while surrounded by reef life, powdery sand and an incredible amount of booze, had to be one of the most extravagant events I’d been since setting foot as an expat in Singapore.

Apart from free-floating on translucent water and having my body rubbed under fringed palm trees, the agenda set for the next three days was strictly minimal. And as if twenty-four/seven of R&R wasn’t enough jolliness, banquets of mouthwatering local curries and hot-off-the grill jumbo prawns were washed down by a daft amount of cocktails.

Candidly speaking, events like this one are more often than not an ordinary occurrence in the life of a Singapore expat, in particular, and of paramount unanimity, the booze part. Not that anyone needs special reasons for popping a cork (specially more so when the 80’s music is rolling in the background, right?), however, this periodic frolicking event should demand a little justification. I dedicate the next few paragraphs specially for the poor souls dying with envy behind social media screens, while freezing their butts off in Iceland or other snowy hemispheres around the planet, cogitating the fact that we, equatorial people, have nothing to do with our lives but to party and drink.

I pinned down the alky tendencies of my tribe (you know who you are!) derive from a few collateral factors. Expat families come in and out the country like a revolving door, so consequently, hospitality gigs for newcomers and farewell soirees take place as often as my kids whinge. One could too blame the habitual cold rose thirst on Singapore’s scorching daily temperatures, or more so, due to the fact that we, privileged folks, are not the ones slaving over the stove or the ironing board, allowing us plenty of time to lie by the pool to recover from nasty hangovers.

For most foreigners, life in Singapore is generally marked by economic prosperity, multicultural exchange, new opportunities, and an overall upward social mobility (any similarities to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby novel is mere coincidence). Just like in the American book, a combination of excessiveness, expenditure, indulgence, socialising, and jet setting, all showered by summer endorphins, undoubtedly induce the lifting action of yet another Moet flute. And what’s more, unlike during the roaring twenties, when Fitzgerald's novel was set in and when bootlegging was an illegal offence, thanks to modern technology today, booze gets delivered to one’s door step by the mere touch of a screen.

So, when will the feeling of joie de vivre reflected by the safety and financial security of Singapore’s pluralist environment come to an end? Deep down, those who live here know that the real big world outside the bubble doesn’t feel anything like this. Back in our home countries, life can get substantially busier with work responsibilities, family commitments, lack of baby sitting arrangement, not to mention piles of house chores to complete.

If life here is so fantastic, one should ask, why not stay for good?

If one is lucky not to get the sack before the job contract is over, or get transferred to another country, I advise all those who stay a degree on coping with goodbyes. Both adults and kids’ tight friendships can be broken in sheer speed once a family is forced to pack up and go, leaving the innocent souls behind wondering if the amicability will survive long geographic distances. Another highly recommended distinction to survive the golden years in paradise is on “how to unspoilt the brats living under your roof” (currently work in progress in my household). The minute expat children hear the two words “long weekend”, they generally assume they’ll be zig zagging down Japan’s slopes, sailing the Greek isles or road tripping through Australia’s wine country region. And if a trip is not on the cards, you’ll most likely have to invest on a Kidzania annual pass, which would probably cost as much as a trip to Bali. Tough luck!

As you see, life is not always bright in the Southeast Asian country. Some days the humidity and the heat defeat poor souls from any dignity, but one thing is definitely guaranteed - there’ll always be that thirst quencher waiting for you at home. Is it five o’clock yet?

"Don't stop me now, I'm having such a good time I'm having a ball Don't stop me now If you wanna have a good time, just give me a call Don't stop me now ('cause I'm having a good time) Don't stop me now (yes, I'm havin' a good time) I don't want to stop at all"

Queen - Don't Stop Me Now

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