About ROV


email Glenn

Culture Deep, Culture Wide

We've been back in Japan for about two months now.
Enough time to settle into my job, our apartment, and my commute.

Singapore, our home for two years, is starting to seem like a distant memory.
I hate that fact. I really do.
I fight it with every ounce of energy I have.
I drop an email to friends there, about once a week. I talk to them when I can.
I force myself to write down random thoughts about Singapore in my journal, while they are still fresh.
And I look at my pictures.

Still, the act of forgetting is like the sports cliché about Michael Jordon, "You can't stop it. You can only hope to contain it."

Fortunately, I have one advantage - Everyone in Japan is interested in Singapore.

More particularly, everyone is interested in comparing the two.

Glenns' Wonderings

Asking me which I like better is a pointless act - like asking me if I prefer women, music, or food.

Comparing, however, is one of my favorite sports. It may be the primary reason why I travel (or not...).
All travelers compare, but of course it's different to compare places that you have lived in - rather than just traveled in.

And things get more interesting when you stay in your third country. Until then, everything is compared to your home country (in my case, America). But when I moved to Singapore, I began to compare everything to both America and Japan. And now, I compare Japan more to Singapore than I do to America.

Which I think makes me more objective now. No one can be truly objective about their home.
Or at least I don't care to meet the person who can be.

So how does Japan compare to Singapore (or vice-versa)?

Well, there are the obvious differences:

-Singapore uses English as the official business language, while Japan uses English as the official insane tee-shirt language.
-Singapore discourages smoking through laws, and drinking through unbelievable taxes, while the Japanese government owns the cigarette business, and the press is concerned about the fall of sake industry.
-Japan is mono-cultural, while Singapore prides itself on it's mixed cultures. This also affects the food.
-Singapore is clean, with little trash on the streets or in the political system. Japan, well, the streets aren't too bad.
-Japan is fairly big, with at least four distinct seasons, and seems like a never ending Irwin Allen movie (Typhoon!, Earthquake!, Tsunami!, Sarin Attack!, Tunnel Collapse!), while Singapore is tiny, has two seasons (which are curry and fish sauce), and passed a law that bans any disturbance - even natural.

That's not to say that Japan and Singapore are polar opposites. Far from it.

-Both are extremely safe countries.
-Both turn a blind eye to the worlds oldest profession.
-Both have great food.

But the biggest point of comparison is Culture

Japan is deep in culture.
Painting, Ceramics, Sculptures, Music, Dancing, Plays, Movies, Novels, Poems, Food, Drink, Religion, Architecture, Sport, Tradition, Festivals.

Singapore has, of course, food.
And, um, caning.
And, oh yeah, paving.

I don't mean to slight Singapore too much. I mean, the country is only 100 years old.
But it is an interesting way to compare countries.
I divide them into four groups:

Deep. Wide. Deep and Wide. Neither Deep Nor Wide.

I look for how many types of culture (like Music/Dance, Architecture, Natural Features, People/Culture) which is width. Then I look for variety in the categories, which is depth.
Here are some examples:

Deep and Wide - Japan, Thailand, Bali, India, China.
A long history helps. As does having two major religions. Japan has Buddhist-Shinto and Bali has Balinese-Hinduism. India has Buddhist-Hindu. China has communism and capitalism.

Deep, Not Wide - Malaysia (architecture, material, dancing), Vietnam (music, sport - war, poetry)

Wide, Not Deep - Hawaii (a little, but not much, of everything).

Neither Deep Nor Wide - Singapore (food and....), Canada (curling, snow, and...)

As an American I considered my country a deep cultural country, but in fact it is: The Movie Industry, Country and Western, Rock and Roll, Jazz, Rap, Soul, Skyscrapers, Baseball, Basketball, Volleyball, Cajun, Tex-Mex, California cuisine, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Photography, and more.
So it is possible to be young and cultural.

There's no doubt that I prefer the wide and deep cultures. 
But I have severe attention deficit disorder. Some prefer the other categories.
I know people who travel just to shop, or just to eat, or just to ski. They don't want to be overwhelmed by choices.

So which is better? Japan or Singapore?
I don't want them to compete, just compare.
And hopefully, there will always be differences.

GH 2/99
More Wonderings