Thursday, February 11, 2010

My own Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is just around the corner - I think Sunday and Monday this week.  Singapore is like 80% ethnic Chinese so this is a big deal.  I still don't know too much about the holiday, but I do know it is the one time of year when families travel back to see their parents and relatives.  Well, I get to make my own pilgramage back to the States for Chinese New Year :).

I'm going home for work, but I still get a couple of weekends with family and friends.  I leave tomorrow and am packing tonight.  I've made my list ready of things to pick and up and bring back home with me.  Some of these include a new hair straightener, deodorant, granola bars and a dvd player. 

Chinese New Year may be better than Christmas, the commercial Christmas that is.  Everyone gives mandarin oranges and pineapple tarts/cookies.  These both sound good to me :) and don't seem as un-healthy as cookies and pies.  The whole family gets to spend time together (yes, this could be bad as well I suppose).  There are fireworks!  Red envelopes with money are given instead of presents - isn't it always easier to just give money??  You can't clean in order to make sure you don't wipe away the good luck of the new year.  Good for me - I know I hate cleaning.  You get two public holidays in a row, not one week apart like Christmas and New Year's.  The day moves around every year based on the lunar calendar - so those born near the New Year, may not be so near the next year. 

Of course I am missing the local Singapore celebrations, which is a bit of a bummer, and I have no pics to share.  I think it would a fun experience to see all the festivities.  I hear the crowds are shoulder to shoulder.  I'm also sure there is a lot more to learn about the traditions; but I'll have to take that up next year. 

However, I do have another Singapore scout who will be out and about to experience the CNY it all its glory.  I'm sure she'll have great re-caps and pics on her blog if you want to check it out:
*Do you remember how I went to Italy a couple years ago? I went to visit a friend and his sister is here studying in Singapore for a semester.  I'm a bit jealous as she's only been here since January and already had lots of adventures!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Universal Language of the Golden Arches

One thing I've found in my travels over the years, is that most big cities you visit will have some golden arches to make you feel at home - yes, McDonald's.  Maybe not the thing we as Americans want to be known for, but it's there.  While I usually try to avoid American fast-food in order to experience more local options;  it's funny how each Mickey D's has some special touches for the locals (i.e. pineapple in Hawaii). 

*Not Singapore; from earlier trip to Budapest.  Piece of trivia: First McDonald's opened in Eastern Europe.

Living in Singapore for 3 years, I've decided I'm going to McDonald's - this is no longer a vacation and when I crave it, I'm going for it.  I've visited McDonald's a few times and noted some of the unique Singaporean qualities to share with you. Would you like any of these to be implemented in your local fast food restaurant?
  • No detailed menus - only the pictures.  It confuses me because I think there are other options to oder.  Refer to the next point. *Oh - and NO dollar menus!! (in fact you can eat local food cheaper than fast food)
  • Burgers/Sandwiches are double on the picture menu.  No single, regular cheeseburger - only the double (but I'm told you can still order a single).  Of course, I don't special order and get the double - ugh.
  • There are also chicken wings on the menu - in addition to the chicken nuggets.  Haven't tried them yet.  Have also seen fried shrimp (prawn) on several fast food menus.
  • If you thought the fries were salty in the U.S., they seem to be extra salty x 2 here.
  • The large drinks are probably still smaller than our small drinks.  While sandwich proportions are whacked out, drink proportions are much better.
  • To the condiments! Instead of two ketchups and a BBQ pump, it's two chili sauce pumps and only one ketchup.
  • There aren't mini-cups for ketchup, instead there are these almost tray-like discs.  (see pic)
  • Can't find an open table? Just sit where there are open seats.  Yes, you do not have the luxury of finding your own table. Everywhere in Singapore, people share tables and eat with random strangers.  No socializing is required - it's just known that there is not enough space to not share.
  • Finished....leave your garbage and take off.  It's common practice to leave your dishes, leftovers and garbage on your table and someone will clear it for you.  At my American restaurants though, I still have tendency to throw-away my own stuff.  Just feels weird to leave it there on the table. 
  • Need some quick food? Sorry, no drive-thrus.  I think I've seen 2 maybe in Singapore while there are McDonald's everywhere.  Just no room.
  • an get a McDelivery! I have yet to do this (although I frequent the KFS delivery website).  We'll see how long I hold out.
Here are the salty fries (you can see the salt!) and ketchup discs.  This McDonald's is actually asking diners to clean up after themselves.  I'm curious to see how this campaign goes.  Have not seen it before.