Posts filed under ‘Essays’
Notes From An Even Smaller Island is a collection of essays written by Neil Humphreys, a London expat well-known for his humorous columns in Today and The Straits Times. Before arriving in Singapore, he did not know a lot about the country, and the book is an account of his experiences with a culture foreign to him (he even initially wondered where Singapore was in China).
This collection is a good reminder to Singaporeans how other cultures differ from ours, and how foreigners perceive certain details with great interest, though they may be easily overlooked by native inhabitants. The topics Humphreys covers range from Singapore’s climate, food, living style, and cultural habits, to pronunciation (including Singlish) and the relatively shorter stature of its citizens.
The book’s humor mainly comes from the cultural encounters Humphreys experiences and his witty responses to these events. An example of this is when he has to walk through thick haze to go to a mini-mart in 1997. Along the way, he finds a man burning joss paper money in a large dustbin in the belief that this money will reach deceased friends and family members in the afterlife. However, as the haze was very intense, Humphreys is irritated by the man’s timing, and compares the man’s activities to the 1933 Reichstag fire.
Notes From An Even Smaller Island is a fun read, especially for those used to the Singaporean way of life. The writing is clear and understandable, but there are also occasional vulgarities and instances of dirty humor, so this may not be appropriate for younger readers. Humphreys wrote two more books in this same vein: Scribbles From the Same Island and Final Notes from a Great Island.