Visiting Singapore over the last couple of years has been like a quasi coming home for me. Mum and Dad are here, it is warm and often sunny, and for the last couple of January trips, the Aussie Open has been on the TV. It may not be going home home, but there is an element of homeliness to this island. This is helped greatly by something else; Singapore is chock full of expats. This means it is chock full of things expats (and immigrants like me) very much like; creature comforts from home.
Grocery shopping here, at the expat haunts, is like taking a turn about the world. The bread at the bakery is often German, or baked German-style, the meat and fish is shipped in from around the globe (reflected in the horrendous prices) the chocolate aisle is full of Ritter Sport, Kinder and Lindt for the Germans and Swiss, Whittakers for the Kiwis, and Cadbury for the Poms and Aussies, you can buy your Australian milk and yoghurt, Dutch Doppelkeks, American oats and cookies, Malaysian dried mango and half the things, I swear, I can find while doing a DM shop in Kiel (but for triple the price. God bless Germany’s cheap grocery prices.).
Singapore is also chock full of Aussies. Our accents rain down as you walk around the city, or the expat haven of Orchard. Consequently, and thrillingly for me, a trip to the supermarket yields the staples of the Australian diet; Vegemite, Tim Tams and Cadbury chocolate. (We do occasionally eat other things, like lamb and beer.) I know, I know, I live in the land of chocolatey plenty, what on earth am I doing yearning for a block of old Cadbury? I don’t know. I barely ever yearned for it when I lived in Australia, but now the familiarity found in that purple packet tastes wonderful. And on the topic of abundant chocolate in Germany, quite despite it, Germans are yet to come close to nailing the chocolate biscuit. Which is why I will be flying home with ten packets of Tim Tams in my suitcase. A Tim Tam and a cup of tea is like Vegemite toast with a slice of tasty cheese in the morning – an edible dose of home. A warm little sigh of contentment. It’s funny, isn’t it. You can be surrounded by plenty of delicious things in your adult life, but it is so often what you grew up with that offers the greatest comfort.
As die Lüdde grows, and begins sinking her new teeth into all and sundry, I keep thinking of things I enjoyed as a kid and searching for similar things in the German supermarkets. Automatically, from the beginning, I gave her things to eat that were very normal for me as baby/toddler foods and treats, but not so much for my German Mum friends; avocado, sweet potato, peanut butter or vegemite toast, endless bananas, porridge, baked beans, sultanas and dried fruit, beetroot, Anzac biscuits. If I could find some decent ones, I’d give her a mango everyday. She has her Dad to step in and redress the balance by introducing the German staples, like the the humble Rosinenbrötchen and the Wurst she gets every time we go to the butchers (which she now shamelessly demands while the butcher is weighing out the Fleischsalat) and a Kugel of icecream whenever the temperature soars above 15 degrees. She also, tellingly, uses only the German word for ‘cake’, which is probably fair. At this point she eats more like an Aussie kid than a German kid, but that will all change as she grows up and into German culture, and kids at Kita or school have things she wants. Although I suspect she will always love Baked Beans and Vegemite toast and perhaps years down the track will reach for them as her own creature comforts.
Being back in Singapore this time, perhaps for the last time as my parents will soon move back to Oz, I once again have unlimited access to the biscuit aisle, and now a little person to consider when buying my nostalgia-snacks. So alongside the Tim Tams*, this time, I’ll bring home Full o’ Fruits and Milk Arrowroots for die Lüdde, so we can both have a cuppa and an Aussie biscuit together, and feel that comfort, that warm little sigh of contentment.
*And blocks of Cadbury chocolate. And three large jars of Vegemite. And most probably dried mango.