Expat women in Singapore: The skinny on being skinny

Expat women in Singapore: the skinny on being skinny

My honeymoon period in Singapore ended the first time I went clothes shopping and discovered I’d become “plus sized” overnight. I wouldn’t have minded if it weren’t for one thing: I weighed all of 120 pounds.

That’s 54½ kilograms. Eight and a half stone. But in Singapore, thin is in. And in the land of the tai tai, I clearly wasn’t thin enough.

Singaporean women are impossibly tiny. They wear correspondingly tiny clothes that aren’t designed to accommodate the 3Bs (Boobs, Butt, Belly) that many Western expats bring with them when they relocate. I remember asking a stunningly beautiful salesgirl, who probably weighed 80 pounds soaking wet, if she had a certain dress in my size. Her gaze flickered over me from head to toe before she said dismissively, “We don’t have anything in your size.”


Buying bras was especially frustrating: in Singapore, the alphabet apparently stops at A. Discovering Marks and Spencer’s lingerie department was like finding a lacey oasis in the desert. There was a chart pinned to the change room door — to placate exasperated expats, I’m guessing — outlining the differences between Western breasts (“large and rounded”) and the Asian variety (“small and pointed”). I’m not sure I needed to know that, but I mentally filed it away in case I’m ever a contestant on Jeopardy.

Singapore is home to a very robust “slimming industry” that’s worth tens of millions of dollars. Search for “slimming in Singapore” and you’ll see what I mean: Google will obligingly cough up about 8,940,000 results in .24 seconds flat.

During the time I lived there, the country was captivated by the tragic story of local actress Andrea De Cruz, who almost died of liver failure thanks to bogus diet pills. It took her boyfriend’s donation of half his liver to save her life. (You can read her story on the site cosmeticsurgeryandbeauty.com. While you’re at it, take a look at the site’s tagline: “Because Nobody’s Perfect.” I know — the irony is killing me, too.)

The authors of a study published in the Singapore Medical Journal surveyed the literature to explain this preference for thinness among Singaporeans:

[E]conomic development and industrialisation are accompanied by a higher prevalence of obesity as well as increased media exposure to the norms of highly industrialised Western societies. As a result, there is a heightened level of societal concern with obesity, and values and norms relating to ideal body size change in preference for thinness, especially among adolescent females.

The pursuit of such an extreme body-type ideal can have far-reaching consequences. I’m no stranger to living in a weight-obsessed society, but it never affected me directly until I moved to Singapore. As disheartening as it was to have to forage for clothes that fit, what stung even more was the implicit message that not being a size 0 meant there was something inherently wrong with me.

While we sometimes whine about the differences we encounter in our host county, the onus is on us to adjust to them. But this issue goes deeper than a mere clash of cultures. The sad truth is that living in an environment where excessive thinness is the norm can lead to a warped body image and messed-up self-esteem for those who don’t conform to the standard. I’ve heard disturbing stories — some firsthand and many more through the grapevine — of risky weight-loss practices within the expatriate community. It’s a dangerous problem for which I don’t pretend to have a solution. I just hope that if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the unrelenting pressure to be thin, you’ll think twice before doing anything that may cause more harm than good.


About Maria

I'm a Canadian repatriate, former expat spouse, mother to two TCKs (and one yellow Lab), mentor to new immigrants, writer, reader, world traveller (grounded for now). I write about expat/repat issues and am still trying to figure out my place in the world.
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65 Responses to Expat women in Singapore: The skinny on being skinny

  1. katrijn says:

    Oh, wow – I had realized many women were very skinny in Singapore, but I chalked it up to a different body type. I even felt sorry for the skinnier among them, thinking they must be pining for a more well-rounded, less skeletal body! Also, I assumed that skinny Westerners would be able to buy clothes here, and that my problem was as much to do with my height (I’m Dutch) as with my actual form. But apparently not. Those poor, poor women. And they are, generally, so beautiful and so well-dressed (so poor, poor me too for not being able to buy those clothes :)).

    • Maria says:

      I do think body type has a lot to do with it, which is why I was so shocked to see the never-ending parade of ads promoting slimming products. The newspapers were always screaming about the increasing popularity of American-style fast food, linking it to widespread weight gain (especially among children.) I didn’t see much evidence of that.

      As for buying clothes, I did manage to get lucky at a few stores. (Zara, for example.) But I knew a tall, slender Dutch woman who had given up on buying clothes in Singapore, so it seems that height is as much of an issue as weight among expats.

  2. Heather says:

    …and ironically, you’d be TOO thin in Wales. At least that was my friend’s experience there…

  3. This is why I have no interest in visiting Asia. In Asia, I’d be considered obese. If I stay in Western countries, I always look slim in comparison to everyone else. It’s better for my self-esteem.

    • THE CAYster says:

      Actually, as a Singaporean speaking (not that I’m biased or anything), we are naturally ‘thin’. Seriously, we’re born that way. Most of us don’t really consider expats fat or anything, just some of those peeps in the many shopping malls. Sorry to make u feel unwelcome or anything…..

  4. Liene says:

    I’m currently living in France, where skinny and tiny seems to be the norm. For a 6’3″ expat who wears a size 13 shoe and has a 2 month old, finding clothing that fits seems an impossible task. A task that has me longing for a few American stores and making my acclimation to life here that much more difficult. I can’t imagine how badly I’d feel in Singapore, where I would be considered overweight as well…

    • Maria says:

      In Bordeaux I didn’t have the trouble finding clothes that I did in Singapore. There was a much bigger range of sizes. I imagine that being 6’3″ would make it tough, though. (When my daughters were 2 months old, I was still wearing my maternity clothes, even though I was completely sick of them. It took a while before I moved back into regular clothes again.)

  5. Well, there are interesting differences in size across countries. For example, a medium sized person in the UK would probably be considerred a smaller size in Germany. Personal experience..

    • Maria says:

      It does vary, Tony. But in most of the places I’ve been to, there seemed to be a pretty good mixture of body types and sizes. In Singapore, it was really shocking to me how few people deviated from the norm.

  6. Sine says:

    LOL. You should come to Southern Africa where big butts are not only inherited but also quite the rage (I’m NOT insinuating you have a big butt!) and you’d be very happy with your 120 pounds. I do remember the bra size problem in Singapore. I was breast-feeding at the time and could never find anything even modest, like a size C. The irony is that now, as I no longer live there, my breast-feeding days are over, post four babies, and I would love to go shopping in a place that has more options in size A. With push-up functionality, preferably.

  7. Oh to be 120 again! I have to say I just stopped clothes shopping when we lived in Dubai and waited until I went home every 6 months or so (the exorbitant prices had something to do with that too). Trying to figure out what size I needed (especially standing in front of the rows and rows of bras at Carrefour and not being able to decipher which size matched a 38B was just too much for me)! I too was often on the receiving end of that sympathetic look and slow shaking of the head. And now that I’m in Thailand the ‘average’ dress size is the same as you would probably have found in Singapore. Sigh! The good thing is that the healthy eating and increase in exercise has allowed me to lose that ‘Dubai stone’ but I’m still not as tiny as the local girls but I bet I’m just as happy!

    • Maria says:

      I don’t think I ever got a sympathetic look. I did once have a Singaporean co-worker who walked by my desk and said, out of the blue, “I admire your figure.” Mind you, she was a bit older and not as rail-thin as most of the women I saw in Singapore. My husband, on the other hand, was told he looked “prosperous” — and you know what that means! (Too much chilli crab and Tiger beer 🙂 )

  8. Note to self: visit Singapore, okay. Move there? No way

  9. fiona says:

    Excellent post and I am so glad to have found your blog via Twitter. Now I can tick Singapore off my list of places to move to…I’m not sure my bum could take the shame. Being amongst the 6’5″ skinny women of Berlin is bad enough!

    http://fionagray.blogspot.com (my expat blog)

  10. Oh, man, do I get this! I’m living in Japan right now, and the sizes are oh-so-tiny and the prices are oh-so-expensive. It’s made me avoid shopping all together to keep my body image in check. Even though I’m on the smaller size, I’ve realized that Westerners are just built differently: my hips are wider, my butt is rounder, my boobs… well, they’re not As, or Bs, or Cs… It’s just easier to shop at home, or at very specific stores where I know what I’m getting. For me, it’s been a learning process not to take it personally that I’m not super tiny, but to realize that bodies are different across the world, and be happy that, usually, I live in a country with a variety of sizes.

    • Maria says:

      A learning process — that’s exactly right. Like all lessons, it was sometimes painful. But I got used to it, and just did the bulk of my shopping when I was home in the summer. The bonus was that all the summer stuff was on sale by then.

      • Melanie says:

        I’m from the US and live in Singapore. It must be new, but la Senza has my size D cup, and in super cute patterns. Best of all, they were on sale 3 for $99. That’s cheaper than Vicki’s. Really cute underwear too. Size large included. Zara is the best place for nice clothes, but you can get inexpensive ,sleeveless, cute cotton at Sentosa island. $10-19 per shirt. Pair it with the flattering tiered skirt and it rocks. Shorts however are out for me. Glad I brought 5, and capris. I’m a small to medium shirt at home, so large works here. Ps. The biggest bummer is the lack of diet food and drink. No Crystal Light or knock off?! And if they were so concerned about weight they would have daycare with the gyms!! Even the Y had it!! 🙂

  11. Jan says:

    Love your blog. I am the same as the majority of women writing in. I am a US 14 and on the tall side for Asia standards 5’8″. I have to buy my clothes and have them shipped from USA. I keep a UPS box at a UPS postal store who reboxes our stuff and sends it to us. Still cheaper than SIngapore prices and the size are in proportion to western bodies. YEAH. I do not subsribe to or want to be a skeletal skinny Asian body. BIG and Beautiful!!!!

    • Maria says:

      Thanks Jan! It never occurred to me that it would be cheaper to courier clothes from the US — a win-win for you! (Note to self: why didn’t I think of that?)

  12. Tina H says:

    Hi Maria, I’m actually not an expat but a Singaporean who has lived in Australia close to 10years before moving back home. I came across your blog while looking for, what else, slimming dresses.
    I’m pretty big by Sg standard, an Aussie Size 14 and wears an F-cup bra so imagine my nightmare upon returning home.Not to mention the jibs by colleagues to cut down on my eating (I don’t eat much), exercise more (I used to enjoy the great outdoors in Oz but the humidity here keeps me in & I find gym incredibly boring) and worse calling me ‘fat’ in my face (it appears to be generally acceptable here though it would be ground for dismissal or at least censure in Oz). My self-esteem has definitely taken a hit.
    Generally, I shop at Dorothy Perkins, Zara, Miss Read and Cotton On for basics but fly back to Oz twice a year for bra shopping. The thing I find strange here is the culture for quick weight-loss which you can find all over the papers and on the telly.It’s literally in-your-face. Over in Oz, there is a greater emphasis on healthy living…think Jenny Craig (if that counts), numerous gyms doting every suburbs and I feel more motivated by the latter and demoralised by the former…I hope to become immune to the skinny world around me over time..

    • Maria says:

      It’s a constant struggle to tune out the “skinny” messages, especially when something as simple as trying to buy clothes turns into such an ordeal. Fight the good fight!

  13. viv says:

    I’m Singaporean and I come from a family of slim women…and men. There’re indeed many skinny Singaporeans but for most of them, it is natural. They can’t fatten up even if they tried. It’s not just the women..the men are like that too. We are born this way: small boned. Well, many Asians are – just check out the Thais, Vietnamese, Japanese, Taiwanese etc. For at least 90% of the skinny population, being slim comes naturally and is not a result of slimming products. Guess the downside for us is that when we travel to, say, Europe and North America, we have to shop in the kids’ department!

    • Maria says:

      If you’re young, that’s probably not too much of a problem: kids’ clothes and adult clothes don’t look all that different these days! If you’re older, yes, you’d have a lot of trouble finding size- and age-appropriate clothing here. But here in Ontario there’s no sales tax on children’s clothing, so at least it wouldn’t cost you as much. (I doubt that’s any consolation, though.)

  14. Banana says:

    my friends are usually S or M sized. i used to buy regularly from a shop called Keelia at novena sq 2. they are no longer there. heard they are now online….I may be posted to europe. so i guess i should be able to find some good clothes that fit me. sigh.

  15. Hey 🙂 I have exactly the same problem as you. I have just moved here from the UK, where I am a dress size 6-8, waist 26 (occasionally 27 because of the hips), top size 6, size XS, S. You get the picture. I’m 52 kg and 22.
    I haven’t dared try on some of the stuff in Singapore because I just know its not going to fit me. Asian and singaporean women (in general) have no hips, bust or bum, and the clothing market does not cater for that. Sizes in branded stores are made smaller for the asian market (Nike sportswear included) – I would have to buy a size LARGE in their loose running shorts here whereas I am a small in the UK. The contrast is ridiculous and to be honest, it doesn’t feel nice to have to buy the higher size (so I haven’t).
    For many women being skinny is natural, but a huge proportion of the people I have gotten to know and have seen are a) on a diet (no carb no fat) and b) on diet pills, slimming teas etc. I am a B-C cup and have managed to find suitable bra sizes here, but never anything bigger than a C. You can find lots of clothes that fit in markets – and occasionally I do find something suitable in the shops (when I dare to try them on) however this is a big problem.
    So, If I want to fill my wardrobe (the shops here are amazing 😦 ) I’ll either have to bite my tongue and buy the larger sizes or lose half a stone minimum to ‘survive’. I’m not really happy with either of these options.

    Anyone feeling me on this?

    – An irritated fashion and lifestyle blogger

    • Maria says:

      I think you should buy the large and just cut out the label! Clothing sizes are so completely arbitrary anyway. Last week I bought 2 tops — one was a small, the other an extra large. In the same store! Crazy stuff.

  16. Kat says:

    Hihi, what happened to my last comment? I think this post is very interesting and the discussion very lively. 🙂 I shared my experience as a Singaporean who moved to the US, and it was a long comment.
    I think some of these women might like the idea of having a personal shopper for them to buy things from US and send to them in SG, which is what I am doing now.

    • Maria says:

      Sorry Kat, I didn’t see it. Did you include any links or phone numbers? If so, it automatically went into my spam folder. I get about 100 spam comments a day, so I don’t usually read them before deleting. You’re welcome to comment again!

  17. Kat says:

    I just included my email so that other ladies who miss buying clothes and stuff from US can contact me to buy them for them. Does including email also get sent into your spam folder?

    Anyway, it was funny when I read your post, because on the other side of the spectrum, as a Singaporean girl who married an American and moved to the US a couple of years ago, I have trouble getting bras my size, because simply almost nothing is in “A” cup! (Actually my cup is AA)
    I have to go back to Singapore to buy bras. The smallest cup is often “B”, and in US, that seems to be the definition of “flat-chested”. B=flat?! I think that is ridiculous. If I have a B, I would be so happy because at least I would have a cleavage. 🙂
    I read in your post that you can only find “A” cup bras, but that is not true. From when I was young, there are already “B” to “D” cups. In recent years, stores have also started catering for bigger cups, so you can ask around, especially big people or Indian ladies are often well-endowed and have hour glass figures, where they buy their inner wear. Stores specializing in plus sizes have also opened up.
    The thing is, as several ladies above have pointed out about US, UK, France, SG sizes, and as you have also commented to Susannah, the sizes don’t really matter as long as you look nice when you’re wearing them. Cos your friend is probably not going to ask you what size top or bottom you are wearing (I almost have never got that question before). 🙂

    As for shopping for clothes, only shopping in Bebe makes me feel normal (they have ridiculously small sizes compared to other US stores), and there I have to put on an “M”.
    Even for clothes, it is difficult. There are a lot of plunging necklines and styles which fit boobsy girls in US, which is all very pretty on boobsy girls, but I can never wear these clothes. Many a time, when I try on a pretty top or dress, everything fits except the space that they allow for boobs. Sighs. It’s when I realize that clothes in Asia and Singapore are really friendly for small-breasted girls.

    By the way, I am 5’4 (yes I have finally switched from cm to feet and inches), or 164cm (tall by SG girls standards), and 122lbs (55kg) right now. When I first came to US, I was 112lbs (51kg), 27″ waist, and my friends in SG always thought I was thin. What I’m saying is, if you are taller, you will surely be heavier, have a bigger waistline, but you will still look slim in Singapore. It’s just proportions and perception, what you wear to show that and how you project yourself. Otherwise, you are gonna border on being anorexic.
    There is no need to lose weight in Singapore if you are comfortable with your weight, because Singaporeans are used to westerners being bigger, and you probably don’t want to return to your home country and have friends and family exclaim how thin you have become. (One time I really saw a very anorexic looking westerner in Newton – she was all skin and bones, and looked like she was about to be blown off by the wind, now that is scary.)
    Although, I have never thought of the shopping challenges expatriate wives face until I read your post.

    Anyways, if any of the ladies here would like to buy clothes/shoes/anything from US, just drop me an email. I would like to include my email in my next post, if it is ok with Maria.

  18. I just moved to Singapore this week, after having visited a couple of times over the past four years. I was invited to an informal dinner by one of my husband’s friends and on my way there, I thought I was getting a few admiring looks. I thought, O I must look so exotic with my brown skin and big long curly hair.
    Turns out they were just thinking I am fat. And why do the clothing sizes stop at M?? I am so bummed. 😦 Plus the humidity isn’t doing anything for my curly frizzy hair. So I took advantage of an inaugural offer for an ten dollar hair wash. They charged me twenty dollars citing “many hair” as a reason. They also said I should chop it off from the inside layers to make it look “better”.
    Feeling unsexy,

    • Maria says:

      Don’t be too hard on yourself — your curly hair makes you stand out, and perhaps they really were thinking how exotic you look! As for the rest, I think you’ll adapt. (Your hair won’t, unfortunately, but you’ll soon figure out how to handle it.) There should be at least a few stores you can shop at. I had lots of luck at Esprit, Marks and Spencer, and Zara; there must be plenty more by now. Hope you start to feel sexy again soon.

  19. Bosmosis says:

    As a 104 kg. man in weight-obsessed South Korea, I feel some of the same pressure, though I know it’s far more intense for women. Koreans tend to be very frank in assessing the weight of other people, and what they consider “fat” would not even tip the scales in the U.S. I’ve more or less gotten used to shops not having my size here, and instead stock up on clothes on my annual visits to the U.S.

    • Maria says:

      It used to be that men weren’t put under the same body-image pressure as women, but that’s no longer true. It’s now an equal opportunity obsession. I think the yearly shopping binge is the best way to go. The bonus for us was that summer clothes were on sale by August, and since that’s all we wore in Singapore, I stocked up for cheap. Sometimes the empty suitcase is your best friend.

  20. bookjunkie says:

    excellent article Maria….am gonna retweet it. It’s the one reason I loathe shopping here. It’s pretty ridiculous too when obviously skinny women or men say they need to loose weight. I find it so incredulous….and extremely unhealthy. But so many skinny people in Singapore feel this way. An expat friend who was already the perfect size came here and starting becoming extremely weight conscious because she couldn’t find anything that fit. And once she was a medium but now in singapore….an xl. Felt for her. Shops don’t cater for different body shapes or frames which is very frustrating. My relatives who has boobs (which i envy) finds it hard to find a good fit here too.

  21. Kaye says:

    Interesting article– after 4 years in Malaysia I am resigned to being an XXL (if I can find anything). On the other hand, a few locals have been kind enough to say “You’ve gained some weight– it looks good.”
    (Incidently, we always fly TO Singapore to buy clothes! It’s all relative.)

    • Maria says:

      Thanks for the reminder that everything needs to be put into context. And don’t you love being complimented on your weight in Asia? My husband’s secretary used to tell him (approvingly), “You look very fat today.” The first time he was devastated, but he got used to it in time.

  22. tsaritsa says:

    I’m an Australia-based Filipina with a Singaporean boyfriend. I have always been comfortable with my size, as my type of Asian is more curvier compare to our Oriental-looking neighbours.

    I don’t feel the need to conform to their ideals as I am from a different background, culture and genes. I wear an F cup bra and I have my good days and bad days when it comes to weight. But overall, I am one of those lucky hourglass figures and excess food goes mostly to the chest area.

    But since frequenting to Singapore a lot and having to mingle with his circle, I started to feel unnerved. Sure, I have the curves but I still have a bit of my baby fats. I know I will never be as stick-thin as them and I don’t aspire to be. I love my curves!

    But aside from the usual miniature dress sizes of the Asian market and the stereotypical ideologies of the media, they can get a bit judgmental. I eat, they’ll tell me that I’m chubby. I try to slim down, they’ll tell me not to show off my body/boobs too much.

    This is why for me, Singapore is only for eating. I don’t care what they say about my weight. Thin or fat, I have boobs. Let them stare in awe and be jealous.

    • Kat says:

      Applause tsaritsa!! Yes you are right! There is no need to lose weight/ slim down, etc simply because you are living in Singapore, because every one of us is different. I am from Singapore, but my sister is big-sized and busty.
      There are some of you ladies from US, UK, Netherlands, etc who are naturally taller, bustier, curvier. Filipinas are petite, but very curvy, busty and sexy! I think Filipinas pack a bunch of sexiness in their petite figure!
      So keep your figures! As long as you dress with confidence and you know you look good, that’s all it matters.

      Women are never satisfied with their figures. Being a thin Singaporean girl I always admire girls who are taller or curvier. Growing up, I always thought I will undergo breast implantation. But well, I realize that I don’t have to be ashamed of my (bust!) size once I accept it as my own. Afterall, it is a feature coverted by models and a trait of athletes!
      I dare say that there are tons of Singaporean women who look envyingly at you ladies and think, “o my, she looks so confident and so good”, or “I wish I was as curvy as her because I can never wear those sexy clothes”, or “she looks so exotic”…
      So, whether you are plus-sized, normal size, petite (whether in your home country or in Singapore), as long as you are confident and comfortable, don’t listen to narrow-minded colleagues or neighbours, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. 🙂
      And they will stare at you in awe and envy.

      • tsaritsa says:

        Thanks Kat! I’ve always wondered how it feels like to be less endowed and have once thought of getting breast reduction. Then, I’ll just think of all the push up bra craze and tell myself, “Nope, you’re good.” It may be troublesome and I get that a lot of “OMG YOU ARE AN F-CUP ASIAN” like it’s a rare commodity, but I have accepted myself and have embraced my curves. After all, the best boobs are the real boobs—small or big! 🙂

  23. Hi, as a British woman living in Hong Kong I have to say it is a joy to visit Singapore. All female Hong Kongers are tiny without exception (and wear very little clothing day or night so you’re always hyper of aware of the fact) whereas in Singapore I’ve seen a whole range of body types among the Asian women – even ones that would be counted as overweight or even obese in the UK and US. Plus there are far more caucasians in Sing, in HK 99 per cent of the time I usually only see Asian women and they look at me like I’m a freak. I’m a UK size 10-12, 5’5″ with blonde hair and blue eyes, in Hong Kong I feel like the most unattractive woman on the planet. I usually only buy clothes when I’m back in London but have bought the occasional piece by American brands on sale in HK – despite being a size large in Asian clothes, happily I seem to be a Brooks Brothers size 2 🙂

    • tsaritsa says:

      I think HK is similar with Taiwan—having vanity sizes. For example, a Western B cup is quite similar to a Singaporean C, and for Taiwan/HK it’s a D.

  24. Joseph Nebus says:

    When I lived in Singapore I was — besides being tall (about 190 cm) — also quite heavy (I think 130 kg. I was a challenge for any normal store’s outfitting in the United States, never mind Singapore.

    And for one formal occasion I realized I didn’t have a pair of full-length dress slacks I could wear. And there wasn’t time to get anything from the United States, so, I went to a couple of stores (Takashima, I remember; also a couple spots at Bugis Junction) and there was just no fitting my height and waist size.

    The closest I could get, at Seiyu, I believe it was, was one pair that I could just fit into if I were standing, or if I discreetly unbuttoned it before sitting down. It was either do that or wear short pants to the thing.

    The sales clerk then went and asked me: “Do you want this pair of pants, sir?” And I realized I could not say whether I wanted it or not. It got to a question of what “want” means. I guessed that my need for something that was just about suitable for the purpose overwhelmed whether I would actually choose to have this or not, and bought it.

    (I’ve since lost nearly 50 kg, so now I’m a challenge to fit because I’m too tall and skinny.)

  25. Alaine says:

    I agree that shopping for clothes in Singapore is incredibly challenging. I used to love shopping. I don’t anymore unless it’s for shoes (the opposite effect for me in the US where I hate it b/c I have small feet), bags, accessories. Shopping for clothes in Singapore is just depressing where the largest size in many stores is US size 8

  26. Iranilma says:

    I just came across your articles as i’m thinking to move to Singapore and now I wonder what’s gonna happen to me if I move!!
    I’m Brazilian living in UK,In Brazil everything is about body concious,big bum( the bigger the better) and big legs while in UK is so relax that when i came to UK my 1.64cms and 63kgs back home i was fat, over here i was normal but i still find a bit difficult to get nice fit jeans in UK as I have latin bum (JLo type)and they dont seem to cater much for this shape,and i get all my jeans when i go home.
    If I move to Singapore i probably not even bother to shop anymore(find different hobby) but that was a very eye opener for me,everywhere are different.

    • Maria says:

      Yes, I think you’re going to have to find a different hobby.:) Things may have changed since I lived there, but I can’t imagine stores in Singapore selling anything that would accommodate a JLo bum. Don’t let that keep you from moving there, though. Think of how much fun it will be to go on shopping sprees whenever you’re in Brazil!

  27. Shonny says:

    Hi Iranilma, you probably won’t be wearing jeans in Singapore unless they’re loose and lightweight. I moved here recently with my favourite curvy jeans from home and haven’t worn them once. But I have found skirts here and Espirit shorts. Mind you, just forget what the size label says. Don’t let it worry you. Having an Aussie 12/ UK 10 sized bottom, I ended up with the largest size available which was a 42. Definitely bring all of your favourite summer clothes! Especially your bottoms! Maria, thanks for the sanity, love your site.

    • Maria says:

      It’s true, I don’t believe I ever wore jeans either. Lots of cotton capris and skirts, not so many shorts. And nothing with a sleeve!

  28. Karen says:

    Hello. I am currently living in Australia, but lived in Singapore pretty much all my life until a year ago, and I hope to set the record straight. I am extremely skinny even by Singaporean standards- I weigh 39 kg and yes I am fully grown, but I can’t seem to pack on any weight even after trying to bulk up in the gym. But that’s just the way I am, and I think Singapore is one of the least superficial societies. In fact, when I hear about Americans (sorry but I do consider Canada to be a part of America, since, it’s in the continent of America) counting calories and doing all that degrading shit I feel sorry for them. For the sixteen years I have lived there, the girls have been nice and accepting of people of different appearances. So I think it wouldn’t be right to accuse Singaporean women of shaming “fat” women. Perhaps you felt too overwhelmed by the difference in sizes, and didn’t spend enough time talking to local women? I do admit that there are a lot of slimming advertisements but I have never met anyone who went for those programs or took diet pills.

    I do think that society in general is very misogynistic and superficial- the universal standard of beauty being a slim young woman with big tits, but I wouldn’t say Singapore is too weight-conscious. It’s easy to accuse us of being so because we generally look thin, but I think we’re not as bad as you make us seem 🙂

    • Maria says:

      Nowhere in this post did I accuse Singaporean women of shaming anyone. One snotty salesperson doesn’t speak for an entire nation. And considering Canada to be a part of the United States is like believing Australia is part of New Zealand.

  29. Ria says:

    I just arrived in Singapore about a week ago from the UK and although there is the typical tiny asian thing going on, I have to agree with the lady from HK, there are definitely more ‘large’ (and by large I mean normal sized) Singaporeans than there are mainland Chinese. Obviously i’m talking about the Chinese Singaporeans and not Malay, Tamil or whatever, I can’t comment about those, but there does seem to be a wider range and more actual ‘overweight’ people here. When I lived in China there was barely anyone who wouldn’t fall at least into the ‘petite’ category.

    As for shops, I haven’t had a chance to buy anything yet (fortunately i’m asian-sized anyway-short and slim with no boobs) but friends of mine definitely had problems on the mainland so i;d assume it’s the same here, I guess western brands are the best?

    Also, in China it’s very cheap to get clothes made for you, you just buy the material at the markets and take them to a local tailor, that way you’d get stuff that fitted perfectly. Is that just not an option here? I suppose it would be a lot more expensive…

  30. Lauren says:

    AHHHHHH I love you!! I am stopping over in Singapore at the moment, and I was very excited at the prospect of a shopping holiday. Sadly NOTHING FITS ME. I would be a medium in Australia, however here I’ve been bumped 2 sizes up, and it is near impossible to find a store that stocks clothing to fit this size. Thank you for feeling my pain 🙂

    • Tina Hashim says:

      Try Dorothy Perkins.They stock up til UK size 20-22. Also try Ms Read at Centrepoint. Marks and Spencer also has decent variety. A few shops at Far East Plaza also have some good stores e.g. Kaylene and they are pretty affordable. Hope that helps.

  31. Wendy says:

    I’m originally from Singapore but has migrated to Australia for a number of years since. If it’s of any consolation to my dear Caucasian ladies, you might be pleased to know that not all Asians ladies are petite either. It is also frustrating to be seen as ‘chunky’ by ladies of my own ethnicity?

    I’m 1.68 m (5’6″) and weighs around 59 kg. I’m more of the European build and I do face ‘challenges’ finding clothes that fit me. Even for my frame, I often have to wear ‘L’ or ‘XL’ and clothes are often very loose at my waist (Thanks for my broad shoulders and my child-bearing hips!). Anyhow, I purchase most of my professional work attire from Zara as they are the best fit for me or some UK brands (UK size 12) and that solves the problem.

    Having said that, even though I am ethnically Chinese (Singaporean Chinese), I also felt like a “giant” compared to my Asian counterparts. Due to my “European built”, I am also quite conscious of my ‘chunky size’ when I am in back Singapore, so it’s not just a problem for Caucasian woman but for Asian women who has a bit of curves too!

    On the contrary, where I currently reside in Australia, I have on some occasions been told that I am “thin/skinny”? I have never seen myself in the skinny category just relatively proportionate and yes, I do get a bit of ‘muffin top’ if I over-indulge in my food cravings! So, ‘size issues’ will always bug us whether we’re Asian/Caucasian 🙂

    Nevertheless, I have to say that I do hate the ‘Skinny Obsession’ in Asia but I am inclined to think that the ‘size’ issue is far more exacerbated in China.

    • Maria says:

      I love hearing about this issue from the Singaporean side. It just goes to show: everything is relative. (Zara was a godsend to me when I was there, too!)

  32. Wendy says:

    It sure is, Maria! 😉 I agree, it’s much more ‘comforting’ to be in a country where we are seen more of a “normal size”! Actually, I could still wear clothes which I bought 10 years back (classic pieces) and it’s bizarre that I was once ‘size 6’ has ‘ballooned’ to size 12? I seriously suspect the “sizes have reduced” over the years….

    Sure, I have piled on a bit over the past 10 years but definitely not doubled in size nor even 50% and it can be ‘depressing’ to accept that I wear “big sizes” now compared to my Asian counterparts….

    However, I guess, with age, you learn to be more accepting of yourself and your body and realised that we are all BEAUTIFUL, regardless of our size! 🙂

    • Maria says:

      The size on a clothing tag is like the candles on a birthday cake — just a number. Designers have been fiddling with their sizes for so long, they’re irrelevant. When I go shopping nowadays I don’t waste my time looking at meaningless numbers on the tags; I just walk up to a salesperson and ask “what size am I in your store?” On the same day I can be 3 different sizes in three different places. It’s ridiculous!

  33. shinedropdime says:

    Ah, I suppose we’re both suffering on different ends of the spectrum!

    I’m 5’1″ and 35kg — something I was never made so consciously aware of until I moved from Singapore to the UK to study. Up until 20 years of age, weight had never been an issue for my counterparts and I. I had plump and skinny friends alike, and while we occasionally groused about needing to lose or put on weight, we tacitly agreed that it was neither wise nor interesting to make a regular subject out of body talk.

    By the time I was 21, a year into my UK stay, I had gotten used to the knowing looks and the whispering each time I scarfed down a massive steak with cake on the side. I held my bladder after every meal to dispel suspicions that I was really upchucking in the loo, but I don’t think that helped. (Necessary interjection: I don’t look like a dying patient! I know this contravenes the rules of modesty, but being a former gymnast, my body is all lean, strong muscle.)

    Shopping inconveniences aside, I suppose what our hurt comes down to is knowing that people look at us in terms of our weight rather than our personality. It’s downright dehumanising, and a product, I think, of an inability to accept biological cultural differences.

  34. I’ve just found this article in 2014 and the situation is definitely the same – I am a Singaporean who has just moved home after 4 years in the UK, and while I was considered MINISCULE amongst my friends there (5’0″ and 50kg, depending on the weather), it has been nearly impossible to shop for clothes here. A size 8 is considered fat (?!) and bras do not go beyond a B – except in the larger band sizes, and even then nothing beyond a C, which is still ridiculous for most size 16 ladies I know. Found this page by googling “buy larger cup bras in Singapore”!

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