Living in a New Culture | Carragh Amos | Episode 638


Carragh Amos | Episode 638

Living in a New Culture | Carragh Amos | Episode 638

Carragh Amos is from Auckland, New Zealand. Carragh holds a BFA Hons from Elam School of Fine Arts. Her practice moves between fine art and functional craft, with pieces influenced by historical pottery of the wider Asian region. Current work celebrates process, labour, and action through hand-built ceramics.


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Was it important to do research of the local customs and traditions before you moved there?

Yeah, absolutely. I mean you don’t want to go putting your foot in it. I am still learning, definitely. Somewhere like Singapore makes it not too difficult. I think maybe for people who haven’t been to Singapore might imagine it being more culturally different than it is. It is a very international city and there is  a lot of foreigners and expats here. There’s more things around kind of religious things that you get used to. I had to google a lot of holidays. They have a lot of public holidays here and I was incredibly ignorant of and never heard of but I think just being aware of that is kind of important here.

How important is it to learn a least a few words of the language, like please, thank you, or where is the restroom? 

Well, in Singapore English is a national language but they do have Singlish. I’m not sure if you  know much about that, it is kind of like a hybridized English, Singaporian, it has a little bit of Hokkien thrown in and a little bit of Mandarin. So if I am ordering a kopi or a  coffee in the morning I can order that straight through but the rest of the time I can understand some Singlish, which is basically a lot of slang thrown into a kind of rough English, but other than that it is pretty much rough English. It will get you everywhere. I can say, thank you, in Mandarin if I need to. Some of the older generation here never learned English so it can be nice to say thank you to them in there own language.

When I was living in Montreal it was maybe more important because a lot of people were not English speaking, even more than in Singapore, which might surprise some people. But learning things like how to have a conversation with your grocery person which can get you into trouble quite  a few times because they may think you speak French and then they kick off and you have to say, All I know how to say is I don’t have a Metro card with me.  So just these basic things can help you connect. You can bridge the language barrier even if it is just with hello or thank you. There is definitely a warmth that you receive and it’s a more humane connection.

Is it critical to venture beyond the tourist attractions and get into what the local community is doing?

Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean hawker centers are a really big think here. They are basically outdoor food courts so that where you are really getting the grandeur side of Singapore. And you are getting some of the best food as well. There are kind of tourist hawker centers and then there’s the real in your community hawker center. So these are really hit and miss food stores. You could have something terrible or you could have something that is the best thing you have ever eaten. You kind of come to know these different places. Some of them have been run by four generations of the same family that have been there since before time. Which is really cool, so it is kind of part of the cultural history of Singapore and it is really important to engage with that and not just in tourist areas.

I am curious about the food gig, does that then help you connect more with the locals?

Yeah, definitely. I think you also can get to know certain people. On a literal sense you can get to know people as they know your order and they’ll chat to like in your local coffee shop or whatever. But also it is a way of breaking bread if you go with your friends and you can give a range of different foods you’ve never tasted before and it is a really fun way to embrace culture, to learn about culture, and to hear from Singaporians especially. This is my grandma’s favorite or This is my uncle’s favorite as you always had this on a Friday.  Or something like that. You start to see everyday life from a different perspective when you try and more fully immerse yourself in it.

Does people watching play a role in learning what’s going on or learning how to behave or just learning the culture?

Yeah, definitely. I have learned a lot about, especially the older Singaporian generation here from sitting at these food courts and watching. It is quite common, well at the  moment they are not, but in better times you’ll sit at the food court and all of the elderly people come down from the housing buildings, they are kind of like short sky scrapers, and  they all gather and they all eat together and talk. You can be there, you might go to the supermarket at 8 am in the morning and come back and they are still there and it is 4pm and they have moved on to beer or something. They have this really cool community of elderly people and the uncles and aunties all coming together and enjoying the social aspects of eating and sitting outside. It is just something in my experience in the west we do a lot less and it is so important for elderly people to get that kind of community and connection.

What is a favorite piece that you’ve made and what is a favorite movie that your husband has worked on?

On my Instagram I do have this Kurinuki teacup that was wood-fired and has quite flat lines on it and has a little bit of a shino glaze over the top and the ash has just landed on it really beautifully. So you’ve got these blush tones and then this mossy green coming through which, I am always a sucker for the moss green coming through in any ash or wood-fired pieces.So that’s a really precious one for me and it actually sits on display in my living room and of course is used, like all good ceramics should be.

Favorite movie my husband worked on, you are really putting me on the spot , I’m trying to think of everything he’s worked on now. I just asked my husband for a list and he said, Just tell them you don’t like any of my movies. (laughter)  A lot of them are block-buster ones. He did some really fantastic work in the latest Spider-Man which I am very proud of.


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Instagram: @carragh_amos

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