Thursday, September 26, 2013

The good, the bad, the sad (and often weird) things - 2

Twelve months deserve twelve points.

1. Yesterday was One Year since we got here. For its weather alone it has been worth the journey. Seeing the sun everyday is cheering and although it's too humid to walk and I miss all the London walking (who knew!) I still love it! Good, very good.

2. Pedicures are aplenty. I don't walk as much but my feet take a beating in the dust and heat and pool and with never wearing socks or closed shoes. Pedicures are available in every mall at every price point. In clean salons by women who know what they are doing whether by experience or training. I try and have one a month at least (compared to an annual treat or home remedies in London). I have found a few good ones but am trying to experiment and try new places when I can. Good, very good. 

3. Expat bubble. How do I explain this without sounding like a snob? Keep an open mind, I am generalising. We live in a condo (gated development of high and low rise mix of flats) which is where most expats tend to live. Even those that live in houses (and the old b&w's) live in a very different situation from the way locals live. We have some local families in our building but never the twain shall meet.  But I'm talking about the expat population when I say that people aren't always friendly and I have found many many hands of friendship rebuffed. And the feeling I get is because it's each nationality group tends to socialise with mainly its own country people. Aussies with the Aussies, desis with the desis, etc. Maybe it's just my condo, or maybe it's just me. Either way, it's not good for the mental state. Bad, not good.

4. More expat bubble. Unless you make enough effort it's extremely likely that you live in this bubble. You shop in Malls, go and see private doctor, live in a padded shielded world. This is an expensive city - but expats live in this little world of privilege, rarely venturing out. And of course some expats try, they visit the odd wet market, they attend the festivals, but at the end of the day they live in an insulated bubble. Here all foreigners are 'Expats' whether they've lived here for 17 years or moved on non-expat packages. Ang Mo, white man. I may not be white but I'm still marked out as an Expat. This is a small and quite divided city. One that is very different from the melting pot that is London. Different, and not very good. 

5. Movies: The movie halls here are amazing! One in every mall. Great screens and sound. I go every Sunday evening - the tickets cost half of what they did in London and there is always plenty on. Very very good.  

6. Tropical bugs: Where do I start? Ever since we got here we have encountered all kinds of bugs. We've had courses of antibiotics for everything from mycoplasma to throat infections and h1n3. My Kid has developed asthma and needs an inhaler once a day (hopefully temporary). We constantly beat down bugs and fevers and colds only for them to re-appear within weeks. Bad, very bad.

7. More tropical maladies: Mould and dust, the scourge of the humid tropics. It's like an endless jungle that needs beating back - or rather wiping and disinfecting, ceiling fans and dehumidifiers, ventilation and airing of the flat every day. Keeps one on their toes. And everything lives in the fridge from salt to sugar and flours and pastas. Wierd and bad.

8. Shopping for groceries: There are insanely expensive supermarkets built to serve the expat population. No one good online groceries place. You can go and shop, load up your trolley and have things delivered in flimsy boxes (defeats the purpose I feel). Or buy non perishables online for a premium, to be delivered, and then get perishables elsewhere (an extra layer of work). I have only just found a system that works for me: Non perishables once a month with the online service, then fruit veg and fish in the local wet market every Tuesday and milk/ bread/ other fancy things like crisps and chocolate from the supermarket. This is sad and bad and needlessly complicated and I hope someone builds the refrigerated trucks and begins to provide an online groceries service like London. Sad and bad.

9. Bugs: All kinds that we'd never experienced before. Fascinating and occasionally frightening. The only one I don't like for sure is the household lizard which keeps having babies eeewwww! Bad and wierd.

10. Kitchens: Singaporeans don't really cook and eat at home. They eat in hawker centres (kopitiams) where a plethora of cheap options are available. Breakfast lunch and dinner. And so even condos don't have well designed kitchens. During our flat hunt we struggled to find one with a good sized kitchen with any/ all of the mod cons in it. Dishwashers were hard to come by, cupboard space was badly designed and  generally kitchens not very conducive to their intended purpose. Wierd.

11. Travel: The best airport is Changi. Organised, easy to navigate and an absolute pleasure to travel though. Sitting where it does Singapore is a prime gateway to visit the wonderful sites of the orient. In this year alone we have seen Bali, Kota Kinabalu, Hong Kong and Danang. And of course India - thrice! Good, very good. 

12. Life. It's a different experience living in South East Asia. A different pace of life from bustling London. There's been a lot to get used to but that's the adventure we signed up for. There's plenty of sunshine and thundery showers and this wierd and wonderful weather is my highlight. At the One year mark I can only say I have my days of intense London people missing but I usually wake up happy and excited to learn and enjoy a bit more of this tiny city. Good, very good. 


  1. Nice round up of all things Singapore!! To a large extent, many of us in Bangalore live in similar bubbles- insulated from power cuts, water woes etc. The complex I live in is a quiet and peaceful haven - you go outside and its all noise and pollution and traffic. I read somewhere that the UK leads in online retail. I'm surprised Sgp isn't as good or even better. Bangalore seems to have lots of options including one exclusively for expats it seems like (jnternational grocery!).

  2. Hey - we moved here one year back as well from NYC. Your point number 3 about expat bubble bothers me the most. I have learned to live with the humidity - by vaccum sealing all things not expected to be worn in the next 3 months!

  3. And yes the best part for me has been the variety of fruits and vegetables! I have loved eating mangosteen, longkan berries, pomelo, kailan. Also loved going to wet markets to shop!

  4. And oh! It's not just your condo, expats here aren't very friendly which was a rude shock for me used to the super-friendly Americans. Sorry I will stop now.

  5. Does point 3 bother you because it's badly written or untrue or true?

    Yes variety of amazing fruits and veggies is a bonus.

  6. And the next series on pedicures..?

    Nice observations. Have not tested the expat theory yet given lack of time but going to work has its pluses - I get to bond with the local population and have been let into the secret of the best assam fish and pernaken food near office!

  7. Hey - sorry I should have been clear. It bothers me because it is so true. I don't know why expats live in such a bubble here.

  8. 30in2005, I am enjoying your Singapore series! It is completely your call but could I please ask if you could change the font of the blog? It may just be my browser but it comes up all bold and the alphabets very close together making it really hard to read.

  9. Better? I'm a Luddite - should just stick to what I know (or rather what has worked by accident) and not attempt any fancy template changes.

  10. I am so happy that you are experiencing this adventure. But come back already!

  11. Thank you! This is great. I'm sorry the template change didn't work, but like I said it may just be me. I'm so grateful for the change though. Thank you.