Durian in Singapore (and why not to run through alleys in the morning)

We all want to be the “cool expat.” The one who backwards parks in one smooth, beautiful arc. The one who prefers a kopi to a Starbucks. The one who doesn’t sound like a jackass when they throw in a “lah” once in a while.

But try as we might, it’s not always easy.

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The Time An Expat In Singapore Took a Little Holiday. In Paris.

While most of us spent our holidays in the region, and a few ventured down to Oz or up to Japan or China, apparently *some* of us find this region has grown tiresome, and were therefore forced to travel to more distant locales for their holidays.  Like, say, PARIS. The rest of us – the ones who spent our holiday *not* wearing berets and instead just chasing feral kids and drinking warm cans of Tiger beer in our own backyards – might feel a teensy bit jealous of our jetsetting friends. But we’d do well to remember: all that Joie De Vivre Francais can come at a cost…

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You Know You Are Such An Expat When…

There are a few things which just SCREAM “expat in Singapore.”  Among them: Living in a house jam-packed with local artifacts (If there is a giant Buddha in your powder room, you are Such An Expat); depending on frequent packages from your home country for sustenance (If you regularly order large boxes of American toothpaste, or British biscuits, you are Such An Expat); starting every single conversation with, “So where are you off to for the next holiday (because only expats travel every damn holiday.  So if Bali versus Phuket is your go-to conversation starter, you are Such An Expat).

Look, there’s no shame in being Such An Expat, but sometimes we even sort of shock ourselves with just how S.A.E. we can be (and yes, we realize that writing a blog and facebook page about expat life is pretty much as S.A.E. as you can get).

What are other telltale signs that someone is S.A.E?  We know there are some good ones out there…

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Milestones For The Singapore Expat

Today’s Friday List: Singapore Expat Milestones

Moving to a new country always comes with challenges, but there are also those moments – rare at first – where you stop and think, Holy S*** Look At Me! These are the moments that make you feel a little more at ease, a little less like a hot mess, and a little more able to laugh at yourself when you are a total disaster (like, for example, when you’re once again mocked for the size of your feet, or your quick shopping trip drives you to tears, or you nearly die of fear during a 12 minute jog. (If you missed any of those moments, pour yourself some wine, hop over to www.Textpatwives.com, and scroll on through. If you’re looking for low points, there are some real gems in there.) There are lots of moments like that, of course. But once in a while, you hit an expat milestone. Tonight, we say “Cheers” to those moments. Here are a few…

1. The first time you remember your IC number by heart. That’s probably on day 3, which will have been the 875th time you’ve been asked for it.

2. The first time you merge into Newton Circus without crying / flinching / swearing you’ll never go this way again.

3. The first time a server or store clerk recognizes you as a Regular. (Note – this one might take several years.)

4. The first time a tourist asks YOU for directions. That means that, at least on the outside, you actually don’t look lost anymore.

5. The first time you use the squat toilet because you just cannot be bothered to wait behind all the tourists waiting for the other one.

6. The first time you have an actual opinion when the Taxi Uncle asks you “AYE or PIE?”

7. Hell – the first time you know what the Taxi Uncle is actually talking about when he asks you “AYE or PIE?”

8. The first time you Backwards Park in one try.

9. The first time you use your PAssion Card. “Passion Card?” “Why yes, I now know what you are asking me every single time I make a purchase of any kind, and indeed I do have a PAssion Card!”

10. The first time you leave the grocery store without calculating the cost in your Home Currency.

10. And the biggie (so important in fact that we tacked on an extra number 10): The first time you refer to Singapore as “Home”. (We can almost guarantee that that will be when you’re knee-deep in laundry and whining kids on day 8 of your summer “holiday” back in your home country; suddenly the balmy evenings, calm house and competent helper will spell H-O-M-E to you.)

Things Which Drive Expats In Singapore Crazy (Part III)

Thanks to all your suggestions, this list just grows daily (seriously- it turns out there is A LOT of s*** that drives you (us) crazy). So here it is, the third instalment of…

Things Which Drive Expats in Singapore Crazy

1. Forgetting to bring a sweater to the cinema. (Until you’ve spent two hours stoically staring up at a screen with your hands jammed into your armpits, shivering and leaking little tears of ice, you have no idea how traumatic this can be.)
2. Wearing that cute dress you got at that expensive boutique in Tanglin Mall / Cluny Court / Great World City to a party, and seeing two other women wearing the exact same dress. AND they look better than you.
3. How everyone gets SO ANNOYED at you sometimes for the smallest mistakes. Like going the wrong way round Newton Circus. Ya know, little things.
4. The love affair with plastic bags. “No, I really don’t need a separate bag for my grapes, because look! They’re already in their own plastic bag! In fact each grape might even have its own little bag! Really, I don’t. . . Honestly, you can put the bananas in on top of the soap. They don’t need another bag. . . . Oh, you can just pop the eggs right on top here . . . NO DON’T THROW OUT ALL THE CRUMPLED PLASTIC BAGS!! Argh.”
5. Avocados that look amazing and ripe and perfect on the outside, but inside they’re a wormy, mealy, horrific handful of mush. Why, you two-faced A-hole? Why?!
6. Stop-start taxi uncles. Bluuugh.
7. Male radio hosts who “tease” their female co-hosts. Really dude? She just needs a husband? She’s such a “bimbo?” Seriously?
8. Upselling beauticians. (“You sure you don’t want laser treatment? Your face so hairy, wah! You need package for that!”)
9. Ordering poached eggs and forgetting to ask for them “well done.”
10. Being the unintended best joke ever in the shoe department. (“AHAHAHAHAHAHA! You need men’s shoes! Nothing here for you! Your feet so big! Hahahahahahaha.”)

Share if you’ve been the one walking around a party avoiding the Who Wore It Best Moment, or cursing at an avocado that’s betrayed you, or driving the wrong way around a roundabout (damn, is that one really just us?).

Shopping For A Snow Holiday – In Singapore

It’s Chinese New Year!

Which means all of Singapore is beautifully decorated with lanterns and banners, the Cold Storage soundtrack is set to “CNY Greatest Hitz,” and the international school kids get to dress up for one day, looking like a bunch of little tow-headed Kung Fu Masters. Also: It’s Half Term and so time to bring our spoilt mini-expats on ANOTHER vacation. This time we’re hitting the slopes – which we were ridiculously excited about (The cold! The snow! The cold!) until we started to pack and we realized we don’t own jackets, or long pants, or even closed-toe shoes. And now we’re all, Couldn’t We Just Have Done A Staycation? Like At Snow City Maybe?

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(Oh, and just for clarification, neither of us expects to see the other in a well.  (Thank god, right?  That would be a really bleak holiday.)  We meant “see you in a week.”  Frenzied shopping and packing doesn’t lend itself to careful texting.)

Share with someone you know who will be on that 6am flight to Tokyo (and if that’s you- we’ll see you there.  Order us a mimosa.).

 

Jungle Running in Singapore

You wouldn’t think that the Singaporean jungle could inspire a reluctant jogger to SPRINT. But sprint she did. (Away from where the (unseen and maybe imaginary) wild things were. To safety. And insect repellent.)

Share with someone who runs in Singapore. (We bet there are even better stories of close encounters with nature while all you’re trying to do is get a little exercise ffs.)

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MORE Adventures With Singapore Wildlife (AKA When Cars Meet The Jungle)

Living in Singapore, encounters with wildlife are a dime a dozen.  There are snakes, monkeys, insects, and lizards – LOTS of lizards – ranging in size from paperclip-sized to healthy-toddler-sized.  But still, every once in a while, an encounter can take an unsuspecting expat by surprise.  

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First Class Travel In Singapore

One of the great gifts of expat life is travelling around this fascinating, beautiful part of the world.  And a big fluffy bow on that gift can be travelling with friends.  Planning your adventures together, sharing the sights and sounds, kids bonding, parents drinking, sunburns and tuk tuks and street food  – you might as well put the whole thing in slo-mo and set it to ukulele music.  That’s how great it is.  But every once in a while, even the best of friends are not on the same page about everything.  Like when, in one notable case, ferry tickets were bought, and one expat opted for Emerald Class (because that sounds amazing, right?) and one opted out…

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Top 10 Tips For Newbie Expats in Singapore

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It’s January!  Which means a whole new batch of newbie expats has just arrived in Singapore.  So we say WELCOME, and we’re glad you found us, and we look forward to laughing and fumbling along with you, through the next “two-to-three” years (that’s what everyone says.  Then they stay for ten).  If you’re new to Singapore, some of these might actually be helpful.  And if you’re a grizzled old vet like us, then you might just be reminded of what it was like, all those years ago.

 

Top 10 Tips for Newbie Expats in Singapore

  1. If you have a car, take pictures of where you’ve parked in carparks.  Because you’ve got too much in your brain to remember you parked in A7 or B2 or whatever.  And if you think you’ll pull the old wander-through-the-parking-lot-clicking-your-remote trick in the Vivo parking lot, don’t.  You’ll die there, on level B34, which is basically the core of the earth.  (If you don’t have a car, then you don’t have to worry about this (though you do have to be ready for a lot of soft 80s rock.  Taxi Uncles love them some Richard Marx.)
  2. Hang where the expats hang.  We know – you want to Get Local.  There’s time for that.  But just while you’re still trying to get your feet under you, put down the kopi and have a latte at Cluny Court, and look for your Yoda (see 10).
  3. Hydrate like your life depends on it (because it kind of does).  Invest in a good water bottle that keeps your water cold and doesn’t sweat all over the place, because drinking out of people’s yard hoses is frowned upon, and tipping water out of your handbag three times a day is a total ballache.
  4. Be Thick Skinned.  You’re going to be insulted several times a day by people who think they’re doing you a favor by pointing out how big your feet are or how frizzy your hair is.  You’ll seek reprieve online, where if you say the wrong thing on an expat wives forum you will be attacked like Hodor when the White Walkers finally got him.  You’ll seek out the comfort of a chat with your husband to find he’s on a work trip 7 time zones away.  So yeah- thick skin needed. (Also GIN.)
  5. Find a Local Friend.  This is hard, but really try.  Because you didn’t move to Singapore to hang out with a bunch of other expats all the time, did you?  Also, locals know the answers to everything – Where’s the best nasi lemak?  What do I wear to a funeral?  How do I get rid of the cockroaches in my car?  Locals know.
  6. Put your boxes of cereal and pasta in the freezer when you bring them home from the market.  Because gross little Weevils live in the packaging, and they’ll come to life and set up home in your cupboards if you let them.  Stick them in the freezer, freeze them to death, then put the boxes away.  And try not to think about their crunchy little exoskeletons while you’re enjoying your breakfast.
  7. Another car tip:  Keep an extra cash card with $20 on it in your glove compartment.  Because no one wants to be the jackass pulled up against the gantry with $0 left on their card and a train of angry drivers lined up behind her. (But if you are – keep pressing that Help button and wailing “I’m new here!” in your most pitiful voice.  9 times out of 10, the gantry will magically open, and you’ll have made a security guard’s day by reinforcing the dumb-expat stereotype.)
  8. Don’t exercise outdoors after 10:00 am.  Ever.  Due to you’ll die of heat stroke.
  9. Just buy the damn organic milk / French cheese / Californian wine.  Stop comparing it to the cost Back Home.  If that’s your benchmark, then you’re going to have to get yourself used to the notion of only eating Maggi Noodles and drinking tap water.
  10. Find Your Yoda.  She doesn’t have to be green, and she doesn’t have to say all her sentences backwards, but you need a wise seasoned expat friend who is willing to drop some knowledge on you when you need it.  And remember to Pay it Back.  Someday you will be the seasoned expat – oh yes you will, even if you can’t possibly imagine it now  – and some poor clueless newbie is going to need you.  So don’t ever forget how hard it was, and be generous with your time and advice.

Reach out and tag someone who has just arrived;  because they’re now sitting in their serviced apartment wondering (a) How on earth am I EVER going to make any friends, (b) Can’t I just buy some regular MILK FFS? and (c) Seriously, WHAT IS WITH THIS RAIN??