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??

What Should Be On Every Singapore Expat’s Christmas List

We’ve never done this before, but we thought we’d specially curate a list for all our Singapore expat sisters out there:  Things That Should Be On Every Singapore Expat’s Christmas list, 2017.  So just in case that Special Someone in your life has left his shopping to the very last minute, and is texting you from the airport in Dubai and asking if there’s anything  you’d really fancy (and subtly suggesting that if it’s something that they happen to have at Duty Free that’d be terrific), just point him in this direction.

1. A Bra Liner!  Finally someone has an answer (other than wadding up paper towels) to the boob sweat.  (And no, the model in the pic is not one of us, though we admit the resemblance is truly striking.)

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2. Any Korean beauty product.  Because everyone needs more K-Beauty in their life, and nothing says “Deck the Halls” like rubbing snail slime all over your face.

3. This awesome fake rock to place in your garden and hide your house key in. Actually, scratch that, it’s Singapore.  We can just leave the key in the door.  Again.

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4.  A big ass popcorn bucket, and a GIANT wine glass. For those nights when you open up the Wives page and see a helper question.

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5.  This under armpit cooling device.  Is it a fashionable accessory?  Perhaps not.  But neither are the pit stains.  So get one like this guy, and set it on HIGH.

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6.  Travel wine bottle protectors.  We’re not kidding about this, people.  If you’re going back and forth on holidays and wrapping your wine bottles in dirty t-shirts in your suitcase, you’re just asking for trouble.  Class it up with some of these.

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7.  An umbrella – which is also a sun umbrella, which is wind-proof, opens and closes with one hand, and is small enough to keep in your handbag but large enough when open it to actually keep you – and a at least one child – somewhat dry.  And it has to be pretty, with koi fish or a Monet print or something.  And it can’t have that ridiculous wooden hook handle because you’re not clippity-clopping your way around Victorian London like Sherlock Holmes FFS.  Let us know if you find one that fits the bill.

8.  A device that FINDS YOUR CAR!  Because though we may need the exercise, ain’t nobody got time to be wandering the bowels of Vivo looking for their car.

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9.  Another magical and amazing invention that feels like it was sent to us straight from The Heavens… A shoe deodorizer machine. Because your kids’ feet reek. (And by “your” we mean “our”), and those cute sneaker balls aren’t making a dent in that stank.  What we all need is a magical machine that dries out your shoes and then disinfects them.  Technology FTW.

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10.  A Christmas stocking wine flask. Because we all know Mommy really only wants two things on Christmas morning: a bag of booze and a nap.

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Merry Christmas from Textpat Land.  And if Santa actually brings you any of these wonders, we want pics! XO TPW

Hygge in Singapore

 

If you’re on Instagram, or Pinterest, or indeed if you just don’t live under a rock, you’ve undoubtedly heard a lot of talk lately about Hygge. We have two thoughts on that: First, it’s pronounced hoo-gah (we think). And second, the google images for hygge were not taken in Singapore. There are no palm trees, no traffic, no flip flops. Mostly it’s roaring fires and really thick blankets. But that doesn’t mean we Singapore expats can’t hygge the shit out of this weekend if we really put our minds to it. And with that, our Friday List…

10 Ways To Hygge in Singapore

1. Make a Winter Bonfire. No one is using those burning bins left over from Hungry Ghost, so just grab one of those. Fill it with old copies of Expat Living, add a few handfuls of used parking coupons on top, and light ‘er up.

2. Enjoy all the seasonal produce. And by that we mean, It’s Durian Season. Yum.

3. Begin a Fun New Winter Craft. You know, something to fill those long hours indoors. Knit yourself a cute beer koozie. Or build a wind chime out of Tiger beer cans to herald the arrival of Spring. The options are really just endless.

4. Have an Indoor Picnic. It’s just like an outdoor picnic except you have the AC on, and there are no monkeys stealing your shit when you’re not looking.

5. Layer layer layer. Everyone says this is the trick to winter in Scandanavia, so why not here? Start with a base layer (a thick coat of antiperspirant). Make sure you have at least one layer of clothing to absorb all that winter sweat. In a pinch, a wad of tissue stuffed in your cleavage will do the trick. Then watch in disgust throughout the day as your one layer becomes soaked by sweat from within, or rain from without. Yay- fun with fashion!

6. Make a White Russian. This one is not a joke. Equal parts Kahlua, cream, and vodka, poured over ice. Delicious.

7. Cozy up and write letters. In the digital age, an actual letter is a lovely way to connect to loved ones in an authentic, thoughtful way. Your friends back home, snowed into their houses and living on canned goods, will LOVE getting a letter from you all about your fall break surfing in Bali and your Christmas plans in Phuket. Really. Folks at home love that stuff. (That’s assuming the letter ever arrives, that is.)

8. Socks. There can be no Hygge if you’re not wearing socks. Preferably thick, hand-knitted, woollen ones. Obviously you’ll need to take yourself to either the cinema or the supermarket for this activity, unless you want to expire from heat exhaustion.

9. Bake! Soothing, soulful, and so deliciously productive! Unless you live in SIngapore, and then it’s just a total pain in the ass, and you’re better off going to Cedele in your air-conditioned car and “out-sourcing”. So you’ve cut out the soothing and the soulful, but what’s wrong with going straight to deliciously productive?

10. Snuggle. At the heart of it, Hygge is all about love and connection. Remember to show your loved ones – through the power of touch – just how much they mean to you. But not for too long, obviously – because with touch comes SWEAT.

How are you planning to hygge this weekend?

15 Signs You’re Not a New Expat In Singapore Anymore…

1.     You find yourself surprisingly annoyed at people not following signs / rules.  “There’s a queue lady.  A QUEUE!” “Hey Mister – KEEP OFF THE GRASS!!”  Jeez – what are these people – raised in a barn or something?

 2.     You can predict the weather like a trained meteorologist. (A trained meteorologist who has shit to do outdoors.) “Those black clouds?  We have easily 7 minutes before that hits, and it won’t last more than 11 minutes.

3.     Anyone with a car which isn’t white or black is “a little flashy”.

4.     You remember a time when the road outside of Tanglin Mall wasn’t a complete and utter shit show.

5.     Your car has at least one significant orange scratch along the side from a carpark ramp.

6.     You have a guy for everything:  a chicken guy, a milk guy, a picture-hanging guy, a tortilla guy.  Also, a girl for everything (albeit different everything): a waxing girl, a hair girl, an interiors girl, and exteriors girl… This is a prized possession and only top-tier friends get those numbers.

7.     You can make it through IKEA in 5 minutes flat (because you know the shortcuts to the light duvet section, and from there to the cheese-in-the-fridge section).

8.     31c / 88f and cloudy feels like jeans weather.

9.     You frequently return to your car from a walk or a coffee to find a door or a window wide open.  Instead of checking to see what’s been taken and looking for a policeman, you roll your eyes at your silliness and rive away with all your possessions intact.

10.  You can’t believe that you used to go to those Ladies Nights.  Every. Single. Wednesday.

11.  Your kids have their own devices purely so that they can skype with the latest of their friends who have left the island. (They do a LOT of Skyping.)

12.  You laugh at how you used to consider the flight from Europe to New York (or vice versa) “Long Haul.”

13.  Fried rice is a totally acceptable breakfast dish.

14.  You carry an umbrella, shopping bags, flip flops and sunscreen on your person at all times.

15.  You no longer take a photo of the price tag of every item in the supermarket and stick it on FB.  (Just the CNY oranges.  Because $88 for a small dish of tangerines is expensive by anyone’s standards.  But $15 for milk?  Entirely normal.)

3 Is The Magic Number

It’s apparently SUPPOSED to be the “cool season” here. If someone could pass on that little piece of info to our sweat glands- and also the sun- that’d be fab. In the meantime, you now know where to find us (well- at least one of us. The other is hiding in a corner somewhere furiously sniffing her own pits).

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Prime Time (or The Joys of Online Shopping in Singapore)

We all get the Expat Blues from time to time. And we all have our own ways of bouncing back. Some start planning their next exotic vacay. Some throw themselves into a new hobby (like mah jong or jogging or bitter complaining and day drinking). And some seek out amazing new local discoveries…


(PS We have no ties whatsoever to this or any other e-commerce company. If we did, our pools would have so many amazing rafts, they’d look like the salad bar at the American Club.)




Travel Hell II (AKA Things to Pack for a Long Haul Flight With Kids)

If you’re an expat living in Asia, but your whole family still lives on the other side of the world, you have no choice but to board a plane once a year, fly back to the land from whence your passport came, and show your increasingly-wrinkled / sun-kissed face.  And if you have kids – 1 kid, 2 kids, 3, 7, it doesn’t matter how many, nor does it matter how old they are (NO ONE gets a pass) – still you go.  If your husband has to stay behind to work, which means you’re doing this journey solo, STILL, you steel yourself and you go.  And if your husband is able to join you, but is sitting up in Business Class while you sit in back with the kids, still, STILL you go (but you complain.  In public whenever possible, FOREVER.  True story.).

For all our expat sisters embarking on Homecoming trips this summer, we offer the following list of Things To Pack For A Long Haul Flight With Kids:

  • A blanket.  Because first of all, airborne hell is cold.  And second, your kids will need somewhere to blow their noses, mop up their spilled juices, and dry mommy’s tears of exhaustion.
  • Noise cancelling headphones.  Because airplanes are noisy.  And so are children.
  • Snacks.  Many, many snacks.  In fact a snack trolley of one’s own would be ideal.  Because 28 hours, and children.
  • Lip balm.  Because the entire day in dry, recycled air plays havoc on your kissers, and you don’t want to greet your whole family with a brush of dried corn husks on the cheek.  Also, what is the baby going to snack on when you take your eyes off her for two minutes?
  • A book.  Nothing is better for keeping you occupied for the endless, endless hours than opening your book, reading one line, being distracted by your children demanding something inane, closing the book with an eye-roll and a muttered profanity, and repeating the exercise again in four minutes time, again and again.
  • An eye mask.  No, not for all the sleep you’ll be getting (obviously, silly).  But at some point you might need to disguise yourself, so people don’t associate you with those maniacal children sitting beside you.  Eye masks are the bomb for this.
  • A sticker saying “Don’t Ask. Just Pour.”  Wear this somewhere obvious- such as taped to your forehead, or tucked in to your eye mask at a jaunty angle- because after fifteen hours of pleading with your kids to stop wriggling and stop spilling and *just sleep FFS,* you won’t always have the verbal skills to ask for another shot of gin.

Good luck and godspeed, expat sisters.  See you on the other side. 

(Ps: some of you might recognise this Textpat exchange from last summer. Apologies for the duplications. In our defence (a) it is as pertinent now as it was then; and (b) after 30 hours’ travel with kids-  this is the best you’re going to get from us…)









 

 

The Long Haul

It’s the time of year when all expats suddenly drop everything they’re doing and flee the Little Red Dot for the summer holidays. Some have their bags packed the moment school lets out and are boarding planes before the rest of us have even emptied the final school backpacks. Others of us hang about a bit longer, enjoying the relative quiet in Tanglin mall, the absence of traffic on Orchard, and the ease of parking in every mall. We all, however, eventually show up at Changi, full of caffeine and dogged determination that we will survive the next 15-48 hours of travel, dragging excited children and more suitcases than seems reasonable under any circumstances. 

Having been around this particular block a few times, we suggest 5 things every expat should pack for the summer holidays:

1.  Your helper. Well yes- we know she’s not a “thing.” Don’t be pedantic. Our point is, you’re going to miss her (and her cooking, and her child-minding, and the adorable way she folds your clean underwear into triangles- shit you’re going to miss clean underwear, full stop). So if you can bring her, do. And if you can’t, start practicing your undergarment origami. 

2. No clothes. Because there are no Seasons here and as a result, you’ve been wearing the same clothes for a year, damnit. Don’t think no one’s noticed. So the minute you walk into your favorite shop back home, you’re going to buy tons of clothes. Save yourself the effort and don’t bother packing any. 

3. No gifts. (Should this have been a list of Things Not To Pack? Maybe. Too late now though.)  Don’t bring gifts. Because no one in America wants a Tangs elephant and no one in London wants a set of lacquer chopsticks. So don’t bother. Unless you’re Japanese, or going to Japan, in which case, Thing To Pack: LOTS of gifts. 

4.   Exercise gear. Because 7 weeks of dining out and celebrating and drinking and eating your mother’s cooking will wreck your svelte Singapore physique. So run a lap or two around the block once in a while this summer. That way you won’t have to spend the month of August at boot camp. 

5. An empty suitcase – see # 2. 

That’s what we’re packing… at least we intend to…