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.)

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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??

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.)