When your best friends come to visit…

Five day Itinerary with friends – no kids

Teapot cocktail, Bitters & Love

It will be cocktail o’clock when your best friends come to visit

Day 1

AmTanjong Beach. Take a towel and just sit and take in the strangely relaxing scenery of ships, tankers and the like. Have a dip if you like and just catch up. Don’t rush too much as everyone is just catching their breath. Then after an hour or so – or more if you have sun worshippers visiting – head for brunch at the Marina. I like Em for a good breakfast and if you’ve got kids in tow they can play on the pirate ship playground whilst you enjoy a chat with your friends. Another favourite spot that I’d go to any time of the day is Coastes – quick service and you get to sit on the beach.

PM – Walk around Sentosa – I would always get the free tram to Beach Station and go to Merlion Walk and show guests the magnificent Merlion that takes pride of place there. You can even go inside and up to its head for some stunning views of Sentosa and the surrounding area. There are a whole list of other things to do on Sentosa here. More info on Sentosa on my blog post.

Evening depends on how tired everyone is but a relaxed dinner at home is always a good way to round of day 1. You can always grab some hawker food if you are short of time (or cooking skills!)

The Luge, Sentosa, Singapore

The Luge is somewhere you should take your friends – and just pray you make it down without any ‘accidents’ of any kind. Great for a giggle and the hats are a great solution to frizzy hair!

Day 2

AMBoat trip on the river. Start at Clarke Quay. Get off at Clifford Pier to see the original Merlion at Merlion Park. Perfect photo opportunities here – if you don’t know what you’re doing take some tips from those around you. Then walk down to the Fullerton Bay Hotel and go in to reception. Not only is it a respite from the heat but it’s beautiful decor and peaceful feel will take your breath away. And don’t worry, you can just wander in as it’s a public walkway. Once you’ve taken in the sights around there, jump back on a boat and get off at Esplanade. More details on Clarke Quay boat trips here.

PM – Have a quick look at The Esplanade and get some pics of the Grand Prix Track from its roof, then walk towards Marina Bay Sands crossing the stunning Helix Bridge. You can stop for lunch around the Esplanade or eat at one of the many places at MBS (I love TWG  for some good old-fashioned elegance or there’s plenty of other options including a not too pricey food centre on the lower floor. Now grab your head for heights and go on up to the Sky Park for the most stunning views of Singapore. This is where your guests will get the see what the city is about – and they stretch their neck enough, can gawp at those in the famous infinity pool (no entry if you’re not a guest I’m afraid). You can stop at Ce La Vie for a quick drink – a good way to relax whilst taking in the view.

On the way home it’s time to head to Raffles. Everybody who has visited us here has this at the top of their ‘must do’ list. It may be a bit of a tourist trap and overpriced, but it is so reminiscent of a bygone era it’s worth it. It’ll only take an hour (if there’s not a queue) and is a good way to round of the day. Of course, you have to go to the Long Bar and have a Singapore Sling, but also have a look around the Courtyard and in the gift shop. Some lovely take home gifts there. * NB The Long Bar and much of the hotel is closed for renovations at the moment (October 2017) so check the website before you go.

Evening – After a freshen up and some down time back at home or the hotel it’s time to head for cocktails somewhere swanky. My favourite spot is The Lantern Bar. Pricey but worth it for the view and the atmosphere. Other places to consider are Smoke & Mirrors, Ce La Vie or Zafferanos. All offer great views.

Views from the Lantern Bar, Singapore

Great photo opportunities for your friends at The Lantern Bar and it’s always a ‘wow’ moment when the lift doors open.

Or if you fancy it head to one of the more hip places like Jigger & Pony, Operation Dagger or Bitters & Love is my personal fave. You can snack whilst drinking your cocktails as most places in Singapore offer bar snacks which are usually more than substantial if you’ve had a big lunch!

Day 3

AM & PM -Time to relax. Jet lag will kick in on day 3 so give your guests the day off. If you are a member of a club, head there for a day around the pool. Have a relaxed lunch, maybe even a spa treatment if you can.  A condo pool or house pool would do the trick too – ask friends if you don’t have one and are not a member anywhere – or take advantage of most clubs free two weeks/one month membership whilst you have guests.

Evening  Having spent the day relaxing, head out early to Gardens By The Bay – my absolute favourite touristy thing to do in Singapore as you’ll read here. The Singing Trees do their stuff at 7:45 and 8:45 every night. 

Supertree Grove at night

I have seen these beauties a dozen times or more and still love it. An absolute must do!

Pay the minimum charge (about $20 per person) and go to the top of the main tree and have a drink, it’s worth it – the views are stunning, especially as the city lights up at night. They do some pretty tasty snack up there too if you get hungry. The Indochine restaurant – which is a floor lower than the rooftop bar, is great if you want to splash out on dinner.  But I would go for something a little less heavy on the wallet and wander over to Sate By The Bay after the light show and try some of the best local food around. Don’t miss out on the Pork Belly or Sate.

Day 4

AM – Book a walking tour. I love Betel Box tours and highly recommend their China Town Food Tour. It’s really informative and takes you to places you wouldn’t necessarily know about, as well as the obvious spots. Of course, it’s all dependent on what day this is and what they have scheduled but get in early and you can work your itinerary around them. They do offer private tours too which although more expensive, actually may be worth it to do what you want.

Local hawker food at China Town

Just one of the many dishes you’ll try on the Betel Box food tour – the every popular Chicken rice.

PM – Depending on how everyone feels as walking around in this humidity can really get to you, the afternoon can be spent wandering around the markets in China Town – all the cheap touristy gifts can be found here. Arab Street and Little India also are good places for this.

Evening dinner should be somewhere relaxed, one of your favourite local dining spots maybe, or a club. Let your friends see what you do and where you’d go.

Day 5

AM – Time for some history. Either head to Reflections at Bukit Chandu, Fort Siloso or my recommendation would be Changi War Museum. A great way to learn about the history of Singapore and a good end to a hectic week.

PM – Take some down time to sit and chat, after all, they’ll be gone before you know it. Make tea, put your feet up and just enjoy them being there. They’ll also need to think about packing, dependent on what time they leave tomorrow.

Evening – time to get your glad rags and show them how it’s done in Singapore. ‘Dinner up high’ is an absolute must and tell your friends to allow for this in their budget as it doesn’t come cheap. Artemis has the best food, great view and fab bar in my opinion, but there’s also Level 33, Zafferano’s, Mandarin Oriental, Ce La Vie (you will need to take out a mortgage though!), Me @ Oui, to name but a few.

 

These are just ideas for a five-day itinerary with friends and is pretty packed. Obviously you can miss things out or swap things around. For example, it may be that it pours down one day and you have to do the museum on day two instead. Be flexible but try to have a plan of some sort. That way your friends will leave feeling like they’ve seen something of this amazing island. Talking of rain, don’t assume rain stops play – as you’ll know once you’ve lived here a while, it can be raining one side of the street, and not the other. Plus, it’s very often short-lived. Just take a brolly and get on with it.

Other places to visit that you can swap in are:

Orchard Road – I’ve missed out shopping on here as it bores me, but if you have a shopaholic visiting you must of course visit the shopping district – Ion, Paragon etc. Botanic Gardens – a beautiful and relaxing stroll for as long or short as you like.
National Museum – in fact any museum! The Peranakan is one of my faves.
Singapore Zoo both during the day and at night (the Night Safari is very popular).
Gardens By The Bay – either just wander around the huge gardens and/or go into the flower dome or cloud dome (take a jumper, it’s chilly in there!)
Pulau Ubin – to see a bit of how Singapore used to be. Ideal for mountain bike enthusiasts.
Cable Car over to Sentosa.
Jurong Bird Park.
Kent Ridge Park – or any of the other parks, especially early morning to catch a taste of what the locals do to keep fit.
Trick Eye museum – there are two in Singapore, one on Sentosa and one Suntec. Both great fun and a must for all Instagram addicts.

The list goes on and on…

Here’s a printable PDF version. If you do print out this free itinerary please don’t forget to click the ‘like me’ button on the side of the page and comment below.

5 day with friends

Take a look at the other itineraries for more information on the above or more ideas.

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Taking the shock out of shopping in Singapore

Shopping for clothes in Singapore

Don’t give up, you’ll find clothes in Singapore

There’s no getting away from it, Asian women are beautifully packaged. Alabaster skin, tiny waists, perfectly proportioned legs, all makes for a lovely petite bundle. So it should come as no surprise that the shops here in Singapore are geared up for these dainty lovelies. This can make shopping for your average sized, non-asian, expat lady, a little difficult.

You’ve heard the stories of women who have left stores shamefaced after being told they are ‘too big’ for anything in the store. Maybe you yourself have been turned away from that lovely boutique with a ‘no, cannot!’ echoing in your ears?

What’s too big you may ask? Think anything above a UK size 4!

I’m painting a dark picture I know — it’s not all bad. The staff aren’t necessarily being rude or obnoxious. They tend to be, how do I say this? Honest?  There’s no beating around the bush, they tell it like it is. Not to upset you or be mean, just to save time. I actually find it quite refreshing and prefer it to the fawning “oh that looks gorgeous” from a clearly deranged shop assistant in the UK as you stare at yourself in a banana yellow shapeless shift dress. As long as it’s not that time of the month, or year, I can put up with a bit of frankness

Clothes too small

Sometimes clothes shopping in Singapore can be tough!

I’ve had my moments here for sure. I remember one time whilst shopping for a dress in a department store I’d picked up quite a few that had caught my eye — always a good start. A sales assistant came up to me and asked if I’d like to try them on.  As she showed me to the changing room she deftly removed a number of my choices with a:

“No lah, not for your size.”

“Are you sure?” I asked, “It’s my size on the label.”

“No ma’am. For Asian women yes. Not you.”

She blatantly looked me up and down as she said it. I felt like I’d been scanned. With that she wafted off.

But, I had to get a dress so I had no choice but to soldier on. As I was squeezing my butt in to one of the two dresses I was left with, the assistant arrived with quite a few similar dresses for me to try, explaining that these were all ‘my size.’

It turns out she was spot on. The couple I’d chosen were all wrong — tight across the chest, arms too short, so not my size. But the selection she’d made were much better. I came home with two.

Shoppes at Marina Bay sands

The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands – take your credit card!

So, ladies, don’t be disheartened. Take advice from the sales staff (if you can get past the initial fear of being ‘too large, lah!’)  Get to know the stores that stock your size.  Find the malls that are aimed at the expat – Tanglin Mall and Cluny Court are two of the most popular. There are also quite a few big chains here – H&M, Esprit, Marks & Spencer, Zara – that stock your average expat sizes. Also you have to front it out and ask for larger sizes as often they do but they are not out on display.

If all else fails, order from the cool, air-conditioned, comfort of your own home. Asos, Boohoo, Next, Macy’s, Saks, Zalora, to name but a few, all deliver to Singapore. Some of them even offer free delivery. Just be sure to measure yourself and check sizing first as returns can be a pain.

Happy Shopping!

If you have bosoms, and need a new bra, God help you. Really, that’s a whole other issue…

Esprit clothes shop

Esprit stock a good selection of sizes

PLEASE LADIES WE ALL NEED YOUR HELP

Let’s make a list of places that stock a great selection of sizes. I’ll start:

Tangs in Orchard

Esprit all over the island

Most of the clothes shops in Tanglin Mall.

More Things You Might Like To Know…

The response to my first “Things you might like to know” was so overwhelming I promised you part two.

Well, here it is. Please let me know what you think.

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The most beautiful city at night

So just over 13 months since we moved to Singapore and I think it’s safe to say we’ve all settled in.  Dog included. No longer is the supermarket run quite so daunting. I don’t always have to switch the satnav on whenever I leave the house.

There are so many little things that have helped me that it’s difficult to know where to start. So, in no particular order here’s a run down of more things you might like to know if you’re living in Singapore…

Sweating
This is the one we all want to talk about – but don’t – right?

Let’s get it out there once and for all.
Living in Singapore you will sweat LIKE A PIG.
Sorry, there’s no other way to say it.

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Is anyone else hot?

With an average temperature of 81 degrees (I’m still old school with the weather guy) it’s pretty hot. Add on the fact that we also have 80% humidity, you end up with a situation that is frankly similar to a sauna. So at some point you’ve got to get over the sweat issue.
Let’s clear up some questions/concerns straight away:

  • You will sweat in places you didn’t think you could. Down your back, legs, neck, behind your ears, backs of knees,  head, eyes… you get the picture.
  • Yes, sometimes you will leave that ‘little triangle’ on a chair as you get up. Don’t worry, it will evaporate faster than you can say, “I haven’t wet myself, honest.” Just walk away with your head held high, no one will notice – and if they do, they’re only looking because they want to be sure they’re not the only ones this happens to.
  • It rarely smells. Don’t think you’ll be surrounded by people who stink – or that you need to spray deodorant every two minutes. Sweat doesn’t smell straight away, it’s all about the reaction with the bacteria on your skin. If you’ve had a shower, you’ll be fine for a while. So don’t panic.

There’s not much you can do about it bar have surgery to remove your sweat glands – and even then you’ll probably still drip from the humidity. But there are some things you can do to help.

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    A girls best friend

    Take a fan out with you. My dear friend Toni always carried an elegant fan in her bag and gave me this advice early on. She suggested buying a few – a smaller one for evening bags, large one for when you’re off out for the day etc. They cost a few dollars from the stalls at China Town market and will become your best friend. Don’t bother with the little battery operated ones as you do look a bit daft wafting those around. Much more elegant to daintily fan yourself with a pretty fan. (I’m still working on the dainty and elegant!)

  • Avoid wearing anything not made of a natural fabric. I can’t stress this enough. Believe me, I’ve been there and done that. Thinking that viscose top that is so lovely and floaty at home will be fine when you’re out. It won’t, it will stick to you and make you feel much sweatier. Anything with a nylon lining should be packed away for trips home. It will be like going out in a sweater. Do not do it.
    Cotton, linen, silk – all the usual favourites. They won’t stop you sweating, but they’ll help you keep it under control.
  • Avoid colours that will show the sweat more – light blues, grey, certain light browns, the kind of colours that can turn a shade darker in water. They will give away any signs of perspiration long before you notice. Men have it easier here as they can wear a cotton t-shirt under their work shirt, ideal for soaking up wet patches.
  • Plan to stay out of the sun for as much as possible. Most, if not all, shops, cafes, hospitals, etc. will be air-conditioned so it’s quite easy to keep cool. If you’re going about your day to day business you’ll usually be able to take advantage of some air con most of the time. If you’re out enjoying some of the fabulous walks and sights that Singapore has to offer, then you’ve just got to suck it up. Take plenty of water with you and become friends with your sweat. Oh, and pop a flannel or two in your bag – great for mopping up.
  • But really – literally, don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s just part of living here.
destaque-cabelos-com-frizz

Release your inner Monica

Hair
Really, I don’t know where to start. I guess I’m just going to start with a suggestion. Go find the episode of Friends when Monica goes to Barbados.

Watch it.
Laugh.
Then resign yourself to being Monica.

Seriously, it’s not quite that bad (for some people). But it can be a battle. Much like the sweat, it’s part of living in the tropics. You may well straighten it, blast it with anti humidity spray and only run from the house to a cab. But, by the time you reach your destination it will start the frizzing game. By the end of the day or evening you will look like you just got out of a hot tub. But hey, so will most other people so it’s ok.

Those that don’t look like that? Well, they fall in to a few categories:

  • Keratin treatment – a “wonder” treatment that gets mixed reviews. It’s an anti-frizz straightening treatment that costs quite a lot of money but lasts a good few months. Get a recommendation of where to go from someone before you decide. In my experience, it is pretty amazing and works like magic – I’ve tried it a couple of times and was pretty impressed.
  • Olaplex treatment – this is supposed to deal with the root of the problem and repair damaged hair. I have also tried this as it’s meant to be great for coloured hair (gasp, that’s not your natural colour I hear you cry!) To be honest, I never saw the fab results it promises but I do know people who’s hair looks amazing from it.
  • They have naturally straight, glossy, perfect hair.  So a little bit of frizz just gives it a lovely natural wave. We don’t talk to those people. 😉
  • They have a wig on.

There are other treatments around too. If you see someone who you think has fabulous hair – ask them. Who wouldn’t want to be told they looked great?

Should I talk about the hair falling out now? You know right?

Going Out
If you’re thinking of heading to a concert or a show whilst you’re here. Go for it! Singapore has some great venues and there’s almost always enough tickets to go round. If there isn’t, keep your eye on the expat sites as there are often people who, for whatever reasons can no longer go, so will need to sell theirs. But, just to say, the experience is slightly different here.

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Yes, that’s right, we’re part of the show…

Singaporeans tend to be more reserved than you may be used to. So, whilst you may don your platform heels, dig out the white jump suit and slap on the 70’s wig to go along to the Abba tribute night (you know who you are hidden behind the disguises), the rest of the audience might not. That’s not to say you won’t have fun – in fact, you might well become part of other people’s evening entertainment. No one will mind, you just have to front it out and enjoy yourself.

Concerts can be tricky, depending on who you’re seeing. The sports stadium is huge but from my experience when a concert is sold out, this doesn’t actually mean there will be a full stadium. Not sure why? Maybe it’s an overcrowding concern (or fear of it?), but generally the big venues aren’t quite as crowded as you’d expect. If the artist you’re going to see is any good, they’ll have you on your feet and you’ll have  blast, if they’re a bit reserved, expect to be sitting down nodding along. Oh, and they will usually start and finish on time. Check if there’s a s support act, if not, don’t stroll in an hour after opening and expect to see much.

Packages
Oh my God, shops here LOVE a ‘package’

A ‘package’ is basically a way to pay for a service – such as nails, waxing, etc – up front. You pay for an agreed number of treatments up front and get a discount or something extra in return. They are basically buying your loyalty.

It used to really get on my nerves that every time I had my nails done (cos that’s all I do all day dahling, that and have free flow lunches right?!) I would have to listen to a huge sales spiel about a free manicure if I buy blah, blah. They’re good too. Next time listen out for the pitch. They start out asking if you’re here on holiday. When you proudly reply, “no, I live here” you will see them literally beam – Ah, an expat!  You see, they know you’re probably not too sure of things and know you’ll be around for a while. Or long enough to come back one more time at least.

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Beauty packages – a good deal?

It’s entirely up to you if you decide to opt for a package or not. Some of them are worth while, offering really good discounts and, of course, you become a regular customer – and so feel more comfortable. But, some people have found the service changes once you’ve bought a package and others are left out of pocket when the company ceases to exist. If it’s a service you know you’ll use a lot you could save yourself a small fortune though so it’s worth considering. Some things to ask before you buy are:

  • Can you transfer the package to someone else – meaning if you have to leave before you’ve used up all your package you can give, or sell it, to someone else to use.
  • Can you share the package with other people. For example, if your mum comes to visit, can you both go to get your nails done within the package.
  • How long has the shop/company been around for and do they offer any assurances if they have to shut down?
  • What exactly is included – be careful of those that are vague. Your six manicures may only include a certain type of polish or, as I found, may only be the ‘deluxe’ version which takes so long to do you never actually have time for it.

Fogging
You may have heard the rumble first, or caught site of a very strange guy wearing what looks like chemical warfare clothing. Or, like me, you may have been driving down the road and seen a thick cloud of smoke rising up from the grounds of a condo you are passing. Don’t, like me, panic and assume there’s a huge fire and you ought to call the fire brigade.

It’s just fogging.

Fogging is used by most landlords to control the number of pests (mainly mosquitos) in and around your home. It happens regularly here and it’s something you soon become accustomed to. If you’re in a condo you should be given fair warning of when it’ll happen as you do have to shut all doors and windows. Some people suggest taping up air vents and rubbish chute openings too as those critters are on a death sentence and will try to escape wherever they can.

I’m never quite sure how assured I am by the “not dangerous ma’am” comments when I see a guy all kitted up with face mask and overalls. But the pest control companies all give the same assurances that the fogging is safe (and by ‘safe’ that means not toxic to us). And let’s face it, we live in a country that has a prevalence of dengue fever (a highly infectious disease spread by a certain breed of mosquito) as well as other mosquito borne diseases. So better safe than sorry eh? Just stay indoors whilst the fogging is going on and you’ll be ok.

Acronyms
Why oh why???

What is it with Singapore and shortening every bloody word, phrase, name there is? Jeez it’s confusing. But, don’t worry. I found this handy wicki guide that helps. Just be prepared to keep re-referring.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Singapore_abbreviations

For now. Ladies and gentleman I give you the motorways. Apparently, once you know the full names you will know where you’re going – or where to head for.
Err… the jury is out on that one!

• AYEAyer Rajah Expressway
• BKEBukit Timah Expressway
• CTECentral Expressway
• ECPEast Coast Parkway
• KJEKranji Expressway
• KPEKallang-Paya Lebar Expressway
• MCEMarina Coastal Expressway
• NSENorth-South Expressway
• PIEPan Island Expressway
• SLESeletar Expressway
• TPETampines Expressway

Cabs
One of the many things you will learn to love about Singapore are the cabs. I talked about them in the first part, but let me expand. They are cheap – back home in the UK the equivalent journey would cost three times as much. They are plentiful; even if it doesn’t always seem that way. There are generally lovely Uncles (and the occasional Auntie) driving them, some of whom will share their stories and wisdom with you, and some may even give you a pack of tissues too (which, by now you obviously know is the currency of hawker centres).

So, to clear up the taxi business. It’s all about the signs on top.

  • If it’s free and ready for a job, it’ll be lit up green and say ‘taxi’.
  • If it’s been booked it’ll be red and either say ‘hired’ ‘busy’ or ‘on call’.
  • If the signs says ‘shift change’ this means the driver is finishing for the day.

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Now, many expats rant and rave about a cab that wouldn’t take them (me included) because it was not ‘on their way.’ But once I learnt why I stopped the moaning.

These guys are signing off and are on the way home. Why should they turn around and take you where you want to go if it means adding another 20 minutes to their already long day?  Sometimes the light on top will tell you where they are heading which is always handy (if you know where it is you’re going of course) If it’s not going your way – don’t flag it down. Move on and find a cab that has a green light.

Also, don’t be offended if you are in a cab line and someone at the back steps forward and jumps in the next cab that pulls up. Before you lynch them, check the sign – if it’s red then they’ve pre-booked it. It’s their cab. Done deal.

Which leads me to my last point on cabs. GET AN APP! There are many cab apps to choose from and they all work well. I’ll list some at the end of the article, but input your details and you can be the one jumping straight to the front of the line. Some of them you can link to your bank card so that you don’t need to have cash on you. Handy when booking for errant kids and hubbies!

Quirky sights
As you move around the island you’ll become familiar with some of the quirky sights that make Singapore so unique. Here are some of my favourites to look out for.

  • The poles that stick out of HDB windows. Washing lines! Nope, no idea how the washing stays on either but I would love to find out. I’d also love to know how many pairs of knickers are lost per year, how many odd socks are swept up every morning any how many cursing helpers have to run down 30 floors to retrieve washing that has fallen.
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    Be respectful and interested

    Temples, temples, temples. You literally can find a temple round every corner in Singapore. If, like me, you’re a keen photographer it’s a dream and a curse. You can waste many an hour photographing some of the most beautiful buildings. From my experience so far most temples are welcoming to guests who are respectful. If you are not sure if you should take your shoes off, go in with shorts on  or take photographs – ask! Some places have a small poster up outside to give guidelines. Or, like me, you could join one of the tours that show you around places like Little India. The lovely Pooja (Tekka Tours), who ran the tour was very helpful in explaining how to behave and it was quite eye-opening.

  • Phones – everywhere. People talking, watching, listening, cradling them. It’s the nations obsession. And don’t even get me started on selfies. Love or hate them you can not avoid them lah!
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    Always something new to see

    Graffiti – this isn’t so much something you can see. But something you can’t. Unlike most cities, the side streets and old buildings are not littered with scrawlings referring to someone’s football team preference. It’s only when you see some – and this will always be organised “allowed” graffiti – that you realise the lack of it. There are some spectacular examples around so keep a look out.

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    Friendly locals

    The people! If you open yourself up you’ll be surprised what you learn.
    This couple was delightful when we stopped at their shop to buy drinks after a hot day photographing around Little India. They happily told us about their local food business and posed for snaps.  Just last week I was eating at a hawker centre and a guy busy eating his rice dish (with his fingers – totally normal here) got chatting to me and my family.  He told us what he was eating, and offered to share it. Not wanting to be rude – and despite all my British reservations – I tucked in. It was delicious! I now know that you can get huge pots of sauce to add to your dish at that particular hawker stall. Yum!

Public holidays
There are a lot of public holidays in Singapore. Yay! Nothing to complain about there at all. If you’re planning on going away, plan well in advance as they get booked up. For a list of public holidays coming up look at the MOM website.

http://www.mom.gov.sg/employment-practices/public-holidays

There are also lots of cultural festivals that happen and you may not even realise it. For example, right now, (August) is the Chinese Ghost Month. You may have noticed the smell of burning quite a lot. This is the Chinese tradition of burning joss paper to please the unknown ghost. Local Chinese will also pay respect to their own deceased ancestors by honouring them with food and burning incense.

Always be respectful of local festivals. Ask questions if you want to learn more and keep an eye on information at community centres for more details.

Making Friends
Once you’ve got over the shock of moving here you’ll start to feel like you might want to get out and about. Really, there are so many ways to meet people here you should find something to suit you. From courses to learn Mahjong and quilting, to groups that meet to walk the green corridor or run up Fort Canning steps a dozen or so times. Not to mention the hundreds of coffee morning, brunch and lunch meet ups. Oh, and of course the ladies nights (see here for more on that). Then there are groups for specific people such as those who have children with special needs, or business women, stay at home mums, empty nesters. The list goes on and on.

facebook-login-sign-inI’ve listed a selection of Facebook groups and the main website at the end of this. Choose which ones you think suit you and press that join button. You’ll be amazed at what you end up doing. If you’re not sure, just head to Facebook or a search engine and have a look. This is by no means an exhaustive group. Please feel free to add your favourites to the comments box at the end of this.

Finally,
Enjoy it! I have met one too many people here who have said they’d wish they had joined in more, gone to see more of what Singapore has to offer, visited some of the many beautiful islands and countries that are so close. Do it! You never know how long you’ll be here and the fun will be over.

Cab Apps
Grab Taxi: http://grabtaxi.com/singapore/
Uber: https://www.uber.com/cities/singapore

Little India Tours 

Expat Facebook Groups
For all expat women
More for expat women
And more still
If you have teenage children
To meet for coffee
If you’re new here
Casual meet ups
For those who like travel
To buy or sell stuff 
Business women
More business women
If you are an empty nester
Interested in photography

Websites
For meet up groups

Fitness in Singapore

It’s no surprise that in a country where even the oldest in society are encouraged to get up and active, here in Singapore the health and fitness industry is huge.

ohzumba-2121214e_2xLeading a healthier lifestyle is pretty much something most people want. But actually doing something about it is what 90% of us struggle with right? We know we should – and could – be eating a clean diet, detoxing, juicing, drinking 3 litres of water and cutting out the junk. We have heard all about choosing a paleo diet, going gluten-free or dairy free, eating vegetarian or vegan. You may also have heard about drinking activated charcoal, matcha tea, bone broth and the so last year – coconut water.

You can’t turn a corner in Singers without bumping in to a nutritionist who can help you on your path to food righteousness. Whether it’s learning how to combine foods better, or working out food labels, or even helping you navigate the supermarkets. There is someone who can help you achieve your healthier eating plan (NO ONE calls them diets anymore).

Alongside the nutritionists and dieticians you will also find a truck load of personal trainers and group classes – and I mean a truck load. Whether you want to sweat it out in the blistering heat running up hills at Fort Canning or chill to the sound of waves crashing at Sentosa beach. Singapore has it.

o-FUNNY-FITNESS-SHIRTS-facebookHITT (high intensity interval training) and body weight training are two of the biggest trends with classes popping up all over the place. Then you’ve got good old Zumba still paving the way for dance based fitness. Along with belly dancing, salsa, Kpop, Bokwa to name but a few.

Or what about boot camps?  Boot camps seem to be to new mums what parent and toddler groups used to be. The difference being rather than drinking tea and eating biscuits whilst watching your little one play, you now get down and sweaty to get the perfect yummy mummy figure whilst your child drinks juice, eats biscuits and is thoroughly entertained by said yummy mummies sweating their butts off. (By the way, the perfect YM figure does NOT mean being stick thin; rather it’s all about getting strong)

Other classes to look out for include Piloxing, Power Pump, Step, Boxercise, Core, Body Jam, Body Combat, Body Attack, Cycling (in and out of water!), Stability Ball – I could go on. There is literally a class to pound every part of your body and then some. Then there are the slightly less obvious ones like pole dancing, aerial hoop, Sh’bam, Hot Slim, MovNat and even Indoor Surfing. Yes, these are all real classes.

And when you’ve hit your high energy peak or your cardio limit you can turn to the core of it all – literally – and hit the mat with yoga or pilates. Some say this is THE best type of exercise you can do, or at least something you should do as well as everything else.

imagesYoga is an ancient practice which most of us know about. There are various misconceptions about yoga, not least that it makes you pass wind. Yeah, we’ve all thought it, haven’t we? Lying there in that oh so comfy happy baby pose hoping we don’t let rip. You’ll be pleased to know, if you’ve never tried it, it’s not a given so don’t let it put you off. Just be prepared to hold that position and a straight face.

Oh wait. Yoga you say? It’s not that simple is it? There’s Hot Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, Sivananada Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Dynamic Yoga, Flexi Yoga, Power Yoga, Yoga Flow… you get my point? If you think yoga isn’t for you, perhaps you just need to try a different type? Just think how bendy you could be!

Pilates is the newer kid on the block but gaining in popularity as it again works on your core, building a stronger, more flexible you. I’ve only tried it once and it’s tough. But can see the benefits if you keep it up. I’ll add it to my list – along with Aerial hoop!
If you want to start moving a bit more, from my experience here in Singapore, the best thing to do is GO. It sounds easy enough right? Sometimes just the actual going is hard. But it’s the only way.

Find out where there’s a class you like the sound of – and go.

girl-gpoy-gym-illustration-lol-Favim.com-112215Yes, you might well be the only one who can’t do one full sit up, let alone 20. You may well feel a bit of an idiot grinding your (very creaky) hips like some teenager at a club. You might even be asked if you’ve ever exercised before (after spending the past six months diligently trying your best at Zumba and in the gym). But you will also – at some point – have fun throwing your body around a room to the sound of Ricky, will probably laugh at the fact that rather than a push up you managed a grunt up and feel slightly giggly trying to body roll. You will also feel great afterwards from the rush of exercising.

Don’t be put off that you don’t know anyone. I’ve found going it alone strangely liberating. Rocking up to a class where no-one knows how fit (or unfit) you are and just getting on with it means you have no one to please, or let down, but yourself. No giggles of embarrassment when you properly try the body ripple.

The fact that here in Singapore you’ve got a whole bunch of women (and men if you choose) from all around the world makes for a different dynamic I find. Being British means I am, of course, cursed with the ‘please don’t get too excited or enjoy yourself too much’ gene. Those of you from the US have no such inhibitions (ok, I’m generalising, but you know what I mean!) You guys throw yourself in to every class with whoops and shouts of encouragement that, once you get your head around the randomness of it, is actually quite encouraging and makes it all the more fun. When an American friend first said “great job Jo, you’re doing amazing” I thought she was being sarcastic. But she wasn’t, she was genuinely happy for me and expressed it. Wow! So not British.what-i-think-i-look-like1

So, whatever country you’re from you’ll find a class, trainer, group you fit with. It may even be the one you think you’ll hate. I now love the class that I very nearly left mortified at the ‘have you ever exercised?’ comment. But the trainer wasn’t being mean, she just needed to know so she could watch out for me. After all, I was slightly less athletic than the rest of the group (still am!). She actually sent me an email the next day to congratulate me on finishing ‘what was a really tough class’. I literally glowed all day from that one little email. So, don’t give up.

A friend in the UK put it brilliantly recently when I asked her what new stuff was happening back home. “I’m doing that class when just at the point where you think you might puke, it’s over” Can’t wait to try it when I’m back. I’ll even surprise them all with a few whoops and cheers as we work out.women-fitness-vector4

So, tell me, what is your favourite way to keep fit? We could make a great list to share around.

I’ll start – Ben’s Zumba class and Pippa’s fat burning class at Singapore Polo Club, the amazing Melanie Richards who gave myself and my friend 3 months of fabulous yoga before heading back to Oz. I’m still looking for a great replacement if anyone knows of someone?  Then there’s Aaron and his gang at ifcPT. For great, honest nutritional advice try Karin at Nutritious n Delicious. Finally, I love the vibe at Body Temple and am currently ‘enjoying’ the boxing class there.

Oh, one more thing. There’s a great Facebook page dedicated to fitness called Singapore Slim. Don’t be put off by its name – it’s full of motivation for women to get fit and strong (rather than slim) and has some great tips and suggestions.

I’d also like to hear your best tracks to work out too. This one just reminds of a the fabulous Delphine and her squats. Ouch!

Over to you…

 

 

Help!

As is the way with some of my posts since being an expat in Singapore, this is one that I’ve been avoiding for a while. Although not as long as I’ve been avoiding the ‘Organic Box Story’ – but I’ll get there. Give me a break folks, it’s been tough few months.

This is also one that those outside of the expat world are going to drop their cups of tea and scoff loudly at. Ney, they will LAUGH OUT LOUD whilst wriggling uncomfortably in their seats. In fact, I could probably lose a few friends over this. But hey, I’m all for baring my soul 2c25968288f36ecaedaa9653d6cf9bde_largeat the moment so here goes. By the way, I am now officially taking cover for a few days whilst the “who the hell does she think she is” and “oooh, get her with her ‘domestic helper’ getting all up herself (that’s an Essex term for thinking you’re rather posh when you’re clearly not!)” and other such comments, go away. 

Domestic help. Do you? Don’t you? How? What? When? Why? And WTF?

I’m not going to tell you the best way to decide if you need live-in help or not. I’m not going to advise on the legalities, paperwork or do’s and don’t of a contract if you have one (that’s what agencies are for – or the MOM). I’m not even going to tell you what to ask when choosing a helper. All of this might be skimmed over, but I’m not taking the slack for your poor decisions or indecisiveness – that’s all you.
Twain-quote

Let’s start with some honesty right off. One of the BEST things about living in Singapore is that lots and lots and lots and lots (and more!) of normal people, like you and me – who are not the Queen or even related in any way – have live-in helpers. Outside of Singapore people call them maids. We don’t. We call them helpers. Now you know. It’s perfectly acceptable to have someone who lives in your house – yes, with you and the family –  and does all the housework you want her to. I know!

That’s not to say everyone has a helper. I know some very nice, sane people who don’t. (Actually they’re not that sane but they are nice) Some just have a cleaner who comes round once a week or whatever. I even know of some people who do it all themselves! These people are much more on the ball than me. Possibly more house proud. Definitely not as ‘unkept’ in the chore department. Each to their own I say. The choice is there.

Getting your head around having a live-in helper is hard for a girl from a small village in Essex. With a working class background and a strong moral grounding in trade unions, the labour party and that strange idea you get growing up in a ‘normal working class’ town that you should never, in any circumstances, show that you’re doing well for yourself, is a hard nut to crack. Is this a British thing I wonder. I can hear my idol Billy Bragg strumming his guitar in disgust as I write. Sorry Bill I’ve sold out to the big scary corporate guys…

Sorry, I’m digressing into a whole other post here aren’t I?

Basically it’s a weird idea to get used to someone else doing all the crap for you.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, you need to decide, what, if any help you want to get. Some of the questions you might ask yourself are:

“Could I really have a stranger living in my house?” dc8pBKBce
“Will I end up cleaning up before or/and afterwards?”
“How will I know what to ask her to do?”
“Will she run off with all my jewels and maybe even my husband?”
“Do I really want a stranger washing my dirty knickers?”
“What will I do whilst she is cleaning?”
“How much will it really cost me?”
“What if I want some private time with the other half!”
“What will my friends back at home think of having a ‘maid'”

All of these questions and more will run through your head.
For me I answered them like so:

“Nope, can’t imagine it. I love my privacy too much.” I don’t even like someone turning up at my door without at least half an hours notice.
“Err. no. But then I’m not a clean freak. I am that person that only cleans the bathroom when it needs it.”
“You won’t really. But there are people who will tell you what they did. Start with a list of jobs you’d like done daily and go from there.”
“If you’re lucky you’ll keep the jewels” I’m kidding, I’m kidding! This is a tricky one as you do hear some horror stories about things going missing and so on. We just got a safe and put things we had an attachment to in there. Not because we think our lovely lady will steal anything, but it takes away any worry for all of us.
“No, but I also can’t be bothered to wash the amount of clothes my husband and kids seem to wear” So, it’s the lesser of two evils. You soon get over your queasiness on this after your first monthly visit (ahem, sorry, if that’s too much information).
“Pay a fair wage, end of discussion” Do not ask ‘should I pay them to work their day off, do they have to have every Sunday off, do I pay them to go home’ and so on. Do the decent thing. Treat your helper well. Be sensible. End of.
“Haaaaaaa! Really?” Well I guess as she’s there taking care of everything, book a hotel?
“They will think you’re up yourself. But that’s ok because you’re also up yourself without having to clean the toilet after hubby’s night out in Arab Street.”

I know, I’m making this all very light-hearted and it’s not. It takes some getting used to in all honesty. Having another woman in your house, doing the things you are used to doing. Taking away some of the ‘jobs’ that – whilst you may not have liked doing them, at least they were ‘yours’. You will have mixed feelings about it.

housework-or-fire_largeYou will be grateful beyond belief on the bad days when the kids have been a handful, the cars broken down and you’ve got lost finding your way back from the garage and you walk in to a nice clean house and the dinner cooking.
You will smugly smile to yourself when a new friend asks if you’re free for lunch and you can go on short notice as you know you haven’t got to get that pile of school clothes sorted for tomorrow.
You will laugh and thank your lovely helper when she finds that pair of bloody glasses you ‘put down somewhere’ just now.
You will breathe a huge sigh of relief when you have to rush to the doctors with one child and can leave the other safely tucked up in bed under her watchful eye.
And you’ll be pleased you can go out for ‘date night’ (hate that term with a vengeance – it’s not ‘date night’ it’s going out with your husband!) once in a while without having to book a babysitter.

The downsides are there as well of course. You may not always feel you have privacy in your own home. Niggles about the way she does things that don’t tie in with what you would do. Having to manage someone is tricky; you are, after all, their employer. I’m not so good at being the ‘boss’. That’s a weird role. We muddle along though. She tells me to ‘leave that I will do it’ when I start rinsing plates or will bat away any suggestion of helping her with something. That’s ok. We’re comfortable enough to do that.

I still sneak around and do things. Like ironing a new outfit today. I’m not sure I’ll even wear it so it may go back to the shop. I don’t want her to see how much it cost – the old working class guilt there – (it wasn’t that much dad relax) so decided I’d quickly iron it whilst she was out. Also, I have this thing about creases at the side of trousers – can’t be doing with flat edges either side of my legs sorry. So…

Caught red-handed. She came back and found me in the kitchen, with the ironing board, wielding the iron. I apologised profusely of course. Tried to explain that I didn’t know what I’d be wearing so blah, blah, blah! She laughed. She thinks I’m a bit odd I’m sure. She also laughs when I offer to make her a cuppa on my many visits to the kettle.

1336006895833_8696101Would I do without her now? No. Of course not! As much as I’d like to pretend I could do it all, the fact is, I can’t. Actually, it’s that I don’t want to. I won’t. Ask my mum, she thinks I’m from another planet because I don’t think about cleaning the bathroom every day and changing the sheets once a week. So, no I couldn’t do without her. She’s an angel in disguise. She’s part of the family in a very mutually-respectful-not-too-close-way.

There’s whole load of paperwork involved in hiring a helper sure. There are pitfalls you need to be aware of. There are extra expenses you may not realise at first like medical bills and bonuses. You do have to share your home with a stranger. But, really, the thing that swung it for me when we were deciding – was, why not? When and where else would we get the chance to have someone help take care of things?

It’s tough choosing whether to go for it or not. It can be tough choosing a helper – go with your gut every time.

Things you might like to know…

imagesWhen you land on the wonderful little red dot it’s very exciting. The sights, sounds, smells are all new and for most people the start of a new life here is quite a buzz. But, in all honestly, it doesn’t take very long before you can become completely overwhelmed by it all.

Suddenly the most mundane things become a huge deal. Going to the supermarket can feel like an expedition to the North Pole (actually, much more like the Sahara desert). Finding a doctor is like choosing Godparents for your child, and knowing what eggs to buy – well, that’s just completely baffling.

Nearly six months in and I’m starting to feel less overwhelmed and I got to thinking of all the little things that have helped me settle in. Those subtle nuances that stop you feeling like a prize fool.

Being the kind, generous person I am I thought I’d share them with you all. So, if you’re heading over to Singers or have just arrived, have a look at this list and make notes. Sometimes it’s the smallest things that can send you over the edge.

(Did I ever tell you the organic basket story??!)

Before You Arrive

  • What to bring and not to bring from your native country is such a HUGE topic I’m not going to go in to it here. What I will say is please rest assured, you can get pretty much anything you want here. Yes, some of it will be double the price of back home and you’ll kick yourself you didn’t bring a container load of it. But, you’ll also bring a whole load of stuff you don’t need, want or will ever use. For me, it was far too many clothes – and not even winter clothes, just regular stuff that never gets worn due to the heat. And stock cubes! I was led to believe you couldn’t get them here and panicked. I have a cupboard full if you want any. So, please don’t panic – and if you  are really desperate for that box of M&S chocolate shortbread, there’s always the internet.
  • If it’s at all possible visit Singapore for a week or two at least before you move. It will help you feel more comfortable with the move. If you can get to know someone who already lives here through social media or work connections, even better. Ask if they’d mind meeting you for dinner. Then bend their ear off and ask every question you’ve been storing up. Most people have been there and done that and are only to willing to answer all those questions that are keeping you up at night.

On The Road

  • If you hire (or buy if you’re stonkingly rich and flash, err, I mean if you can) a car, you will have a little device in the front window. This is called an IU device and it will be your best friend. It will get you in and out of car parks and around the roads of Singapore. However, it does need a ‘cash card’ in it and this needs ‘topping up’ regularly. IMG_2155To do this is easy – once you know how and where. You can do it at most ATM machines – just pop your bank card in and follow the instructions. A lot of shopping centres have ‘Top Up machines’ usually situated by the walkway or lifts. They can be pretty hard to spot but look like this:
    You can also top up in 7/11 stores and some petrol stations. You will also get charged when you use certain roads – you’ll notice gantry’s across roads that have details of the prices charged. Usually only a couple of dollars. Always make sure you’ve got at least $20 on your card as it can be easy to go through it in a day, especially if you’re parking in the CBD (Central Business District). However, once you know where you’re going you’ll find the money on it lasts much longer.  Keep your cash card topped up and you’ll be fine, if not, you’ll be fined (do you see what I did there?).
  • However, don’t think just because you’ve got one of these you can park anywhere. Oh no! If you go in to a car park without a barrier, or want to park in a road (check you can first!), it’s likely you’ll need ‘coupons’ to park. These coupons can be bought at 7/11 and garages and cost 50c or $1 each and are bought in books of ten or so. Check the colour of the parking bays and read the back of the coupon book to see how many coupons you should display. Pop out the little round tags for time and date and you’re good to go. Always worth keeping a book of them in the glove compartment.
  • Satnavs don’t always recognise flyovers. I have nothing more to say on this. Just be aware. SAT NAVS DO NOT ALWAYS RECOGNISE FLYOVERS. Nuff said.
  • Oh, and roundabouts don’t really exist.
  • Pedestrians like to wear headphones and listen to music/watch tv whilst walking along. Don’t assume they can hear you coming in your noisy car or hear the bell on your bike. They can’t.

Time To Shop

Shopping in the supermarket can be fun. It can also be a nightmare as the choice can be baffling, the layout a bit odd and payment for things not straightforward.

  • If you buy loose fruit and veg, more often than not there’s a set of scales/weighing machine you are supposed to take the loose – but bagged items – to to be weighed and priced. These may or may not be manned. I love the diy ones as I get to play shops for a bit.
  • There may also be a bakery section within in the supermarket – that’s separate to the supermarket (even though it’s inside the shop) Usually you’ll need to pay for things from there separately. Always check before you pop something in your trolley and wander off.
  • Tissues are big here. They are used to reserve seats at hawker centres and it’s quite common to see a solitary pack of tissues sitting in the middle of a table – which basically means someone has bagged that table and are off getting their grub. Cab drivers like to give them away – no idea why! You will find them being sold outside MRT stations or in busy shopping areas, often by disabled people. As far as I understand it, this is the only way some people get to earn any money. A couple of bucks can go a long way. And who doesn’t need tissues right? Some may say they are unlicensed hawkers. Personally, I think it’s someone who’s trying to get by.
  • When shopping for clothes get ready for ‘Free Size’ This is the sizing many of the local stores use in their clothes and they will convince you that it’ll fit just fine – the size is free and meant for all. Err… no. Unless you’re size 10, possibly 12 at a push, 5ft 9 and with perfectly honed arms and cheek bones don’t bother. It won’t fit. However, don’t be put off by all the talk of being sent away from shops head hanging low after being told ‘you’re too fat for our clothes’. There are plenty of good clothes shops that stock normal size clothes in Singapore. You’ve just got to go and look. Often they look like tiny girls sizes from the outside, but inside there’s an array to choose from.

  • At the till you will be asked “Nets or Visa?” I still am not sure what the difference is between the two apart from you use a pin number for Nets and sign your signautre for Visa. I believe some stores offer discounts/promotions sometimes if you choose one over the other. At the petrol station recently, for example, I got 10% off for using Visa rather than Nets. Check you don’t get charged if it’s Visa though. Really I think it’s comes down to your personal preference. Can you remember your pin number or not? Bear in mind you need a 6-digit pin number here, so make it one you can remember.
  • If you are planning on buying big items when you arrive, or during your time in Singapore – and you are fairly well organised enough not to get in to debt – it’s worth opening a credit card here. There are lots of credit cards that give great cash back, air miles, discount options. Choose well and you’re first flight to Bali could be courtesy of your monthly food shop. Obviously look around and be sensible, there’s no point sticking everything on credit if you don’t have the money to pay it off each month.

Out & About

  • Tipping – no one tips. Well, almost no one. There is a sign at the airport apparently that says Singapore is a non tipping country. Certainly in restaurants, hotels and so on, it’s not expected that you tip as a service charge is always added. However, some people do give a couple of bucks to the petrol station attendent who fills your car up and cleans the windscreen (yep, you only have to swan out of the car, say how much and what petrol you want put in, then pay at the till – no smelly petrol hands here). But, it’s not the norm.
  • At the hawker centres, don’t be embarrassed to ask what’s what. They can be intimidating places but do offer great, cheap food. Have a wahawkers_1820293bnder round, decide what you think you may like and go for it. As it’s so cheap it really doesn’t hurt if you get it wrong. Oh, and once you’ve got your food, take a seat and a lovely Uncle will come over and ask what drink you want and bring it to you. I’m still learning when it comes to what is good, but here’s a link to a great article I read which helps explain some of the dishes. http://www.yoursingapore.com/editorials/top-ten-things-to-eat-in-singapore-hawker-edition.html
  • If someone refers to an ‘Uncle’ they don’t actually mean a blood relative – or any kind of relative. In Singapore, Uncle is a term of respect for elderly gentlemen. And Aunty is the female equivalent. I guess a bit like the British use of ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’. Although do be offended if you’re under 40 as I believe it is really meant for the elderly. For us ‘younger’ women, we’re called ‘Sis’ however, I’m not sure what the male younger person is called as it’s not ‘bro’. Anyone help me with this one?
  • If you are going to be getting cabs, download one of the many Apps that are available to help you book a cab. Eg. there’s Grab Taxi, Comfort Cabs, Uber etc.  You can’t just stand anywhere and stick your hand out as there are certain rules the cab drivers have to adhere to. So stick to cab ranks if you can. There are plenty around – outside shopping centres, busy areas, hotels, even large condos. Don’t panic if the line seems ridiculously long, there are A LOT of cabs in Singapore and lines tend to move quickly.
  • Don’t assume the cab driver will know the way to your destination. It’s always a good idea to have an idea of what way you want to go. I can’t work out if this is because the driver doesn’t want to be accused of taking you the ‘long’ way round or they simply do not know. (Any London cab drivers reading this?!) Google map it if you have to.
  • If a cab stops, don’t assume you’ll get a ride. This is a bit of a bug beaLook out for the green one!r of people living here and a can of worms I’m leaving be for now. If a cab is on a ‘shift change’ they’ll only take you if you are going their way.  It may helpfully say on the top of the cab where it’s heading. If it’s pouring with rain be prepared to wait a while for a cab and if you see one coming with the haloed green light – stick your hand out and wave like your life depends on it. You might get lucky…

Passes & Cards

  • If you’re going to be using the public transport system it’s worth getting an EZ Link card. These are available at most MRT stations (MRT is the local rail network – it’s brilliant), 7/11 stores and other places. Initially you have to pay about $12 and some of this is kept as the card payment, the rest is then credit to use on trains, buses, some cabs and even food and drink and leisure outlets. Very handy piece of plastic to have if you run out of cash (so long as it’s been topped up of course!)
  • Get a Passion card. It’s kind of like a Tesco club card (a UK reference, sorry for those non British) and you’ll be asked if you’re a Passion card member in a number of places. Look on the local community centre website and sign up. Costs around $12 but means you’ll get money off, coupons etc at shops and be able to access local classes at community centres.

!TOP TIP COMING UP!

  • FrazzledMake an effort for your DP pass photo. Now I’m not that vain a person, but this is one tip I wish someone had shared with me. It’s likely that you’ll rock up at the Ministry of Manpower (or the MOM as you will soon know it) probably having just arrived in Singapore. Feeling a bit low, probably a bit frazzled and definitely a bit confused. All of those feelings will show on your tired, haggard, unwashed face. Take my word for it, brush your hair, slap on a bit of makeup and look confident. That pass is going to be the one thing you see almost every day whilst living in Singapore. Which leads me to my next tip…
  • Take your dependents pass/employment pass EVERYWHERE. It’s not just the obvious things like opening a bank account or getting a TV package you’ll need it for. When buying any kind of ticket, entering a play centre or visiting the doctors you will be asked for it. You need it more often than not so keep it with you. It’ll save you a lot of hassle.

Locals

  • Can Lah or Can Can – mean yep, I’ll do that for you. You will find yourself saying it without realising. There are hundreds of other phrases and words you will hear in ‘Singlish’ – which is the local dialect/language. There are some great books to help you if you want to learn more. Or, just google Singlish and away you go.
  • There are lot of people employed here which means there is lots of help. From the petrol pump guy who will fill your car up to the many shop assistants. Don’t be surprised by the fact you can get someone to bring dog food to your house, someone else who is responsible for the garden, another person who sorts out the pest control and another guy who delivers everything from water to chips. This is the country that  ‘can lah.’  Don’t be embarrassed, this is the culture of Singapore.*

*ahem, I don’t want to start a war here, but some say that customer service is different here. Don’t take things personally if it isn’t what you’d usually expect.

Home Sick?

It’s tough leaving everyone and everything you know behind. No matter how excited you are about the move and how much you think you’re ready for it, you will have days when you wonder what the hell you’ve done. Read my piece on here about how I felt – “Home is where the heart is”. But here are some other tips for helping survive those first few months of home sickness.

  • Say yes to every suggestion of meeting up, coffee morning, play date you can. You may not like everyone you meet – you don’t have to – that’s not the point. The point is, get out there. Often, it’s not the person you’ve met, but someone you meet through them that ends up being your turn-to buddy. It’s scary to start again but it’s a necessary part of relocating. So, try not to be shy. You won’t be the only one feeling like an idiot sat at home on their own sobbing because they haven’t had a chin wag for days. It takes time, so the sooner you get going the sooner you’ll have a friend or two. I hesitated far too much and so missed out on some great meet ups I’m sure. Now I try to be much more open and say yes more.
  • Remind yourself where you are every now and then. The fact you are living in this amazing city with so many stunning places on your doorstep waiting for you to explore. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have a look at the weather, news, or local FB page of your home town. That often helps pick me up  😉
  • Pick up a tablet (the electronic kind, not the packet!), phone or get on the computer and FaceTime, Skype, email someone back home. Tell them how you’re feeling. My sister sent me a lovely bunch of flowers when she knew I was down and a card with such kind words it made my day. Also, remind your friends that there is nothing quite like a hand written letter through the post. But make sure you reciprocate and write to them too.
  • Talk to someone here about how you’re feeling. Without a doubt someone else will be feeling the same, or have been through it.
  • If you need help don’t be shy and ask for it. Where to find the best meat? What to do about child care? Should you worry if you’ve upset the neighbours dog? What does a red letter gift mean?  Whatever it is, someone else has probably asked it before. There a quite a few Facebook sites now – just put in Singapore expat and a whole load will come up. Singapore Expat Wives and The Real Singapore Expat Wives are two of the most popular. They can become addictive though – be warned!
  • In a similar way accept help too. You’ll be amazed how quickly people – locals and expats alike – will offer to help, especially if they know you’re stuck or struggling. Whilst you may only ever have left your child with their Nanna at home, here you’ll have to get used to asking friends to help out now you’re here (again, reciprocation is the key). Need someone to feed the cat whilst you’re away? Then get to know your neighbours. It can be weird as you barely know these people who offer their help, but saying yes and thanking them is the best way forward, believe me.
  • And finally, when all is said and done remember…

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This is by no means an exhaustive list. Any newbie Expats reading this, please add your tips to the comments section below. Any old hands – come on, pass on yours. Anyone a soon-to-be expat? What kind of tips are you looking for?

For more useful advice and tips, take a look at ‘more things you might like to know’ here! I wrote this after the overwhelming response I got to part 1. Hope you like it.