So here I am! It’s crazy to think I’ve been in Singapore for three weeks already; I’ve honestly found it so easy to adjust to that in some ways I feel like I’ve been here for much longer. The hubs had to finish up some work things in Sydney and he’ll FINALLY be joining me on Tuesday; while I was tasked with finding us a new apartment here, he had the much more unpleasant job of organizing movers and apartment cleaners back in Australia. I love you babe!!!
I think a huge part of why it’s been so easy to adjust is that I’ve been through all this before. I’ve lived out of a hotel, I’ve learned a new commute, and I’ve slowly explored neighborhoods on foot to get my bearings (“on foot” is a bit of a loaded term here, as I’ve definitely gotten some strange looks from locals while walking around in the brutal midday heat. Incredibly, I’ve found the heat pretty bearable so far, provided you can find shady spots nearby). On the other hand, I’ve had an easier time adjusting here because I had a job with familiar co-workers that I could jump right into, and I also had a few other friends and acquaintances who’ve been so incredibly kind and welcoming. My initial impression is that Singapore is just SO expat-friendly, and because everyone is kind of in the same transient boat, everyone is very welcoming and inclusive. There are all sorts of groups and clubs; I’ve even joined a field hockey club (sadly there’s no lacrosse here), which is sponsored by both a bar and a local brewery — my kind of people.
On a more objective level, though, I’ve found Singapore to just be a much easier place to deal with than Australia. The public transportation is so clean and efficient (and so cheap — the average train ride costs like 90 cents). In this teeny tiny country there are more supermarket chains than there are in Australia, and the bigger ones carry a lot more American brands (things I’ve welled up with tears upon spotting: Goldfish, Life Cereal, Newman’s Own Lemonade, Tostitos Scoops, normal-sized Bounty paper towels, the list goes on an on). While things are still pricier than in the U.S., they are definitely cheaper than in Australia, particularly food. For instance, check out this cafe brunch sign that I happened upon last week:
It may have just been our neighborhood, but at any number of our local brunch places in Darlinghurst (Bill’s, Fellini, Tigerbakers, Eat Thai), those dishes would have cost $10 more. And the coffee wouldn’t be FREE! Maybe I’m just food-obsessed (more on that in a second, because this is definitely a fantastic place for the food-obsessed).
I also had a blissfully easy time setting up our cable and Internet; after sending in my registration form and requesting an exact installation time two days later, I received a confirmation email 10 minutes later. No waiting weeks for installation, so sitting on the phone terminally on-hold with Bigpond, it was amazing. Oh, and it costs half of what Internet in Australia cost, but it’s faster and not capped. I could tell I hit a nerve when I posted about this on facebook and every American expat that I know liked my status (granted, cable installation in the US sucks as well, so this was extra-refreshing).
Singapore is pretty famous for its malls, and as a bit of a shopping junkie I’ve had to restrain myself from going nuts. What I find most interesting, though, is the sheer variety and creativity of malls. Like, on the main drag of Orchard Road they all try to outdo each other with amazing light displays akin to Broadway or Vegas, and everyone offers various discounts geared toward holders of different bank credit cards. The first three times I went to Orchard Ion (home to Dunkin Donuts) I couldn’t find my way out to the street level. In the past few days I’ve ventured further afield and have discovered some of the more more esoteric “themed” malls. In addition to furniture malls, sports-themed malls, and digital/electronics malls, I’ve also come across the mall of tailors (Far East Plaza) and the Buddhist relics/religious paraphernalia/New Age mall (the Fu Lu Shou Complex, maybe the strangest place I’ve been in Singapore yet). According to the Wikipedia article, there are actual shrines incorporated into the mall. I felt like I was in that episode of The Simpsons where they went to the hammock district.
The one constant of Singapore, though, is the food. It is so widely available (and generally SO cheap) absolutely everywhere you go, and there is just so much to choose from. Singaporean-Chinese food, Malay food, Indian food, Thai food, Japanese food, even much-missed American chains like California Pizza Kitchen! (Sadly that one wasn’t very cheap). On average a full dish at a Hawker Centre will cost S$3-5; but I’ve picked up snacks like a pork bun or Roti with curry sauce or Teriyaki skewers for 70 cents or $1. Every mall and every office building has a food court (usually more than one level); I was amazed when my Singaporean co-worker took me to the food court attached to our building on my first day and I ordered Naan at the Indian counter, only for the guy to hand-stretch the dough and proceed to bake it fresh in a giant clay kiln. In an office building food court! And it cost $2! This place has been seriously detrimental to my waistline.
There’s a lot more that I’d like to write about, but I think I’ll save it for another post, as this one is too long already. I’ve done a lot of thinking in the past few weeks about my experience living in Australia, and how it has informed our decision to move here (and not move back home). I know I’ve spent a lot of time over the past couple years whining about various things, and I know that even in the lines above I make some negative references, but please know that I think it’s a wonderful place for which I’ll always have a fondness. It’s perhaps the most stunning landscape in the world (particularly Sydney), and I feel so fortunate to have absorbed certain aspects of the Aussie way of life. While it’s true that I think it can be hard to make friends with locals initially, once you do they are just the most awesome, genuine, fun-loving people (at least the ones I got to know!).
The other day I was meeting a friend and she texted me to let me know she was running late; without a second thought I wrote back “no worries mate,” then laughed at myself when I realized I’d done it. As cliche as it sounds, Australia taught me a lot about learning to relax and enjoy the little things a bit more. Whether that was BBQing on our balcony, or taking my time to enjoy a flat white, or marveling at the views from Mrs. Macquarie’s chair (in two years that never got old), these were all wonderful experiences that I don’t think I really would have had anywhere else in the world, and for that I’m grateful.
Fellow blogger Kerry wrote a really awesome post about things she missed and things she didn’t miss when she moved back to the U.S. from Sydney. I agree with pretty much everything she has to say, perhaps most of all being self-conscious about my accent. It’s so strange, but I’m less self-conscious here, in this place where people know I’m a foreigner just by looking at me, than I was in Australia when I had to open my mouth and order something or call people on the phone. I learned a lot about what it means to be American in the context of the rest of the world living in Australia; sometimes it was humbling and sometimes I found myself so frustrated and thinking “We do certain things better, just accept that and don’t put us down!” Having now been out of the country for nearly two years, I can’t wait to go back in May and see how my perspective has changed, because I know that it has.
Anyway, next time I’ll cover the joys of apartment-hunting in the land of ever-new and newer high-rises. Apartments here are crazy!