Singapore has been my home for the last five and a half years. You now know how I got here but what is it like for me now I am here?
FLASHBACK – I remember the moment I first landed. I was through immigration, had all 3 suitcases in hand and in a taxi within 20 minutes! Changi Airport has the quickest immigration passport control I have ever seen. First impression – tick! What I wasn’t prepared for was the doors opening to lead me to the taxi stand…it felt like I had just been thrown in a 200 degree oven! (I have to keep remembering this when I have visitors and shuffle them into a taxi for immediate air con!). The heat coupled with humidity is a bit of a shock to the system when you first arrive but Singapore has it covered, there is almost an air-conned underground city to help prevent the Adventure Water Park look!
It’s hard to condense life here into one post without it becoming the Magna Carta so here is my top 10 of what I love about Singapore:
- I live in flipflops! The mere word flipflop for me conjures up images of holidays, relaxation and hot weather. I have basically just described Singapore and I call it a working holiday! We don’t have seasons with living so close to the Equator and the weather is consistently ranging from approximately 27 to 32 degrees. Of course we have monsoon season (September to February) but it’s summer all year round. However, what I don’t necessarily enjoy is the humidity. Unfortunately it’s impossible to rock the sweat look but the $2 fan I bought when I first arrived, greeted by a happy bubbly woman saying “Ni Hao!” (hello!) is still my trusted companion 5.5 years later! Air con becomes your best friend and you find yourself hopping in and out of stores just to get into the air con!
- I love my poolside living (before I see my UK friends rolling their eyes, it’s just the same as having a back garden for you! This is my space to unwind). The lifestyle here is uber relaxed if you allow it. I love spending my weekends lazing by the pool reading a book or chilling on my balcony with a glass of red (gotta get my 5 a day!) before the working week begins all over again.
- It’s safe! Don’t get me wrong, low crime doesn’t mean no crime, but I can go running late at night or walking first thing in the morning and feel safe. There is no way back home I would go for a run in the dark, especially as a female. There are many people here exercising at night, for pretty much one reason…it’s a tad cooler!
- Singapore is a multi-cultural society – the main religions are Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism – this means we get some pretty awesome bank holidays! On a serious note, there is great respect for the different religions.
- Food! Singaporeans love their food and so do I! One thing which is asked of me daily in the office is “Have you had lunch?” This is their way of caring, of saying hello and of making conversation. But food is a huge part of Singaporean life. Hawker Centres (open air food centres), are a hit especially amongst the locals and my favourite is Lau Pa Sat as daily from 7pm they close a busy street in the CBD, out come plastic tables and chairs, barbecues are fired up and satay is served along with Tiger beer!
- Wet Markets – I love going to my local Wet Market, Marine Terrace which is on the East Coast of Singapore. I buy all my fresh produce from here including meat, herbs, spices and bunches of flowers to make the apartment smell gorge! It is typically cheaper than going to a supermarket but I enjoy chatting to the locals (I love meeting new people and I really will talk to anyone!). I believe they are called Wet Markets because they clean the floors with water after washing their vegetables so the floors are often wet (you learn something new every day!). And I recently discovered to add to the food romance that Singapore’s Changi Airport is within the top 10 for food in the World Airport Awards 2016 – well done Singapore!
- We call people Aunties & Uncles – this doesn’t mean we are now related to everyone! This is what we call people who are older than us, it’s a sign of respect.
- Helpers – it’s normal in Singapore to have affordable domestic help, especially for those who have a family and in which case having a live in helper is an absolute god send! Most helpers are from the Philippines or Indonesia and work dam hard to support their families back home. My helper is like another mum to me, she is here right now as I am typing away helping to make my place spotless and sometimes I don’t know what I would do without her!
- Living in Singapore means it’s a short distance to take a break! In less than 4 hours you can be in Bali, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Bintan to name a few. That reminds me, I really could do with a proper holiday!
- Singapore Grand Prix – this is the only night race in the world! How awesome is that?! The city comes alive over this weekend, the atmosphere is amazing and I am always extremely proud that I live here when Singapore is showcased to the world. It is held in September every year.
And finally, did you know? The World Happiness Index 2016 has ranked Singapore the happiest country in Asia and is ranked 22nd happiest in the world! That’s pretty cool.
Next week I’ll be posting about one of my favourite places to relax after work so stay tuned!
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“You’re so brave!” – this has been repeatedly said to me over the last 5 and a half years.
The first time was from a previous boss who has now become a dear friend of mine. For the sake of privacy I am calling her Vera (I am waiting for the backlash for this!). I can still hear the panic stricken voice down the phone because I had casually mentioned to her I was considering moving to Singapore…just like that! Of course it wasn’t just like that as many an evening was spent with my nearest and dearest discussing the pros and cons over copious bottles of Pinot Noir (I am a red wine fanatic, after all it is fruit right?!) however knowingly throughout the whole process I had already made my mind up that I was going! Just so you don’t think Vera went home and hung herself from her shower rod, she provided support in abundance and still does to this day on any decisions I am making 🙂
I had been travelling for nigh on 2 years with my company, lucky enough to spend lengthy amounts of time in some great locations including Amsterdam, Rhode Island and of course New York City! From that very moment I fell in love with the Big Apple and it’s the only place in the world where I am at my happiest…but more on that at a later date!
So, I return from these 2 years. I am back at my old desk, doing the same old commute…notice the word old! I had experienced such amazing cultures and cities, from both a personal and work perspective and I began to feel stale. I knew somehow I needed to move forward, I wanted to maximise living my life – I have always had a strong view that I only have one life, this is no dress rehearsal and I am going to live it! It was strange as I was experiencing a feeling of excitement, although I didn’t know what I was excited about (I hope that doesn’t make me sound like a nutter!). I wasn’t scared, it didn’t even enter my head and to this day I still don’t know why I wasn’t but I was determined I was going somewhere! Luckily, at the time my company had a great global footprint and after searching for many locations with roles to match my experience on the internal career website, I applied for a role in Singapore.
“You’re so brave!”…this time from family, friends and colleagues. All were extremely supportive (albeit creating an excuse for numerous leaving dos!!). However, there was much sadness, especially the airport farewell which was a total tear jerker! I can still see my close relatives waving me off with our tears enough to give the Hudson River a run for its money! It was a tough moment and thank god for WhatsApp, iMessage and Facebook because without these I wouldn’t have been able to keep in touch with everyone to the point where I didn’t feel I was on the other side of the world so much!
So 1 month and 3 packed suitcases later I was on a BA flight to Singapore!
Even though I am Little Miss Positivity, moving countries is tough, it is a big deal and on retrospect I guess I was brave but not everyone finds it easy, including me at times. For anyone out there considering taking the plunge, I have 6 ‘heads-up’ tips on what kind of things to expect (from a female point of view and please bear in mind this relates to my move to Singapore!).
- You will have heartbroken family and friends – feelings of guilt and doubt will creep over you I won’t lie. You will miss events happening at home, your family get-togethers, your friends on a night out – I spent many a night in tears about this so I recommend giving Facebook/Insta/Twitter a break for a while when you first move!
- You feel like the new girl at school again – building a new circle of friends can be hard (especially if you don’t have kids) but I find work colleagues get you through that initially. There are so many things to do, many groups to join and when you are ready there are groups on Facebook with expats feeling exactly the same way so many ladies meet up regularly to make new friends
- Check out the local language – in Singapore we speak Singlish! This is Singapore’s unique brand of colloquial English. A simple example being, if someone asks would you like to grab lunch, your reply would be can-lah or cannot-lah (meaning yes I can or no I cannot, the ‘lah’ is added on to the end purely to complement the sentence but doesn’t actually have a meaning, similar to scouse in Liverpool!)
- All of a sudden you will miss Monster Munch, Warbutons crumpets, Blue Ribands, Jaffa cakes and Double Deckers (I don’t care what anyone says, chocolate tastes different here to the UK!)
- The fact you have a balcony and a pool in your condo puts you in a ‘posh’ bracket but don’t worry, that won’t become an issue when your friends and family come to visit, they will immediately get it!
- The time difference – you’re awake and your nearest and dearest are asleep! Hang in there, initially it is hard but you figure it out and remember you really are only a SMS/phone call/Skype/FaceTime away
I do have to add that all that said, moving abroad has been amazing, it has given me great independence and it has taught me what really matters in life. I have faced many fears, managed to overcome them and I still continue loving my life no matter where I am or what I am doing.
I look back at the journey and I think I just did it, to others it’s being brave.
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One of the things I love about London in winter (although it wasn’t really winter, it was a week ago and apparently 11 degrees is warm?!) is heading into a dimly lit, warm and inviting restaurant from the cold.
There are two very different restaurants which have topped my list on my recent visit that I just had to share:
1. Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen – what made me fall in love with this restaurant was that you turn off a busy high street and suddenly find yourself in a quiet cobbled street – almost Harry Potter like! It’s freezing cold outside and infront of you is a gorgeous corner building, dimly lit with a cosy greeting.
The interior is an eclectic mix of modern and rustic design, it’s comfortable, romantic and snug. The menu is delightful and reasonably priced! For that mouth watering, close your eyes for a second then open them with a dreamy glaze in your eyes I recommend to try the following:
- Duck croquettes, prune ketchup
- Burrito, calcite onion, smoked walnut, malt
- Gnocchi, Delica squash, goat’s curd, sage, brown butter
- Short rib, baby garlic, mash, Montgomery Cheddar
2. Dishoom – this hidden speciality has a walk-in / no reservation policy. Bearing in mind how cold it was it was a nice touch bringing a hot toddy whilst you queue. The only downside about this is the length of time it can take to get a table as we were waiting for a good 90 mins before we could sit down to order.
The food however was worth the wait, by this time we were so hungry we pretty much ordered enough to feed a village! The dishes however were divine and the service was exceptional.
The dishes which were my favourite and I recommend trying are:
- Chicken Ruby
- Vegetable Biryani
- Black House Daal
- Murgh Malai
There were of course many other places I tried which were just as tasty: Gaucho, Cookbook Cafe and Wagamama for pure lunchtime comfort food.
Now I am back in Singapore and on a diet!