So, let’s review the things I’m not so fond of:
- the humidity. I have not acclimatised and I doubt I ever will. Having now seen a full year I do know that Singapore has seasons – subtle seasons – with Nov-March being quite comfortable but the middle of the year is revolting. I live in air-conditioning. I refuse to sweat in my own house.
- shopping. clothes and food shopping were extraordinarily hard in the beginning. Clothes shopping was hard as they just don’t generally cater to my size of body here, but I’ve found some places where I can buy stuff so I have stopped even looking in 95% of clothes shops here. Grocery shopping brought me to tears in the early days. Who knew meat was cut differently in other countries? Who knew that searching for coriander was futile because it was called Chinese parsley? Who knew beef mince could cost $35SG a kilo?
- the loneliness. I’m not the most social person on the planet (this is something I have learnt as I have got older) but I missed the few friendships I had that really knew me. They knew my history, they knew my moods, they just got me. When every friendship you have is a ‘starter friendship’ it’s exhausting. I’m not ashamed to admit that for the first six months I secluded myself from others, deliberately choosing to not pursue getting to know school mums until the new school year (January). Apparently, this means I made one of the 5 Mistakes That Trailing Spouses Commonly Make but…..pffffttt. Forcing myself into social situations that made me uncomfortable would have left me miserable and while I was lonely I knew I needed to take that time to settle. To wait until the fog in my head lifted and then venture forth and make friends.
The things I love:
- Internet, cable TV and home phone that was connected and working within 24 hours of moving into our house.
- being able to use email for as much as possible. If I can take the language barrier out of the equation I get things done a lot faster!
- I’ve had a few medical needs and it’s MUCH easier to get appointments here than it is in Australia. Need a dental check up? How about tomorrow? When I called a new gynaecologists office to make an appointment I got one in an hours time!
- people are polite. Whilst drivers here have a desperate need to be FIRST (known as kiasu) I’ve yet to see an incident of road rage and it’s rare to hear anyone toot their car horn. I know some people who say they find the people here to be rude, but I don’t find that at all.
- no hayfever. I was never without tissues in Melbourne, and over Spring I was also not without nasal spray and allergy eye drops because of the spring pollen or grass seeds or whatever it was my face didn’t like. I have bought 2 boxes of tissues in twelve months and have almost lost my habit of sniffling.
- being able to text a cab and not have to mortgage my house to pay the taxi fare.
- the mix of cultures and the acceptance of other cultures (as far as I can tell). Want to stick a skewer through your cheek to honour your God? Go for it. Want to fast between sun up and sun down? Not a problem. Want to sing Hallelujah? Go right ahead.
- that post codes are specific to each property, not a whole suburb.
- feeling safe and being able to take my girls out to places without worring about weirdos.
- the travel opportunities. Langkawi, Phuket (x3), Cambodia, Vietnam, Bintan Island, Hong Kong, Perth, and Kuala Lumpur all in the space of a year!
- Our house. It’s a very, very nice house but I miss the cosiness of our Australian house. I miss the carpet. I miss it all being on a single level. I miss the roof gutters that would stop water cascading off the roof 3 storeys above, creating a very loud waterfall in our internal courtyard.
This time last year we were ensconsed in a business class pod (they are so much more than a ‘seat’) on a Singapore Airlines flight, ready to continue our lives in a new country.
We were standing on the edge of a metaphorical cliff with our ‘old’ life in the distance and our ‘new’ life shimmering in the distance – all shiny and new and glistening with opportunity. Much like right before you have a baby when it’s all before you. You know life is going to change and it’s going to be wonderful but you can’t picture the baby or your future and all the joy and hurdles that will come your way.
It has been a year of contrasts.
A year of very, very high highs and a year of spectacularly low lows.
A year of wonders, and a year of terror.
A year of smiles and a year of tears.
A year of certainty and a year of doubt.
The one thing that has never wavered is our commitment to this journey. We’ve never once doubted that we made the right decision in packing up everything we knew and moving away from everyone we knew. It’s given us the freedom to shape our own family, to step away from the obligations and duties that crowded our Australian lives. To find out how we enjoy celebrating Christmas and birthdays and all the other minutaie of family life that are typocally shaped by the generations before us.
We really are well and truly blessed.
I’m pretty sure the first thing most people do when considering a move overseas is to run to their computer and start googling. I’m not quite sure what people did in the “olden days” (as my kids call it) without the internet and it’s immediacy. I guess they headed to the library to read some out-of-date book on their destination?
For me, one of the greatest sources of information was the personal blogs written by people already living in Singapore. I made ‘friends’ with several Singapore bloggers before I arrived and having a few friends to ask questions of, and get advice from, was a real advantage.
But sometimes it’s tricky to find these blogs given the plethora of Expat blogs out their in the cyber world. Which is where Expat Blog comes in.
Expat Blog was started in 2005 by Julien “to gather all the expatriates’ blogs throughout the world on a unique platform”. It’s a dream with lots of helpful hints and information section into regions, and then further divided into countries.
Obviously, the section that I spent most of my time perusing was the Living In Singapore section. It has lots of info about all manner of stuff and just recently Julien and his team have added two additional sections on Jobs and Housing, the two key areas for most people moving anywhere!
So, if you haven’t checked out Expat Blog yet, please do! And if you have any questions you’d like to ask me about Singapore or Expat life in general feel free to get in touch with via my “About” page.
It didn’t take me long after arriving in this country to figure out that television programmes here are not to my tastes.
Even though we have cable TV there is still not a great deal of variety. With the country having four official languages there are many channels that I can’t understand, add in the
censorship government involvement in programming and I find the selection of shows to be limited. They do screen the recent Amazing Race series and the Australia Network, but other than those there is not much that floats my televisual boat.
Oh, and Singapore iTunes does not have TV shows or movies. Fortunately, I can access Australian iTunes so could download some shows but it doesn’t carry the range that US iTunes does. In my quest to watch the second season Downton Abbey I learnt how to get a US iTunes account, which let me wallow in all my trash TV pleasures (Hoarders, Tabatha’s Salon Takeover, ANTM, Survivor).
So for a few months I was very content with the shows I could download via US iTunes, but the newest season on Australian Masterchef started and I had television envy again. I knew there was a way to overcome the geoblocking that all of the Australian TV channels have on their websites (meaning people outside of Australia can not watch streamed videos). Something called a Virtual Private Network (VPN) which routes your internet access through a local server in another country or city, so it looks like you’re actually in Sydney or Melbourne or wherever, thus hurdling over all the geo-blocks.
I’d be tossing up whether to do this for a number of months but Masterchef finally prompted me to sign up. I am no techno geek so was a little scared of what was involved and whether my fledgling IT skills were up to the challenge. The company that I went with provided fantastic service and advice from the moment I contacted them via their online web chat. The representative asked what I wanted to do and then advised that watching Aussie TV shows online was often a frustrating experience, with buffering (pausing) every 20 seconds or so. Given they offer a 30 day money back guarantee I decided to chance it.
Within 5 minutes of making payment (via PayPal) I was connected to Australia and streaming the previous evening’s episode of Masterchef. What I have found is that the quality of the streaming is affected by how much traffic the local internet is experiencing. During the day it is pretty smooth but trying to watch of an evening is very, very frustrating.
The other rather large upside is that the company I went with has servers in 33 countries and the plan I brought I can chop and change which server I am using. In short, I can swap from Australia to the US. US = free TV shows! Woot!
God bless the interweb!
(I have not named the VPN company I used but if you want to know shoot me an email!)