Impressions of Singapore as an Expat

This blog post has been long overdue, especially as I’m reminded by friends and family who are eager to hear about life in Singapore. 

Marco and I moved to Singapore without having ever been here. It was quite a bold move, but we had heard lots of positive things, which put our mind at rest. Coincidentally, we even had relatives vacationing here, just before we flew in – getting further confirmation, that it was a wonderful place. 

Now I’m able to tell you my first impressions of what makes Singapore unique.

THE HUMIDITY

This is the one thing EVERYONE warned me about. Well, it goes without saying that, in a country located on the equator, you’ve got 365 days of constant temperature. Which translates into hot and humid temperatures. 

To be quite honest, it doesn’t get to me in the least (except when I’m out all afternoon). There have been occasions when we were out sightseeing and I was at breaking point. That’s probably also why they have an extremely cheap and efficient transport system, averaging on £0.50 a trip. You’re literally not expected to walk anywhere unless you’re willing to take 3 showers a day. The climate also lends itself to the fact that Singapore is so clean, as you wouldn’t want litter and garbage to be exposed to those sorts of temperatures without attracting some funky diseases. 

Otherwise, I would argue that I’d happily dip in and out of the heat to remind myself of the harsh British winters I no longer have to endure. Sorry London friends. That said, pretty much anything that is enclosed is powered by air-conditioning. Sometimes it gets pretty cold and reminds me that I can’t escape the chill forever.

THE LANDSCAPING

Singapore has a policy for ensuring that there plenty of plants to observe in the city. If you’ve been to Singapore, you would immediately recognise that this young city-state has grown taller and taller. With plenty of condos available, serving over 5.5 million residents, Singapore has done its bit in green landscaping to ensure that its residents feel that they’re not drowning in concrete. And who doesn’t love tropical plants anyway? 

THE LANGUAGE 

Singaporeans are a mixture of cultures and ethnicities. It is no surprise then that the four official languages are English, Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil. Nevertheless, whilst English is spoken vastly, we’ve had to accustom ourselves to Singlish – a local dialect. It is usually a mixture of English, Mandarin, Tamil, Malay, and other local dialects like Hokkien, Cantonese or Teochew. Commonly, you’d find locals saying ‘Can’ instead of ‘Yes’; or ‘Lah’ to place emphasis on the word before – for example, ‘Don’t worry, lah’.  

HAWKER CENTRES 

Singapore is known to be one of the most expensive cities in the world, let alone in Asia. So it was to my great delight, that I acquainted myself with the numerous hawker centres available. Gracing the streets every so often, you’d find a hawker centre selling decent portions of local food for a mere 2-3 Singapore dollars. We’re talking a full, nutritious meal under £2. Some of these have are even listed on the Michelin guide. 

THE MALLS 

Considering how small Singapore is, you just CANNOT avoid malls. There are so many, many malls connected via the MRT  (underground) and some even have city links to keep you sheltered from the heat. Seeing that malls cater to their demographics, they are also not created equal. The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, not only sells luxury brands and houses high-end restaurants; it even has a man-made canal in the middle of the mall, where visitors can take boat rides throughout the lengths of the mall. Love or hate ’em, the one thing that they offer everyone is solace from the heat.

I can’t believe it’s been two months already, since we’ve moved to Singapore. 

We were puzzled on where to stay, when we got here. After doing some very quick touch-basing with friends and a lot of soul-searching, we settled on Tiong Bahru, a charming enclave home to hip cafes, art galleries, indie bookstores and post-war, art-deco architecture. 

I’m pretty excited to share with you some snaps of this charming area, where our new home is based.  Have you ever experienced Tiong Bahru yourselves? Shout out your favourite places!