It is truly incredible that Daniel and I have been in Singapore already for 9 months; it seems like July 21st was last week, yet here we are slowing starting to wrap up our school year and getting excited for our trip back to the States. In teaching, the school year always tends to fly by, but this year is one for the record books. Our first year in Singapore and at SAS has gone by in a blink of an eye, but I can honestly say Dan and I are happier and healthier that we ever have been.
Being in Singapore has been an extremely easy transition, except for some road bumps at the beginning. Still, there were some lessons and tricks were learned during our 9 months here, and I know that I would have appreciated them before moving here. These tips can apply to anyone, but some of these pertain to new teachers coming to live in Singapore in the future:
- Consider city living: When we first started our home search, Daniel and I weren’t quite sure about the island and how public transportation worked. Originally, we were looking to live on the western side of Singapore and around the north for an easier comment to school. Luckily, we had the most incredible realtor who knew us better than we knew ourselves and said we would not be very happy anywhere north of Novena, and after 1 day of looking at our original neighborhoods, we knew she was right. Ultimately, Daniel and I chose to live in the Mt. Sophia neighborhood which is located between Dhoby Ghaut and Little India and couldn’t be happier with our choice. I do understand and completely respect that some people aren’t exactly into urban living, but if you are any of the following, living downtown is something you should definitely consider:
- DINKs – Double Income No Kids
- Single men or women, especially those who would like a social life (getting cabs to Woodlands/Dairy Farm is pretty impossible on a Saturday night)
- Families with children who are used to urban living
- Couples that have a trailing spouse
- Visit your local wet market: While it’s not as cool and familiar as several of the supermarket chains here in Singapore, getting to know and using our local wet market has made a world of a difference on our checkbook in regards to food. The wet markets in Singapore are a fantastic microcosm of local life, and you also can get all of the produce, meats, and seafood you could find at a Cold Storage or Fairprice for half the cost and twice the freshness. Plus, there aren’t very many expats using the wet markets, so the vendors actually go out of their way to get to know you over time. I still visit our local Cold Storage for dairy products and alcohol, but shudder when I see the price of produce and meat there.
- Know the favorite expat websites: One of the many perks of working at SAS is that the teachers are a fountain of expat knowledge when it comes to making your life easier in Singapore. Below are some of my favorite websites that have made my life infinitely easier and more comfortable here and I pass along to any new expat I meet:
- RedMart: Online grocery shopping in Singapore. You can get nonperishables, toiletries, household products and even alcohol from this website delivered to your door when you feel is best. This is especially helpful for those without the luxury of having a car here; no one want to lug around a giant package of toilet paper down their street.
- iHerb: Where you can get all your organic and natural products that you love from abroad. I like to think of it as a Whole Foods at my fingertips. Tip: Send your packages to your job, it’s easier to make sure they get delivered to you there instead of missing them if you aren’t at home.
- Lady Iron Chef: Lady Iron Chef is a food and travel website based in Singapore that features articles on things to see, do and eat from around the world. Contrary to the websites name, the blogger is named Brad Lau and is a local online personality and food critic who gives great restaurant and travel recommendations for not just Singapore, but all of Southeast Asia.
- The Honeycombers: While I don’t visit this website as often as I wish I did, The Honeycombers is a website that offers a handpicked selection of what’s on and worth knowing about in Singapore.
- Public Transportation is AMAZING: Besides some douchebags who think otherwise, the public transportation in Singapore is among the best in the world. Dan and I swear by it, and actually prefer it most of the time to cabs because of how efficient and cheap it is. We take the MRT to and from work, which is an hour door to door, but in that hour we sleep, chat, read or catch up with other friends on the train with us. For us to get from Dhoby Ghaut to Marsiling (where SAS is), it is $1.88 SGD. Compare that with the $20 SGD cab ride that it costs to get to SAS from our house, and you can get an idea of how much money we have saved just in taking public transport to and from school.
- Get MyRepublic as your ISP: If you move into a home with a OpenNet portal, I highly recommend looking into MyRepublic as your internet service provider. While we did have some trouble with them at the beginning with getting set up, once we actually had our internet, Dan and I were the happiest people ever. MyRepublic has a built in VPN, so you can watch Netflix, Hulu, PBS, BBC, iTV and tons of other normally blocked websites right from your AppleTV/RoKu or laptop. The internet connection is also extremely fast, which is always a bonus.
- Ikea isn’t the only place you can get household items: After getting over the devastating and tragic news that there was no Target in Singapore, Dan and I thought that the only place to get any household items like utensils, tools, and containers would be Ikea. After having a couple of minor freak outs in that Swedish mecca, Daniel and I learned that each neighborhood has their own market that sells all the stuff you need for your home at an even cheaper cost than Ikea. Also, it’s always close your home. Because we are so close to Little India, Dan and I have Mustafa, but there is a Chinese market in every area in Singapore.
That is all for now! I hope some of you can find this post useful, more next time on our upcoming travels to Vietnam and Cambodia!