After many months of planning, we have begun our experiment in relocating to Singapore for the winter. Reggie grew up in Singapore but has been living in the US for the past 25 years while Sue has visited Singapore at least 8 times, but never lived there. We are excited to be trying out the bi-continent life and to be sharing that journey with you.
Our first week was full of family and friends, adjusting to the 13 hour time change, settling in and learning about our new surroundings. Here are 8 surprises from our first week of relocating to Singapore.
Surprise #1: The Longest Nonstop Flight in the World Goes Fast
We flew on the new Singapore Air Non-Stop Flight from Newark to Singapore.
Yes, it was 18.5 hours.
We flew in premium economy this time. (if you want to know how to get cheap business flights to Singapore: How to Get Cheapest Business Class to Singapore).
Most often, we leave for Singapore on a Friday night and arrive on Sunday at noon after changing planes somewhere in Asia (Taipei is our current favorite airport).
This time, the nonstop flight left in the morning. We left Monday morning and arrived late in the afternoon on Tuesday.
Singapore Air has a very good entertainment system, served 2 meals and snacks as needed (Sue really liked the apples). After eating, watching TV and movies and napping, we were in Singapore before we knew it.
Surprise #2: Jet Lag is not so Bad When Relocating to Singapore
18.5 hour flight + little sleep + 13 hours time difference = serious Jet Lag
When we vacationed in Singapore for a week or two, we fought against jet lag so we could do as much as possible. We would sleep from 9 pm to 2 am the first few days and struggle to stay awake in the afternoons and evenings.
Not so, when relocating to Singapore.
This time, we didn’t worry about when we slept and what time we woke up. And, we took naps whenever we wanted.
Surprise #3: Staying in an HDB Flat is a Great Way to be Local
We are staying in an HDB flat in the Yishun area (For more on HDB in Singapore, read Reggie’s post (Not So) Crazy Rich Asians)
HDB flats are the equivalent of public housing in Singapore and where the majority of Singaporeans live. They are typically high rises with a nearby community center with sport facilities and common meeting areas. There are local Hawker Centers, Coffee Shops (see surprise #4 below). They are typically far from the center of Singapore and the tourist areas.
Singapore has great mass transit–buses and the MRT–so it’s an easy trip to anywhere we want to go.
We are renting a room in the flat that we found through a friend.This is a very inexpensive way to stay in Singapore. A moderately priced service apartment or hotel could have run us $10,000 or more for 3 months. Most importantly, we are staying in a neighborhood—not in the tourist area, but very close to the MRT.
Since we plan to live in Singapore as residents and not as visitors, this is an ideal arrangement. We have wifi, air-condition (very important in Singapore) and the use of the kitchen. The wet market, supermarkets- ShengShiong and NTUC—and coffee shops/hawker centers are a short walk.
Surprise #4: Coffee Shops Don’t Sell Coffee
Everyone has heard about hawker centers in Singapore (if you want to learn about Hawker Centers read: Market Street Hawker Center or Singapore: A Tasty Delight Awaits on Every Corner. It’s an open area with lots of stalls for food. They have the best food in Singapore.
Sue was surprised when my brother said we should go to a coffee shop for dinner. She does’t drink coffee, but more importantly she was hungry.
When we arrived at a what looked like a small hawker center with a limited number of food stalls, Sue was relieved to learn that a Coffee Shop has food.
If you want American coffee, you have to look for a coffee place. Or a Starbucks.
Surprise #5: You Can Overdose on Noodles
We love the food in Singapore and have been looking forward to eating here.
We eat low carb in the US.
For lunch, we eat mee siam, char kway teow, duck noodles and for dinner we eat noodles (our favorite sang lor hor fun), cooked vegetables. And, you can also have noodles for breakfast if you want. For variety, we have claypot rice or pork with rice.
Okay, we did say we are doing a high carbs diet in Singapore? We’ll have give it a rest soon.
Surprise #6: There are a Million Types of Milk but No Half and Half
Seriously, there are so many types of milk in Singapore. Hi-fat, low-fat, hi-calcium. Then there’s soy milk.
The soy milk sold here is locally made, very sweet and diluted and very unlike the Silk soy variety you will find in the US.
We have been to 8 food stores, looking for half and half. We finally found a small carton for $12 in Raffles Place.
Sue thinks that Reggie will have to learn to drink coffee with milk.
Many foods are very inexpensive here. But, most western foods are not. A pint of Ben and Jerry’s costs $14 Singapore dollars. Chobani yogurt small containers cost $8.
On the other hand, you can buy chili crab flavored chips or taro flavored or lemongrass. Or Salted egg Fish Skin chips and 100 different kinds of shrimp crackers.
Surprise #7: Waiting for the Green Man
The first time Sue came to Singapore, she had to force Reggie to jay walk. Singaporeans do not jay walk. Now, it’s a little more common.
When crossing the street, you don’t wait for a walk sign. You wait for the “Green Man.”
Surprise #8: There are more than Just iPhones in Asia
In terms of keeping in touch, we planned to put local SIM cards into our old iPhones. Unfortunately, it turned out that one of the old phones that we brought was locked (to AT&T in the US) and the other was too old to read the SIM card.
We decided to buy a a cell phone in Singapore. Cell phones in Singapore are mainly unlocked and not tied to a 2-year contract like in the US.
And, there are some many types of cell phones that you don’t see in the US. Huawei has an amazing phone. Of course, Samsung. There’s also OPPO and VIVO. Sue was really taken by the Huawei phones–they have the best camera in the world.
We wanted a phone that would work in the US and Asia, so settled on a Samsung.
Stay Tuned-Relocating in Singapore Continues
On this trip, we are planning to go to some places in Singapore that we haven’t been before or haven’t been to in a long time. Just the other day, we went to Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve in the northern part of Singapore and saw street art in little India.
We visited the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome conservatories of Gardens by the Bay. We’ll be posting more on these adventures in the coming weeks.
Read what happened in our first month in Singapore here: Interesting First Month of Winter Migrate to Singapore
I ‘d love to hear your thoughts and responses. Have you been to Singapore? Or lived in another country?
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Very interesting about not jaywalking. My daughter lives in Japan, and the green and red lights are highly respected there. If the light is red, you don’t step off the curb, even if there is no car in sight.
Glad you are enjoying your trip. And the noodles sound delicious!