Settling into Singapore

Hello everyone! See, I told you I wouldn’t abandon you once arriving in Singapore. Thanks so much to everyone who sent me messages to see how we were doing. Honestly, it hasn’t been smooth sailing. Let me tell you, the idea of moving across the world is a lot more exciting in theory than reality. It is VERY different to travelling to a city on holiday when you’re in a 5 star hotel in the middle of the city with room service and a concierge at your beck and call.

We arrived here on Monday morning, went straight to the cargo section of the airport to fetch the cats and take them to quarantine, an ordeal in itself because their water had spilt out of the containers, obviously they had to use the loo in their travel carriers and the whole thing was just a mess. They were meowing hysterically and we just felt awful about putting them through this. We cleaned them up and cuddled them a bit before they went into quarantine and even managed to get a few purrs out of them so I felt a bit better. If you’re ever planning to travel with pets, I’d really recommend exhausting all other options before you do that. It’s not fair to put animals through it and if you can find them a good home that’s the better option by far. In our case, there was no one we could leave them with so we had to bring them along.

If you do decide to still take them, I recommend Flying Animals. We paid R4.5k for both cats to fly to Singapore, and that’s about half of what all other agents quoted me. They weren’t too clued up about the health requirements for importing animals into Singapore but I’m a research nut so had all of that documented anyway. They were super professional, reliable and kept us at ease throughout the process.

After that, our taxi dropped us off at our apartment. When I pictured coming to Singapore, I imagined living in a penthouse apartment above a bustling street. Our apartment is on the 23rd floor of one of about 5 blocks of flats within a condo, that is like its own village with a huge swimming pool, supermarket and an adjacent public park that is massive, with lakes, jogging trails and a big outside gym. I really love a city vibe so was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t walk outside the flat and be in the middle of restaurants, shops and bars.

The view from our apartment
The view from our apartment
Swimming pool in the condo
Swimming pool in the condo

However, it is situated 3km from INSEAD which is what we’re after. Researching an apartment online in advance is not ideal.

We rented a fully furnished apartment and are paying SGD4000 (about R35,000) a month for a 3 bedroom place, including electricity (up to a cap of SGD100) and uncapped internet (which is unbelievably fast.) When we got to the apartment, it smelt musty and was furnished with the absolute bare minimum. Like the cheapest furniture possible and not a single thing extra. There was a dead cockroach in the shower, a towel and someone’s slippers laying on the floor, mismatched, OLD crockery and cutlery, NO oven (Asian people don’t use ovens so apartments don’t come fitted with one), microwave or toaster. The apartment is modern but it could be so much better if it was furnished with care.

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Probably the only part of the flat I actually like- this spacious walk in closet (but that's probably because I only brought a fraction of my clothing with me)
Probably the only part of the flat I actually like- this spacious walk in closet (but that’s probably because I only brought a fraction of my clothing with me)

 

For the first time, we questioned this decision and thought to ourselves, WHAT have we done. We gave up an amazing, plush apartment in JHB where we had every possible thing we could need. Nevertheless, we missioned to IKEA (couldn’t even take a shower after the flight cos we had noΒ towels) and basically bought most of what’s sitting in storage in JHB from our own place. Matching plates, mugs, new knives, towels, cutlery, and some pot plants to make the place feel more homely.We tried to buy the cheapest stuff ‘cos we’re only here until Dec but it made me sad that we have state of the art pots, gadgets and appliances at home that are in boxes in a storage warehouse.

We also did a grocery shop and limited ourselves to 1 apple each (at around R9 an apple.) Later, we found out that it is far cheaper to buy food from Hawker Markets (where the locals go to eat) vs. cooking it yourself. You can get a full meal for around SGD3 (about R25.)

Lunch at Maxwell Hawker Centre- this is a super popular spot for chicken rice
Lunch at Maxwell Hawker Centre- this is a super popular spot for chicken rice

 

Once we got home, we started cleaning and at around 7pm that night the power cut. I didn’t have a Singapore sim card yet, we knew no one, the guard couldn’t speak English and it was just the most helpless feeling ever. I probably would have had a melt down if Rishav wasn’t with me. I now have the hugest respect for people who can move overseas by themselves. I’m nowhere near as strong.

Eventually, we used the guard’s phone to call the landlord, who came over about 2 hours later and called an electrician, who replaced a burnt wire. An odd thing, both the landlord and the electrician came into our place barefoot- apparently it’s rude to go into someone’s house with shoes on, because it dirties the house. Outside every apartment there’s a shoe rack. Another quirk: we asked where to leave our dirt, and were told that there’s a chute in the kitchen that you throw the dirt into, and it falls down 23 floors to God Knows Where. Pretty cool πŸ™‚ Our landlord went out of his way (think he felt bad about the rough start) and drove us around the area, showing us where INSEAD and all the shops are.

We went to bed feeling a little lighter, and the next day we got our phones and internet sorted, plus went to visit the cats in quarantine. We managed to get all the way to the other side of Singapore using only buses, so we were quite proud of ourselves. Taxi’s, buses and the metro are all super cheap here. A 20 minute taxi ride costs about R100, while a metro trip is around R10. It’s actually impossible to walk because of how hot it is. Like, you have a shower, get dressed, go outside and after 5 minutes you’re drenched in sweat.

That night, we met up with a friend I know in Singapore, and some of his friends. We had a really nice dinner and then went for drinks to a rooftop bar in the nice part of the city, near the harbour. It was lovely to hang out with other people and the setting was amaze. It’s funny, ‘cos everyone we meet here is an expat who has packed up their whole life to move here, so when chatting to other people, you don’t feel so alone anymore, vs. back in SA everyone is so settled and no one really contemplates moving. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve gone through the story of where and why we’re going to people back home. We got home at about 1am and returned to our normal selves, feeling happy and excited about being here.

View of the harbour from Kinki Rooftop Bar
View of the harbour from Kinki Rooftop Bar

The more we explore, the more we love it here. There are so many different facets to Singapore, Duxton Hill feels European, with trendy cafes, rustic boutiques and funky hotels, while Little India feels like you’re in the heart of Delhi. We’re starting to get a feel of it and I think once we start campus and make some new friends, it will be even better. It’s so safe here. You can walk half an hour home at midnight by yourself and it will be fine. We heard that a friend of a friend got into a bar fight and got locked up for 3 months. No bail. It’s also spotless. I haven’t seen a piece of litter anywhere, not even a tiny wrapper or piece of gum. The same applies in the grittier areas like Chinatown- all absolutely clean. There’s order- at the subway, people queue up on either side of the exit doors so that the people on the train can get off with ease.

Chinatown
Chinatown

Yesterday I had 2 meetings with PRs in SingaporeΒ and I’ve already started thinking about the travel we’re going to do while we’re here. Unbelievable that Malaysia is half an hour’s drive away, while Phuket is an hour’s flight away.

I don’t miss JHB or even our flat, because there’s no way I would want to go back to the life I had before I took this leap. I mean, we are spending a fortune here, but if it was money I was after I would have just stayed in my corporate job. I don’t think you can put a price on life experience, and very few people’s circumstances allow them to do this, so I’m trying to remain positive and embrace the experience, even though it isn’t all smooth sailing.

Thanks for reading today, and always! It really is therapeutic for me to share the ups and downs of this journey with you, and I read and appreciate every single one of your comments, so keep them coming πŸ™‚ We have exemption exams tomorrow, where we can possibly be exempt from some of the courses (I’m hoping to pass these so I can have more free time :D) and a career day on Saturday. INSEAD is really serious about careers so we’re jumping into that fast. Orientation week starts Monday and I’ll keep you guys posted on how it goes.

xxx H

*pics taken on my phone, sorry about the quality