Friday, June 6, 2008

Living in Singapore

Singapore according to Wikipidea:

"Singapore is an island nation located at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. At 707.1 km² (272 sq mi), it is one of the few remaining city-states in the world and the smallest country in Southeast Asia...

Singapore has a highly developed market-based economy, which historically revolves around extended entrepot trade. Along with Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan, Singapore is one of the Four Asian Tigers... "

I arrived in Singapore exactly on December 16, 2005. It was my first time to this city-state and I really don't have any idea how it looks or what to expect. Immediately I found out that:
> Singapore have the best airport I have been to in my life
> They drive on the wrong direction (right hand drive)
> They have more tall buildings compared to the entire Philippines and most people live in multi-storey buildings called HDBs rather than single storey houses.
> Their public transport (taxi, MRT, and bus) is very organized and safe. You also don't need to carry cash all the time as you can use a contactless card called EZ-link to get a ride on any bus or MRT.
> Although the place is very urbanized there are still a lot of greenery all around you, and I'm not referring to tall grasses on vacant lots but big trees like acacias on nature reserves and parks all around the country.

When I arrived, I was fortunate to already have friends here who let me stay while I was looking for my own place. Renting in Singapore back then was manageable, for a one bedroom apartment in the central part of Singapore (Toa Payoh) I only paid SGD 720 per month. But if you fast forward now (2008) the same unit would normally fetch a rental price of SGD 1,300. That is almost a 100% increase. But that is the price to pay for coming to a country who is experiencing rapid economic growth and attracting foriegn talents from all the corners of the world.

Since I arrive in December and close to Christmas, I find out that in Singapore Christmas is not celeberated the same way we, Filipinos, celebrate it. Here Christmas is synonymous to all night shopping, Orchard road delights, and foam parties. Most of all you won't hear a single firecracker when the clock strikes midnight! Everything is quite in the HDB estates. For me this is the Christmas that I want, no drunks on the street, no firecracker injuries on the news, just a simple celebration done in the Church and at home. But that is just me...

Anyway, being in a country considered as a melting pot of different cultures, I get to know about a lot of cultures and other religious celebrations in a very short time. I enjoyed most of all trying out the different culinary creations of these cultures. For me the best to try are the following:
> Chilli Crabs (Uniquely Singapore)
> Chicken rice with roasted pork (Uniquely Singapore)
> Beef noodle (Chinese inspired dish)
> Hokkien Prawn mee with Carrot cake (Chinese inspired dish)
> Prata (Indian inspired dish)
> Nasi Lemak (Malay inspired dish)
> Sushi and baby octupus (Japanese inspired dish)
> Mongolian pork and baby squid (Chinese inspired dish)

And if you have a lot of food to try out, you also would have restaurants where you can get the best of these food. The ones I like are:
> Crab world
> Jumbo
> Ichiban Sushi
> Sakura
> And the ever dependent Hawker centers in Lorong 6 Toa Payoh. :)

As I get to know Singapore and adapt to living here I was able to streamline our living expenses. For my wife and I we usually spend SGD 540 for food, SGD 120 for groceries, SGD 50 for electricity, gas, and water, SGD 200 for entertainment, and SGD 90 for transportation. All in all living expense is a mere 20%-30% of the usual combined take home pay for a teacher and an engineer in this coutntry.

In closing, I would just like to give a word of advice for those who are planning to also work abroad. Please bear this in mind that living in another country not your own is not as fun as it is perceived. There will be heartaches, sleepless nights, homesickness, and culture shock to name a few. This is not to discourage but to give you a preview of what to expect. There will be more that I cannot express in words. But as they say, the best price to get is when you have to work hard for it. So strive hard to get an opportunity to work abroad and surely if you are persistent and determined the rewards will be great.

1 comment:

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