InterNations Featured Blog
Tanya: I Dream of Durian
“Not your average expat” are the closing words to this entry to the Recommended Blog section for Singapore. Seeing how Tanya finished her university studies at age 20, we are inclined to agree. Visit her blog, I Dream of Durian, to get a glimpse of expat life in Singapore.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Singapore, etc.
Hi, I’m Tanya and in 2007 I traded the chilly Canadian prairies for balmy Southeast Asia. My trip to Asia was intended to be a 1-year break before starting graduate school, but it’s 5 years later and I’m still here! I currently work as a freelance writer and photographer so my job is location independent, but my partner’s job as a research engineer led us to settle in Singapore in April 2008.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
The Internet is the easiest way to keep in touch with friends and family back home, but posting a few photos and captions on Facebook is rarely enough to tell a complete story. I started my blog in 2010 as a way to share my travel experiences with friends, family, and anyone else who stumbles upon my little corner of the web.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
If you’re living in Singapore, one must-do is to take the train to Malaysia. In 2011 my partner and I did the full trip from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore and blogged about it. It’s one of my most popular posts!
I love seeing exotic animals in their natural habitat, so one my favorite travel experiences of all time was visiting Komodo National Park Indonesia and staying in the park ranger accommodations. It’s surprisingly easy to travel here from Singapore! You can read about it here.
For an overview of the kind of places that living in Singapore allows to visit in just one year, check out my post “2011 in travel: One photo per month”.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Singapore differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Singapore is often described as “Asia Lite”, so if you’re coming from any large, multicultural city there shouldn’t be much culture shock. Also, thanks to its diverse population, most of the things you might get homesick for – whether it’s ice-skating or authentic Mexican food - can be found in Singapore.
However, work culture is quite different than in the West, and many Singaporeans consider leaving the office at 7pm as “going home early” but think nothing of being 20 minutes late for an important meeting!
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Singapore? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I had spent a year living in more rural parts of Asia before settling in Singapore, so it was a very easy transition. One thing I would do differently is to arrange temporary accommodations for at least one month. My partner’s employer provided 2 weeks of accommodation while we house-hunted, but this was not enough time to find the perfect apartment!
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
You’ll need an understanding of ‘Singlish’ (Singaporean English) to see the humor in this one:
My usual drink at the food centers is iced tea, but there are two kinds – chilled iced tea in a can and homemade tea that is cooled with ice cubes. Uncertain how to differentiate between them, I would ask for “iced tea in a can” to which the server would reply “Can!”, yet 4 out of 5 times I would get the homemade stuff. Eventually I realized the server wasn’t repeating me, but thought I was asking a question and saying “Can!” to mean that iced tea was available! Now I know to ask for “iced tea in a tin”.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Singapore?
- Do the math before committing to move to Singapore – some things you take for granted like having a car are shockingly expensive here.
- Start house-hunting online. Use rental websites like Property Guru to get an idea of what style of accommodations you want (HDB flat, condo, house), what area of the city you’d like to live in, and what prices are like. This will speed up the process tremendously once you’re in Singapore!
- While Singapore is a shopping mecca, there are a few things you’ll have trouble buying here. Before you relocate, stock up on over-the-counter medications (i.e. allergy pills, vitamins), your favorite cosmetics, and clothing and shoes if you wear a larger size.
How is the expat community in Singapore? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Singapore has a huge expat population and endless expat networking events, but it hasn’t been easy to make true friends. The stereotypical expat is well into their career, married with children, living on a generous expat allowance, and doesn’t mix with Singaporeans outside work – none of which describes me!
How would you summarize your expat life in Singapore in a single, catchy sentence?
“Not your average expat.”