From Sweden to Singapore: A story worth telling

  • couple in Singapore
Published 2017-04-24 12:37

Aspiring writer Ellie's boyfriend received a job offer in Singapore, and they jumped at the chance to live in one of the world's financial capitals. Ellie speaks with about how she has adjusted to life in Singapore, how she spends her time, and what her favourite things are about her new home.

Please introduce yourself. Where are you from, what are you doing in Singapore and what were you doing before you arrived?

My name is Ellinor and I'm from Sweden. My boyfriend and I moved to Singapore in February 2016. He got headhunted across the globe and we could not say no to that fantastic opportunity. I am an aspiring author and can work anywhere.

What is the process to move to Singapore?

I'm sure it is a different story for people with houses to sell or large possessions that they either want to sell or bring, as we did not have a lot. Apart from a few boxes we stored at a parent's loft, most of our things got donated, given to friends, or simply tossed away. We came to Singapore with two very large suitcases and what we wore. It was a simple one-way trip.

What is your favorite thing about Singapore?

I love the order. The first impression I got of Singapore was how clean it was. It continues to be my favorite thing. The law is stricter here than in Sweden, but I do not feel restricted by it.

What are the features of today’s expat job market in Singapore?

The vast majority of expats get recruited from outside Singapore and move here on temporary assignments or full time positions. You will not find many non tourist foreigners who are actively looking for employment, except for us trailing husbands and wives of course.

How easy or difficult it is to find accommodation in Singapore, and what type of accommodation is available for expats?

In Singapore there are so many apartments available that the agents are almost fighting over customers. We tried several agents who showed us many places to live in the center of Singapore. From very small apartments in the downtown for a juicy price to a high ceilinged old apartment a bit too far to the west. There really was not any restrictions. We could pick and choose as long as we could afford the rent.

There are two different types of apartment-living in Singapore: HDB, which is government owned, and condominiums, which are privately owned and usually contain a lot more expats. They cost more but you get an enclosed area with pools and entertainment rooms. It really is a case of “you get what you pay for”.

What are the year’s biggest holidays in Singapore? What is some essential etiquette in Singapore?

The Chinese New Year was definitely noted wherever we went. The lion-dances were held everywhere and the loud drumming could be heard from far away. We could not wrap our heads around the music, but it drew crowds and people seemed to enjoy it.

Christmas is big too, with decorations in malls and over streets, Christmas music played everywhere and here and there we saw decorated trees, apparently imported from Canada.

How is the transportation system in Singapore? How do you move around?

I use the MRT, the subway system most of the time. It is very convenient and cheap, stretches across Singapore and only takes around two hours to go from one side to the other. The rules in the MRT could be seen as too strict, with no eating or drinking allowed, but comparing it to other systems I think it works for the better.

I recently started to use buses a lot more. They are quite frequent, so the wait for a bus is never longer than ten minutes. Generally the trip is quick when traffic is thin, but long queues seem to be common here. I avoid riding buses in the morning and in the afternoon when people try to get to and from work.

Taxis are great too. The MRT stops running around an hour after midnight and it is really easy to grab a cab. There are many taxi stands around, but there is usually a long queue to get one. It might be worth a bit of patience, but with other taxi options like Uber and Grab, there really isn't any need to stand in line.

How is everyday life for you in Singapore?

My life differs a lot from day to day due to my self -employment. Usually I get ready in the morning, do some work at home and go out to have lunch at the nearby hawker center. Hawker centers are the cheapest options to have a fast meal, so it is really convenient to eat there. We have several pools and entertainment facilities, so some days it can be tempting to live as if I am on vacation. The weather is fantastic and when it rains, it really rains. The storms here are brutal, and if caught in it you can get stuck under a roof somewhere with no escape.

What is your opinion on the cost of living in Singapore?

Some things are a lot cheaper here, like public transportation, but other things are much more expensive. Public transportation costs depend on how far you are traveling, but, generally, it only costs a few dollars. A beer on the other hand has a sin-tax, making it even more expensive to go to a bar and have a few drinks. Prices range from S$6 to 15 (or even more) for a normal pint. We have not been to an actual bar in Singapore because of this and usually buy the cheapest beer at a hawker center.

What is something that you would like to do in Singapore, but haven’t had the opportunity to do yet?

Explore Singapore's islands. I hear there is not much more to do there than lie on the beach or hike in the woods, but that is something I would like to do. The main island is mostly covered in buildings, but they have preserved large untouched areas. I would like to go on the Tree Top Hike, but my boyfriend is scared of heights, so that might take some persuasion.

Share your most memorable experience in Singapore.

We received two tickets for the Halloween Horror Night at Universal Studios as a birthday-gift from a friend. It started at six o'clock, had an amazing musical opening where we were the only two dancing. After they opened the gates, we headed for the two roller coasters and managed to get on the first train for the Cylon. It was the best coaster I had ever been on and I laughed like crazy throughout the ride. The rest of the evening was incredible too, but nothing compares to the Cylon.

What do you think of the local cuisine? What are your favorite dishes?

I have tried many new meals since moving here, a lot of which I thought I would never try, like frog or stingray. The cuisine is a mixture of all nearby countries so there is a lot to try. However, most of the dishes are very spicy. When the locals tell me “not spicy”, I know it means too spicy for me. As a result, my favorite dishes are chicken rice and dumplings: two things that they never make too spicy for me to eat.

What motivated you to create your blog 'Pugsie & TotalyMoo'?

I have always liked to write and being an author is and has always been my life-goal. At first it was just for me; I wrote it like a diary. After a while, I started getting appreciation from family and friends back in Sweden for updating our lives on the blog since the time-difference made it difficult for weekly calls. I keep writing for my own sake, so I can remember my life in Singapore.

If you had to advise an expat on three items to bring with them to Singapore, what would they be?

Dairy products – bring as much as you can (and share them with me).
A jumper – even though it is a tropical country with summer all around, when you get indoors you will need something to keep you warm. Singaporeans like ice-cold AC.
Good walking shoes – you will need those for exploring the city and the nature.

What are your plans for the future?

The future will be decided by the company my boyfriend works for. As for me, I will eventually get my book published and start writing the second.

What is one thing that you will take with you from Singapore?

Engage in conversations with anyone anywhere. People are not so scary, no matter what they look like. We always talk about life in general with the lady who owns the store in the condo and it always brings me joy to talk to her. I have had several small talks with random people here and there and they always gives me something to think about.