Our New Apartment Home

After many more days of looking in many different parts of town, all with their positive attributes, we are going to rent a lovely apartment on the 18th floor of The Metropolitan. It is close to the train (only a few stops from Gene’s office), close to wet markets (farmers markets) and Hawkers Center (prepared foods from vendors), and has a great view.

The wet markets and hawkers centers are not everywhere, at least not near where we are now, but in many neighborhoods; they are a big draw for us to live in a more traditional neighborhood.  In addition to younger working people, we saw many elderly and young families here. This building has many Japanese and Indian residents living here, too.  Since owning a car is so expensive, having these shopping areas near train stations or bus routes is quite common.

We need to get furniture and kitchen stuff. This should be fun, or frustrating, probably both.  We have been looking online because we need to get most of it pretty quickly.  I think we move in late July.

A Culture of Food

Singapore is a very expensive country for most things. I am finding that food and other things in the downtown and tourist areas are at least double, but it also depends on what you want and where you go to find it. Singapore is known for its marvelous food. The variety of foods you’ll find include: Singaporian, Maylay (Malaysian), Indian, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Korean, Chinese, Sri Lankan, Thai, and lesser amounts of Indonesian although it is really close (we will just go to Indonesia I guess) and more. This is also home to China Town and Little India.

For prepared meals, you can experience fine dining at elegant restaurants of many different cuisines (I hate to guess the cost), to wonderful, traditionally prepared meals, Asian mostly, at Hawkers Centers with 20-50 food vendors (some are open air with roofs, others are indoor, less slick versions of our mall food courts). But Hawker Centers tend to be in shopping centers or neighborhood based. For American franchises, there are KFC, McDonalds, and I think Subway, but I haven’t more than a couple of each. However, Singapore has too many Starbucks here.

For raw ingredients, Singapore has wonderful Fresh Markets, similar to our Farmers’ Markets, they also have roofs, open 7 days a week, and often until midnight. One booth sold beer by the bottle (better than the bars that charge $10+ for a beer). They are a great way to get authentic ingredients. Also, there are large grocery stores in neighborhoods that are pretty reasonable, outside of the tourist areas. Nearly if not all malls have big grocery stores in the basements.


Expatriates (expats) are people who are either permanently or temporarily living in a country other than that of the person’s upbringing. The term is often used for professionals or skilled workers sent abroad by their companies, like Gene and her colleagues.  Also, people who retire abroad are usually considered expatriates. There are many ex-pats from Asia and India here, and not that many whites (Brits, Australians, Scandinavians, and Americans) when you are out and about.

People who come to another country as manual laborers might be considered immigrants or migrant workers. From what I have experienced and heard, Filipinos make up a large percentage of domestic help and manual labor in Singapore. I am considered a tourist so I can remain in Singapore for 90 days and then must leave the country for 24 hours or more.  What a perk!  I will be planning these get-aways which will ensure that we do go to strange new lands where we have never ventured before. And, you should hear and see about them here.

I met a Canadian expat in the gym yesterday. A married woman who has three kids; they are all going to school orientation today. Her husband moves around for his job and is transferred every few years. They just moved from Beijing, China and before that Tokyo, Japan. She hoped for a transfer to Singapore and is very glad to finally live here. They will be looking for an apartment soon, too.

We’ve gotten to know a woman, Danni, from Australia who is married and has two kids in school here. Her husband travels throughout Asia. She and the kids are staying at the Treetops as a home base so the family can see each other more often; they will also get an apartment here soon. This morning I saw a number of cute kids in uniforms at breakfast. Each of the expat families who have school age kids get them enrolled and into a school shortly after arrival. One mom told me that the schools are very good assigning the new kids buddies so they get familiar with the school and find friends quickly. And, all kids in Singapore wear uniforms.

(6 months later) Interestingly, most of our condo neighbors are Asian and expatriates like us.  They have moved here for work mostly and can gain residency if they want to stay. We also have met a number of Westerners who have become Singapore residents, a few of them are people Gene works with.

See the purple dot on the map below to see where we are living.

Singapore-map[1] narrow

Apartment Hunting

Gene’s firm has a dedicated real estate agent who helps each of the newly transferred employees find a place to live.  Regina lined up a number of fascinating places to see. All are two bedrooms, 2 baths, some partially furnished, others not. The latter two locations were too zoomy, even too modern inside for our tastes, and too far from a walkable neighborhood, but amazing architecturally and a real eye-opener for us to see Singapore’s commitment to cutting edge design.  A new visual experience for an architect from Wisconsin, and an architecture fan.

Besides the cool experience, it helped us decide that we want a more urban walkable neighborhood.  These apartments are on the bay and would require a train ride to most places we’d want to go.  It will probably make us compromise on the view from our apartment, but if it is in the city, there are marvelous views everywhere when walking about.

Living in The Treetops

The Treetops Executive Residence is a lovely place to stay for a longer period of time while in Singapore; the units have kitchens and separate rooms. Gene’s employer often has its employees stay here when they come from Wisconsin to work on team projects at the Singapore office. If they are here a few months, they often stay at The Treetops the entire time. If the project is longer, like Gene’s of 15 months, we will stay here a month, get acquainted with the city, find an apartment, furnish it, and stay there for the duration of the project.  And, have fun!