Singapore

Lessons from living in 3 of the most expensive cities in the world

Sometimes where you live determines the standard of living you can afford. It can be a harsh reality, or something you deal with and plan for.

Over the last 5 years, I’ve lived in 3 of the most expensive cities in the world: New York, Singapore and London. Although salaries are generally higher in these cities to match the cost of living, if you are a poor student like me then you still need to be a bit careful with your money. Here’s what I learned from living in some of the most notoriously money-sucking cities of the world.

Snow covered Riverside Park in New York City

Snow covered Riverside Park in New York City

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My fellow PhD student, D, at Rochester Park in search of coffee!

[Review] A slow afternoon at Jimmy Monkey cafe

Cafes! I love me a nice cafe. Although Asian countries aren’t known to be full of coffee drinkers, but Singapore has more hip cafes every time I go back. Singapore cafes I like have to have a really nice vibe to it. This one does, and I would return!

It was a hot, hot day. I thought I could collapse on the walk to Jimmy Monkey, and it was only about 450 meters from where I started out for lunch just before.

It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but on the inside there were good vibes all around. They had a nice big communal table in the center of the room, with plenty of books and magazines around to browse through. The ceiling was high, with exposed fixtures. One large corner had a few windows and a few couches for lounging. Most of the other tables were small round or rectangular tables for a few people at a time. We took seats at the end of the big table, smack in the middle of the room.
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[Photo Journal] A garden festival in Singapore

I went to the Singapore Garden Festival while I was there for about 2 weeks recently. I hadn’t been to a Singapore festival until then! When my friend had discounted tickets, I had to grab the chance. It mostly consisted of a maze of indoor and outdoor floral displays throughout the Gardens by the Bay, which usually has many beautiful flowers anyway.

The displays

Some of the fancier displays:
2016-07-30 15.57.42
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Should you move to Singapore? (A decision tree)

Moving to a new country is never an easy thing. I sometimes think about how both my parents came to the USA with no English, and very little resources. I don’t think today that I would ever do that! Are you thinking of whether to move to Singapore? I hope this helps!

My parents moved because they knew there were opportunities in the States that they would not have at home in China. So, whatever your reasons are for thinking about for a move to Singapore, remember that it’s your unique situation and your own decision to make. And of course, if you are bringing your family with you, that also changes things. (One thing to be aware of is that Singapore has weird visa laws regarding children born in Singapore. If you don’t earn above a certain pay grade, you’ll have to constantly renew the child’s visa until something more long term can be worked out.) Continue Reading

Pizza with bacon, cheese shavings, arugula or rocket, and egg in the middle The English Breakfast, $24 SGD

[Review] Skinny Pizza (Westgate Mall, Jurong East, Singapore)

Pizza! I couldn’t live without it. Recently, I shared a pizza at Skinny Pizza in Singapore (Westgate Mall, Jurong East). This is my Skinny Pizza review.

Its style of pizza uses a crunchy, cracker like base instead of the doughy base that pizza is known for. This is probably what makes it so “skinny,” because it will have fewer calories than a traditional pizza crust (even thinner than thin crust). I’m a New Yorker, so I’m a little tough to impress when it comes to pizza.

Skinny Pizza restaurant sign

Skinny Pizza in Westgate Mall in Jurong East, Singapore


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brunch menu on wooden table Ambience was nice at W 39 Bistro, I'll give them that!

W 39 Bistro review (Clementi, Singapore)

The nice part about living in a new place is finding little things tucked away that make you feel like you know a secret. W 39 Bistro is one of those things. It is smack in the middle of a residential area (landed properties, aka houses, which are not that common in Singapore). It is in the West along the East-West line, the nearest train station is the Clementi MRT station.

I went to W 39 Bistro on two occasions: once for brunch, and once for dinner. The brunch wasn’t a real brunch, because we only ordered coffees and the bread basket. The dinner was a light one, where we only ordered appetizers and tapas and no mains. I had some issues with feeling really cheated on one dish, but overall the experience was ok.
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Feet in yellow shoes tiled floor Taking a look at myself

Women wear what they want to in Singapore, or How awesome it is that there is no catcalling in Singapore

Sure, you have heard that Singapore is a safe and clean city. Or that it’s the most expensive city in the world to live in. (This is mostly skewed by the price of cars, which are not essential, but that is another story.) But what you may not know is that women wear what they want to in Singapore. It’s remarkable, and simultaneously a sign of old stereotypes/gender roles and a sign of hope in the face of gender issues in Singapore. There are a few things that I really like and admire about Singapore, and this is one of them.

The recent video of a woman walking in New York City has gone viral because it shows just how much harassment a woman can receive just by walking around in NYC. I’m glad that they are drawing attention to this issue, because this is at the root of what I don’t like about NYC. Catcalling is nonexistent in Singapore, which one reason why I think women can have the freedom to dress as they wish.
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What should the next theme be? #morethemeparties

It’s that feeling of things aren’t quite right. It’s not hard to live in Singapore, but it isn’t perfect. You’re not exactly depressed, but you can’t call it happiness either. I’m calling it the Singapore Slump.

Why is this happening to us?

My friends and I have narrowed down some of the reasons to be the price of alcohol and the incessant heat and humidity. It isn’t a city that is very friendly to people without very much money, which I’ll discuss in more detail in an upcoming post. We’re trying to make the most of it by working hard when we need to, and then getting creative with more theme parties. Otherwise, it is easy to fall into a state of routine where your mood is at a constant low.
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headstones on the grassy hill Bukit Brown Singapore Bukit Brown cemetery in Singapore, August 2014

[Photo Journal] Walk through Bukit Brown

Bukit Brown is an old cemetery in Singapore. It is one of the more natural areas on the island, but is under heavy construction now to build a highway through it. I went on a walk through it with some friends a few months ago, and it was really cool to be in such a quiet and secluded place. So if you are looking to escape the crowded malls, try going there for a walk or a jog.
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Hug deprived in Singapore

Me and my roomie hugging at our '60s party

Me and my roomie hugging at our ’60s party

Hugs are great! Give me hugs!!

More hugs please!

One thing I wish was different about Singapore is that friends hugged each other more often. This is just part of Singapore culture. When I went back to the USA for 3 months earlier this year, I really liked hugging friends again, either when we first saw each other or when we’re parting ways. It isn’t a big deal, but no one does that in Singapore.
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