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Anja, Singapore

Who are you?

My name is Anja aka CurlyTraveller. I am a fifty-something woman from the Netherlands, and my blog has articles and lots of pictures about my travels and explorations in Asia, about art, mixed with snippets of my personal life and thoughts. Am crazy about cats and dogs, sketching and the Argentine Tango. Drawn to quirky places and people and to kitsch stuff.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I basically follow my husband around wherever his job brings him. Since 2009 that is Singapore.What challenges did you face during the move?

Do you know how they call Singapore ‘Asia for beginners’? Well, everything is quite well organized here, which makes things not that hard. Also, it was just the two of us. No pets, no children, no furniture. Easypeasy!

How did you find somewhere to live? (e.g. how did you locate a suitable property? what was the buying/renting process like?)

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Now THAT was hard! It is one of the biggest nightmares of expats in Singapore. Because it is a seller’s/landlord’s market. Meaning that houses are strongly overpriced! Also landlords get away with the most insane demands and rules. Very stressful.

PropertyGuru is a handy site and most people use an agent to help them with the process.

Are there many other expats in your area?

We just moved a couple of months ago into another condo. In our previous condo it was mainly expats; 65 floors of them! Where we are staying now, there is a mix of Asians and caucasians. But you will see expats all over the more central neighborhoods in Singapore. The further away, the lesser expats you will find.

What is your relationship like with the locals?

My BFF in Singapore is local. Besides her I have a couple of other local friends and a few expat friends. We are no members of expat clubs or whatever. It’s just who I meet and have a click with.

What do you like about life where you are?

The weather for starters!!! Coming from the Netherlands, I adore the year round warm weather in Singapore. No, it’s not my perfect weather type, being too hot and very humid. With periods of clouds and heavy rains. But you will not hear me complaining;-)! I really, really dislike the cold and the many windy, grey, rainy days in Holland.

And another thing: when in the Netherlands, I unfortunately do not live in Amsterdam. I am a big city gal and Singapore offers me the cosmopolitan life that I longed for so much. Especially since it is combined here with unbelievable safety and cleanliness!

I also love how easy it is here to get around without owning a car. Public transport is well organized and taxis are reliable and cheap.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

Leading this life, saying goodbyes and missing friends and relatives is a recurring phenomena. Fortunately there are social media and things like email and phones nowadays, making this a much smaller hurdle then it must have been in the times before all this existed.

I still ‘do’ snail mail, by the way. So much fun to prepare some great postcards and letters for someone special, adorn them with stickers, drawings and stamps and bring them to the postoffice. Snail mail rocks!

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

The focus on food here!

In the Netherlands we do not really have a thing for food, unlike nearby countries like France or Italy. We eat because we have to eat. Period. Dutch cuisine is also not one to brag about;-).

In Singapore, like in many places in Asia, food is on everyone’s mind. Lunchbreaks last two hours, people make huge detours for a specific dish and they don’t mind queueing up for two hours or more to try out a new restaurant. Food pics overrule selfies on FaceBook here, I think!

How does shopping (for food/clothes/household items etc.) differ compared to back home?

Singapore is a consumers paradise. Or hell, depending on your perspective and opinion about it. You can buy almost anything here. Every big high end brand can be found in Singapore. Ofcourse you can also get much cheaper, local stuff. There is Chinatown and little India for chinese and indian products.

The number of shops and restaurants is beyond my comprehension. How can they all survive? I have no idea… Anyway, you can choose to go totally local, shopping wise, but you can also shop the same products as back home.

One of my biggest challenges, I would say, is to find good products for my curly hair.

What do you think of the food in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?

The first year in Singapore we went to the nearby foodcourt every day. At one point it was as if we both had built up a mild dislike for local food. We yearned for western fare. Since then we vary as much as we can.

Having said that, I am not an adventurous eater at all and certainly not a foodie;-). On top of that I am on a diet for diabetics. So I am not to keen on all those rice and noodle dishes. Oh, and I really can’t stand the smell of durian!!!

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

Be prepared and well-informed. Read some blogs upfront to get a feeling for the city where you are going to live.

What are your plans for the future?

No plans, really, since I follow my husband around. It’s more a go-with-the-flow kinda situation, where my main adventure is to try and be happy (with) wherever I end up. That is not necessarily in places or countries that were on my wishlist, but since I am there, I go in exploration-mood, put on my ‘ready-to-be-amazed’-glasses, open my mind and heart, leave the hotel, and walk, walk, walk. After which I digest, back in my hotel room, and I blog, blog, blog;-).

That’s about how far my plans for the future go;-).

Please feel free to contact Anja through her blog Curly Traveller if you have questions about Singapore.

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