We have just moved from Tokyo (Japan) to Singapore. My husband found a job here and im still starting to find a job. A little sharing on our life here in Singapore. For the next few post, I will post on the real estate, schools, shopping in Singapore.
No matter what time of year you arrive, no matter what time of day or night, when you step out of the airport, the heat and humidity hit you like a wall. The weather in Singapore is, I admit it, boringly predictable with temperatures ranging from 24°C to 32°C: great if you want a year-round tan, but not if you enjoy the changing seasons. That’s not to say you won’t need something warm to cover up with from time to time. Every building is air-conditioned, often to freezing, and going to the movies is like a trip to Antarctica. Rain falls most days somewhere on the island, often in torrential downpours, and there’s little to distinguish the rainy season (November to January) from any other time of the year.
The drive from Changi airport into the city is a wonderful introduction to life in Singapore. The roads are pristine and lined with palm trees and you will see breathtaking views of the river and Central Business District (CBD) with its towering skyscrapers, especially if you arrive after dark. Your driver will almost certainly speak English, or a Sinhala variant known as Singlish, and he will be happy to chat with you. Be warned, it is very likely that he will ask some very personal questions: It is not considered rude to show interest in a stranger’s marital and financial circumstances. Football is also likely to be a topic of conversation, as many Singaporeans are fans of the game.
Once you have settled into your hotel or serviced apartment and recovered from your jet lag, you will need to start looking for your new home. Space in Singapore is limited. The main island has a total area of just 680 square kilometres, an area roughly the size of the Isle of Wight. As a result, building tends to go up rather than out, and a large proportion of residents live in condominiums.
Flats 85% of Singaporeans live in high-rise flats built by Housing and Development Board. Most residents of these HDBs, as they are called, have bought their homes and the housing estates they are in are generally very well maintained. The HDBs are well connected to public transport and have their own shops and eateries. However, the facilities and ambience of the estates cannot be compared to private condominiums, and the recreational facilities pale in comparison. Although renting in an HDB estate is much cheaper than the alternatives, the number of HDB flats available is very limited. Consequently, only a small minority of expats take up this option.
Private condominiums, on the other hand, are very popular with expats and come in all shapes and sizes. Some condos have up to thirty floors, but there are also many condos with low floors. They can be found all over the island and are offered fully or partially furnished or completely empty. They offer a wide range of amenities, all of which are free to residents: almost all have a pool and often a separate children’s pool; many have gyms, tennis courts, and barbecue grills; some of the larger or more exclusive condos have squash courts, a driving range, and even a Tardis-like store, replete with everyday necessities.
Although private outdoor space is limited, ground floor condos sometimes have a small private patio, and condos on higher floors often have balconies – most of which are kid-friendly or can be made kid-friendly. Private condos are very secure and are guarded 24 hours a day. One of the best things about condo living, especially for newcomers to Singapore, is that it’s very easy for you and your kids to meet people: many firm friendships have been made on the condo playground or by the pool.
If living in a condo doesn’t really appeal, there are plenty of houses to suit every budget. Few modern homes, whether townhomes, duplexes or single-family homes, have much outdoor space (usually a small yard or garden) or amenities, although some offer a pool. For those who want a large yard, an old colonial home known as black and white (referring to the facades: white walls with black wood) is a better option. These government-owned properties were once the homes of British army officers and civil servants.
While there are a few small Black and Whites, many are palatial with separate rooms for the maid and plenty of room for a pool in their huge gardens. They are hard to come by, however, and you may have to get on a waiting list to get one. If you are lucky enough to find one, it won’t be cheap. In addition to the high rents, as a tenant you will be responsible for furnishing and maintaining the property.
For example, you’ll have to buy air conditioners and appliances, and pay for pool maintenance, a gardener, and someone to come in every week and kill the bugs. Besides the unwelcome visitors of the insect variety, don’t be surprised if you get a visit or two from a snake.
If you are looking for something out of the ordinary but don’t fancy a black and white house, or simply can’t find or afford one, look at a shophouse. These terraced houses are so called because their original owners ran a business on the ground floor and lived upstairs. Built in the 19th and 20th centuries and left to fall into disrepair for years, many are now restored and house restaurants, shops and offices. Some are also used as private homes. They are usually two or three storeys high, often very colourful, and have no outdoor space except for an occasional roof terrace. Many are beautiful inside, but not all are child-friendly, with koi ponds and open staircases. Shophouses are usually centrally located.