The Chinese New Year is upon us once more! I have been in Singapore almost two full years and my has it been a rollercoaster.
I have had three jobs, lived in three very different areas and I’m planning to likely be here another few years. My reasons revolve mostly cost of living and how much I have to pay out in comparison to the UK. This is the first time since graduating from University, for example, that I have been able to afford to go back to studying. With an online Masters degree; I pay UK tuition fees but work around my full time job here. It just wouldn’t be feasible in the UK to do that sadly. I suppose being a smaller country, things like taxes and cost of living can be kept down. I am aware of the irony that Singapore is ranked 8th in the world for cost of living, two above the UK.
A lot of it is down to the salary I get paid. While not expat living standards, it is a much higher pay than most locals can expect to achieve. It equates to around a 30,000 pa a year job in the UK. Quite average. Here I’m probably somewhere in the middle. Taxes are also lower here, well they are for me. If you’re from America you unfortunately have to pay taxes both at home and in Singapore.
This however, is not the point of this Wocket’s entry today. The year of the goat/sheep, which means if 2013 and 2014 brought you luck then this year your luck will continue. They always make a big deal out of Chinese New Year here in Singapore. I honestly loved receiving red packets with money when I attended a friend’s family gathering last year. The decorations are wonderfully done as well. The only downside for non Chinese is that everything closes over Chinese New Year, so while we don’t work, we also can’t do much of anything else either.
This year however, I have planned a trip to Bali!! There shall be pictures and a blog upon my return.
If I’m honest, this post is a more reflective one. The start of my second year in the ‘red dot’ and while the novelty of Singapore wears off for some, I find myself strangely at home here. My first year was one of turmoil and change but this year, with my job and living in a quiet place that I can feel at home in; Singapore has wormed its way into my heart. It’s probably there to stay.
There are a great many things to dislike about Singapore. The lack of manners in general, the way nobody looks where they’re going, the undercurrent of prejudice that bubbles quietly beneath the surface, the taxi drivers that don’t stop for you when you have lots of luggage, even though you’d happily put it in the boot yourself. The groundhog day feel of every single day can also wear thin. I have said this before but I miss seasons. Not so much that it bothers me but enough that I relish thunderstorms and rain and breezes!
I have found a lot to be thankful and glad of in Singapore. I have a Dr here who actually listens to what I say and tries to help. Maybe I’m just lucky? I have suffered with IBS most of my adult life and for the past year after making some changes in my diet and having a Dr who gave good advice beyond, here’s some fibre drink, take this… o_o I rarely suffer bouts of crippling pain and discomfort. It is such a relief.
I have discovered the delights of Yong Tau Foo, a healthier hawker food, thanks to a friend talking me into trying it. As we all know, I am not the bravest when it comes to new foods.
I have more motivation to keep active and travel here, otherwise everyday would quite literally blend into the next in a blur of moments. It already affects my short term memory more than I care to admit. Hobbies such as learning the piano, visiting CSC on Sundays when I have a day off, learning to swim (it’s about bloody time), going to the gym, they all help break up the monotone. It’s also important to have these outside interests from work in order to make friends. That has been something I have struggled with in my time here. I have to say however, that even though my social circle is smaller here than in the UK, it is fulfilling and enough. In between all of the above and studying for my Masters, there’s not much time left.
Living in Singapore I have found, is about achieving that balance between work and personal life. Your personal life can never be what it was in the UK or the US or Europe or anywhere else that is more liberal and whose culture revolves a great deal around drinking alcohol. That is simply not the culture of the majority here. There are plenty of bars and clubs, sure, if you have money to burn. For most, life doesn’t centre around the Friday/Saturday night drink-fest though. It can be boring and seem isolating if you’re used to doing more and seeing more people. For me, I relished the time visiting the UK at Christmas. It meant more, I made the most of the time with my friends and I appreciated the culture a whole lot more than before I moved out this way. Perhaps it’s because I’m on the other side of 30 now that I am more content to just go to the cinema, go for coffee with a couple of close friends and only drink on special occasions? Maybe I just had to change how I was before I could fit into the culture of Singapore? For the record, I definitely had to change a lot! I’m sure if I left and returned to the UK, I would have the reverse problem. 🙂
Travel is also easier from a base like Singapore. I am determined these next few years to make the most of this location. February is Bali. I already visited Australia last June (that deserves a separate blog post). I am definitely going to the North west next time. I visited Phuket in Thailand last year too. Below are some pictures!
Yes that is a basket of wooden penises. 😀 The guy kindly explained to us that in Thailand it is a symbol of Palad Khik. Which represents the Hindu God Shiva. The symbol was brought to Thailand by the Khmer from Cambodia and originally came from India and is also a symbol of fertility. The Thai people are quite superstitious and talismans such as these are considered important.
September is USA and then home again for Christmas. These trips would not have been possible living in the UK on the wage that I am still on. I am grateful for that. I am not a big traveller. I am admittedly quite lazy when it comes to travel and I like luxury and hotels and jacuzzis, which all usually exist outside of my price range ^_^ but living in Singapore is an opportunity I cannot squander. I plan to visit Japan, New Zealand and China and perhaps India in the years I am proposing to live here. Moving has opened many doors that I could not have afforded nor even considered and Singapore, for me, is a solid, stable base to which to travel from and return back home to.
This year is also Singapore’s 50th anniversary of independence. There’ll be celebrations and events and hopefully I’ll be able to take more pictures to show that Singaporeans know how to have a good time. Even if it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. 😉
Also this happened last year 😀
So for now, I wish you Health and Prosperity for the year to come. May the year of the goat be a good one for you ^_^
How do you write Happy Chinese New Year in Chinese?
Traditional Chinese: 恭禧發財; Simplified: 恭禧发财.
(Pinyin: Gong Xi Fa Cai (Mandarin) and Gong Hey Fat Choy (Cantonese)).