After 3 years of living in the Philippines, I decided it was time to move. As I said before, sometimes I just couldn’t deal with how inefficient things could be. I also wanted to go to a place where dating would be easier. I dated here and there in the Manila, but it was nothing special. And what I hated was how women who were single expats were sometimes branded as bitter or desperate. It was hard to spark up a genuine conversation with a man without him thinking I wanted to date him. Men on the other hand had plenty to choose from and sometimes had an air about them because of it. So I decided to move on before I did become desperate or bitter. I had begun dating someone long distance, and although I thought maybe I’d leave Asia all together, I got a great opportunity to work in Singapore and a chance to see where my relationship could head without the distance.
Singapore is the opposite of the Philippines in many ways. It is the poster child for efficiency and cleanliness, while the Philippines, particularly Manila, can be dirty, exhaust and traffic filled and with basically no mass transit system. The Philippines is post card perfect beaches, volcanoes, waterfalls and jungle treks and Singapore is a jungle within a massive city. Both are beautiful, but I was getting the change that I needed.
The biggest change for me was sticker shock. I had grown accustomed to getting things so cheap in Manila and now I had to cut back. I stopped getting all the massages and pedicures and went back to life without a maid. I also lived in an area that was less desirable than my trendy neighborhood in Manila. Now I wasn’t really near anything other than work and when I would once jump in a cab without a moment’s hesitation, now I thought about it all the time. I just couldn’t go from paying the equivalent of maybe $5 to go clear across town to now paying $25 or $30 for half the distance. Even the groceries made me think twice and I had to investigate where to go for cheaper groceries (Not Cold Storage!). I thought I would take advantage of the cheap eats at the hawker stalls, but I quickly learned that it wasn’t so vegetarian friendly. Perhaps the biggest shock came in the form of taxes. In Manila my employer was paying for my local taxes, so I never even saw the bill. Now I was responsible for paying them and it wasn’t cheap. Still I had to remind myself what I was paying for; litter free streets, amazing mass transit options, public libraries, parks and bike trails. I didn’t have any of this in Manila.
As a result I really didn’t feel like I had to leave. I didn’t jet set every chance I got and instead took in Singapore on the weekends. There was so much to do and I even enjoyed doing nothing much more. My boyfriend lived in a very green area of the city and spending a weekend at his place felt like vacation; I had the pool, hiking at my doorstep and green as far as the eye could see. We’ve since moved in together and have gotten an even better living situation. Currently it is a renter’s market so we are living in a 6 bedroom, 5.5 bath home for just the two of us, our dog and with the money we are saving we hired a live in helper.
One thing I do miss is meeting more locals and just the overall hospitality of the Philippines. In the Philippines I interacted much more with Filipinos than I do now with Singaporeans. I can’t really say that I have many Singaporean friends, whereas this was not the case in Manila. This is partially my fault. I perhaps haven’t made as much of an effort to do so. I also work with tons of other expats so I just don’t have the opportunity that I once did in Manila, where I worked with many Filipinos and became good friends with them. But Singapore definitely has a much bigger expat population. In fact, Singapore is so filled with expats that being foreign isn’t a big thing. And even though being a black expat here isn’t very common, I still don’t feel like I’m an outsider or get stared at like I do elsewhere in Asia.
My Singapore expat experience is still developing. I’ve just extended my contract for another year, so soon it will be the city I’ve lived in the longest since high school. And if you know me, that is huge. It says a lot about the quality of life in Singapore and about the opportunities I’ve been afforded here. I’m excited for this upcoming year as I continue to grow and evolve and am glad that Singapore has been a part of the process.