Hey there! My name is Ays, I’m from the Philippines and I’ve been living and working in Singapore for more than seven years. My blog is called Pink and Mints, named after two of my favorite things in the world. I write about my experiences here in the Lion City, my hobbies, and other things close to my heart.
1. Why did you move abroad?
Back in 2005, there was a huge demand for people skilled in this particular software, so there was a wave of personnel leaving my previous employer, most of them going to Singapore. I was contacted by a headhunter, and I thought long and hard about this big move. The pros outweighed the cons, so I packed my bags, left the Philippines and moved to the Lion City in February 2006.
2. How do you make a living?
I worked as a Software Consultant and Project Manager for a big investment bank. I stayed in that job for about 6 years. I was eventually let go by the company, so I took an extended vacation to prepare for my wedding. Now I’m back at work as an IT Project Coordinator with one of the local banks here in Singapore.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
Viber, Facebook and emails keep us all connected, so we can chat or talk any time. My mom and older sister are in the States, and the rest of my family is in Manila. Since Singapore is just a few hours away from Manila by plane, and there are a lot of budget airlines operating between the two cities, it’s really convenient for me to go home every few months.
In my first year working overseas, I would go home to Manila so often that my dad didn’t believe I moved to Singapore. Ever since I got engaged and married, I haven’t visited Manila as often as I used to. A wife’s place is with her husband after all.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Singapore?
To be very honest and blunt, my favorite thing about being an expat here is the fact that I earn a LOT more than in the Philippines. This is on top of the list of why I decided to work here. I’m able to help my family back home. If I save enough and be smart with my money, reaching my goal of early retirement or moving to another country will just be a couple of years away.
On a lighter note, I like the modern conveniences, such as the efficient transportation system, setting up appointments with doctors and also with the government agencies.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Singapore?
Singapore is a very small country, once you’ve been to the usual tourist attractions, you probably won’t visit again after a few years. It’s quite a challenge (at least for me) to find places to go and things to do. You have to be creative otherwise, you’ll just stay at home and be bored. So my husband and I go out with friends and try different restaurants, get a hobby, hop over the border to Malaysia or, if there’s a long weekend coming up, book a flight to one of the nearby Asian countries like Thailand, HongKong, Manila.
6. What do you miss most?
I miss the variety of places that you can go to in the Philippines, especially the beautiful beaches that are just a drive, boat ride or short plane ride away.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
In seven years of living here in Singapore, I’ve interacted with Singaporeans of different racial origins at work, but not really what I can call friends. There is a large Filipino community here, as well as friends from my work in the Philippines, so I didn’t really feel the need to actively go out and seek local friends.
There’s a lot of cultural similiarities between Singapore and the Philippines, so it wasn’t really that hard to adjust. If anything, I think I became more disciplined because of living here. For example, waiting for the green walking sign before crossing the street. I follow the sign now, even when I am in the Philippines, where jaywalking is the norm.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
In hawker centers, people would place a packet of tissue on a table in order to reserve it. When I was new here, I made the mistake of sitting on that table(I didn’t know what the tissue’s purpose was), I got a lot of dirty looks and the lady who reserved it shooed me away.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
That Singapore is a clean city. Sure, if you go to the places where tourists often visit, it will be generally clean, but if you go to the suburbs, you’ll find a lot of corners with trash. People litter and spit on sidewalks, even if there’s the threat of fines.
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
The cost of living in Singapore is definitely higher. Flat rental is quite high. You would find most Filipinos living together as flatmates sharing rental costs. The food at hawker centers is good and cheap (ranging from SGD2 to below SGD10), but they’re also quite oily and calorie-laden. If you want to enjoy some healthier food and eat at good restaurants, you’ll probably spend $20 SGD or more.
My husband and I usually reserve some weekends for splurging and dining out. We also go to the market or grocery to buy ingredients when we cook lunch or dinner. Also, instead of getting our own flat after we got married, we’re still occupying one room and sharing our flat with our housemates, so we get to save a couple of dollars.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
Before moving, research a little bit about the country you’re going to. This is so you don’t get into embarrassing situations because of cultural differences. Remember also that unless you get naturalized and get your passport changed, you are a guest In that country, and should respect the people, and their culture. Lastly, explore the country, get to know a couple of its locals, and have fun!
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I was a bored 20-something, going through some sort of quarter-life crisis in 2004 when I started the blog (it was under a different name then). It was a place for me to write about my issues with work, my relationship at that time, really just random things. I also had a lot of angst, so there are a couple of negative posts in my archive.
When I moved to Singapore, I decided to use it to update my family and friends about my experiences here, and what I do in my spare time (because some of them think I hole up in my room and don’t go out). Eventually, I realized that people other than my family read my blog, and I got to “meet” a couple of people online. I like to think that my writing has improved, and I’ve decided to put up posts that are inspiring, light, helpful and generally, positive. In 2014, I’ll be celebrating 10 years of blogging, and I’m so excited for some of the personal projects I have planned that will be featured in the blog.
Ays's blog, Pink and Mints
Find out more about being an expat in Singapore with Easy Expat's
To be considered for an interview (as well as other articles), add your blog to BlogExpat!