One Year in Singapore – A timeline
Wow. What. A. Year.
Today, exactly one year ago, we arrived in Singapore, ready to begin our adventures abroad as expats. Little did we know that only shortly after, a global pandemic would rupture the world and change our all lives forever.
Still, I wanted to take the chance and think about the last year and what happened in our adventures abroad so far. So here’s to one year in Singapore!
On our first evening in Singapore, right after arriving in our serviced apartment with five large and two small baggage pieces plus lots of bags, we went to Jypsy Restaurant. First things first! Knowing Jypsy from the night we decided to move to Singapore during our Pre-Move-Visit in July, we found it the perfect place to start our new adventure with dinner in our new neighborhood. We also bought the PS Café Soap to create some homy feelings in our serviced apartment. Afterward, we went straight to bed, tired from the red-eye flight and all the first impressions.
The next day, we were asked to visit Daniel’s office to pick up some paperwork for the employment passes. We also took the time to have lunch with one of Daniel’s co-workers. Other than during the Look-and-See-Trip, this time, I appreciated the “early lunch” (thank you, Jet Leg!), as I had caught a little cold during the last few days in Berlin and really welcomed the warm vegetable soup. Afterward, we looked for a grocery store in our neighborhood. Since we were living in a service apartment without any room service, we were supposed to cook our own meals, which means that we needed to stock up our fridge and buy lots of general goods such as rice, noodles, and bread. For the first time, we realized that this wasn’t going to be a vacation, but a proper life.
The following days we were looking for apartments to move in, as we were keen to leave the serviced apartment very quickly. First of all, we wanted to finally finish the moving process and live in our own place with our own furniture and appliances. We figured that the service apartment was missing many things that we needed daily, such as glasses, scissors, or a horse rack. However, we realized very soon that the apartment hunt wouldn’t be as easy as we thought, and we also had to wait at least five weeks for our container to arrive, which is why we eventually asked for an apartment change. After that was all sorted, we left for Bali. Daniel had taken off a couple of weeks for the moving, and since we couldn’t move so quickly anyway, we thought it was best to dive right into the “Singapore-experience”, which means traveling first and foremost.
After returning from Bali, we luckily moved to another serviced apartment, which turned out to be better with complimentary breakfast, a proper kitchen, and very nice facilities.
Daniel started his first day of work in November, which meant that I was on my own most of the time. To keep me busy, I searched for Co-Working-Spaces and organized a few trial days in different venues. From there, I worked on my blog, and some other projects and meanwhile tried to get in contact with others. Since we didn’t know any soul in Singapore yet, I also spent a lot of time researching Facebook, looking out for activities we could join, such as sports groups and events. That’s why we took part in two drawing/painting classes, attended a runway show, did a gym trial, rooftop yoga, and wine tastings, only to name a few.
On weekends, we spent most of the time with apartment hunting and organizing things for daily life, such as mobile contracts, organizing our work passes, groceries, gyms. Of course, we also took the time to explore our new city and tried out restaurants, such as the lovely high tea in Andaz hotel, our anniversary dinner at the famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel’s rooftop restaurant, and also visited Sentosa and its popular Tanjong Beach Club for the first time.
The month ended super stressful with us deciding on an apartment and rushing through an unknown process of applying, transacting money for the deposit, organizing stamp duty and other administrative stuff, delivering the container, and eventually the hand over of the flat.
The beginning of December started as stressful as November ended since we were in a proper moving process and more or less on our own. And since Daniel had to go to work, I was a lonely busy bee all day long, unpacking boxes, furnishing the flat, organizing stuff, and running errands for the apartment. It was raining non-stop, and for the first time in not even two months, I was missing a car, so I could drive around Singapore flexible and independently. After a crazy and stressful first December weekend, we finally moved into our own apartment on December 2nd. Right in time for Daniels’s birthday. And there we were: Between moving boxes and unfinished renovation work, we had our first dinner in our own apartment in Singapore. Let me tell you, it was very emotional.
December 6th (aka. St. Nicolaus) happened to be a Friday, and Daniel had a surprise for me: He picked me up at home, only to bring me to the Christmas Market at Gardens by the Bay: The Singaporean version of Christmas Markets. Obviously, the experience is a way different, not only because of the warm climate. We still enjoyed strolling through the stalls, watching the light show, and a live band while eating not-so-great-but-overly-expensive mulled wine and crêpes. Afterward, we decided to have our own little St. Nicolaus celebration at home. We went to a grocery store nearby to buy ingredients for “Vanille Kipferl” and mullet wine (we were shocked by the prices, SGD 15 for a red wine that costs about 3 EUR in Germany…). We spent the weekend at home, eating cookies and drinking mullet wine at 30 degrees. Christmas in the tropics is certainly an extraordinary experience.
By mid-December, we had to fly back to Germany to organize a few last things with our old apartment and some tax and pension plan things, but also because Daniel had to work a few days from the German headquarters. That came right in time with Christmas that we spent with our families and friends in Berlin. I remember leaving Berlin with a heavy heart, but once we arrived in a warm and sunny Singapore on the 28th of December, I felt like coming home for the first time.
Two days later, we left for Da Nang to spend New Year’s Eve there and explored Vietnam a little. And even though we enjoyed visiting Vietnam a lot, I should have seen the signs. You know what they say, the way you spend New Year’s Eve is the same way you’ll spend the rest of the year. And frankly, our New Year’s Eve dinner was a complete disaster and disappointment, ending with no fireworks. Little did we know that this would actually give us a genuine and authentic outlook for 2020.
We spent the first week of 2020 in Vietnam, exploring Da Nang and the cute harbor of Hoi An, while China reported the first death from novel coronavirus.
Back in Singapore, we were busy with our apartment. I was particularly overviewing handymen, who came in uncalled to repair some things in the apartment. Since we had a lot to organize and hadn’t have spent a couple of weeks in Singapore, we didn’t know many people by then and therefore were on our own most of the weekends. However, during weekdays, we attended different activities that we had found on Facebook, Meet-Up, or through the Co-Working-Space that I went to regularly. On Wednesdays, we would usually attend a nice sunset yoga, while on Thursdays, we attended a HIIT-Outdoor-Course offered by a group called Fit-Fam. Daniel also found a group that he played badminton with once.
At the end of January, Singapore was celebrating Chinese New Year with daily fireworks and parades that kept us busy and even gave us two additional vacation days for Daniel, that we spent in Desaru, Malaysia. There, we went by bumboat, which was rather adventurous, not to say a little scruffy, and when we arrived in Malaysia, we had to wait longer than expected at immigration. I remember how Daniel told me, “Oh, this is because of the new virus from China, they might not let Chinese into Malaysia,” and me wondering why a virus might lead immigration points actually shut down borders to specific countries… But in fact, on this same day China, imposed a strict lockdown in Wuhan, suspended flights and trains and other transportations in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus. Apparently, this came too late, but we would learn that only a little later.
At the beginning of February, I listened to a podcast recommending the app “Bumble” – a dating app with a BFF function that is supposed to bring people together. Without any hope, I downloaded the app to give it a try: And immediately, I had a few great matches that – looking back from today’s perspective – turned out into great contacts and genuine friendships in Singapore.
Mid-February, Daniel was sent on another business trip to Germany, and since I didn’t know anyone in Singapore (yet), I accompanied him. There we were again, back in Berlin, only four months after we had moved to the other side of the world. Friends and families were happy to see us after such a short time, but we got the impression that it wasn’t the smartest move to come back that often right in the beginning. After all, we knew that we couldn’t hold on to that rhythm. Little did we know that we wouldn’t be back in Germany for a long, long time and that the business trip in February was the last but great chance to see all our loved ones before the world shut down. We left Germany thinking we would see my parents for my 30th birthday in April and all our friends in June for a long-planned trip to Berlin to attend Taylor Swift’s tour.
When we arrived in Singapore, the city-state had changed completely though. Airports were ramped up with temperature screenings, immigration took longer than before, the city had stocked up with disinfection fluids that were available at every corner, and we learned that Singapore had just declared the DORSCON LEVEL ORANGE which led to panic buys and empty supermarkets.
In the face of increasing restrictions, we spent the end of the month meeting all my bumble matches for the first time and were super busy with all the new social contacts that we had missed for the longest time by then. We also managed to fly to Phuket at the very end of February, which was – looking back – pretty risky, since Singapore introduced a 14 days Stay-Home-Order for everyone returning from Thailand only a day after we returned.
In March, we were actually so busy with meeting people that we were considering to pause bumbling for a while – we frankly couldn’t afford the extensive “first dates” in restaurants on a daily basis. My parents were supposed to come in April, and also my dear friend Lisa had booked flights to Singapore and the Philippines, where I was supposed to join her for a week. Also, since my 30th birthday was upcoming, Daniel and I had a special destination in mind to travel to. So we intended to cut back a little bit on all those restaurant spendings, although we didn’t need to, because all of a sudden, by mid-March, the world shut down. This came at the exact same time as my friend was on her way to Singapore. When she arrived, the world had changed completely.
Since Lisa couldn’t fly or travel anywhere anymore, she decided she would stay with us in our apartment for as long as borders are closed, at the latest until her return flight four weeks later. In all honesty, for me, this meant great news. Having spent so many days alone in our apartment, I was happy for someone to join me and my daily life that was so different than the one in Berlin. Together, we explored Singapore. We went to different beach clubs, checked out photo spots, went hiking into MacRitchie Reservoir Park, had lots of Aperol Spritz’s at rooftop bars, and went shopping. Unfortunately, Singapore’s restrictions surged, and day after day, more places had to turn her away since she recently came from Germany, and Singapore enforced a strict “no travel policy”. By the end of March, Lisa decided to book a new flight back to Berlin, as her original flight was canceled, and more and more airlines stayed grounded. Right in time, as the day she left, Singapore shut down its bars and clubs.
In April, we were back alone in Singapore with most of our friends on the recently implemented 14 days Stay-Home-Notice and Singapore announcing stricter measurements daily. On April 3rd, Singapore declared the upcoming weeks to be a “Circuit Breaker” phase, which didn’t mean anything else than a proper lockdown. I was devastated since my birthday was upcoming. The newly announced measurements meant that I couldn’t only see anyone but also expected to stay in the apartment if I didn’t have any essential errands. We spent the last weekend in “freedom” with our American friends that came just out of Stay-Home-Notice at our favorite Greek restaurant before Singapore shut down. Little did we know that the city-state wouldn’t open up for almost three months.
I spent my 30th birthday in total lockdown. And even though Daniel tried to make the day as special as only possible, with a cute designed-cake, balloons, and a video message coming from all my friends and family, it was still a somber day for me. However, the anticipation of us being able to fly to Germany in June carried me through April. However, by the end of April, Singapore announced an extension of the Circuit Breaker by another four weeks. All in all, nothing happened in April.
Nothing happened in May, either. Well, we ordered food. And drank lots of wine.
Most of June, nothing happened again, except for me sitting at home most of the time on my own, feeling anxious and more and more depressed. We had first discussions about leaving Singapore for a while, maybe even for good.
By the end of June, Singapore announced its Phase 2 of the reopening of the economy, which meant that restaurants and retail shops could open their doors again from June 19th on. Great news for us could finally see people from different households again, even though the maximum group size has been limited to five ever since and we also have been wearing masks for the longest time now.
In July, we decided to make the best out of the unplanned “staycation” in our own city, that we didn’t know that well by then anyway. We made plans to visit different districts, neighborhoods, bars, cafés, and fun activities, such as the Splat Paint House and a boat tour with friends.
August 2020 & September 2020
Exploring Singapore continued during August and September, and we actually also made it to Singapore’s Southern Islands – first ferry ride in many months! Since Singapore is very expensive, we started trying out new restaurants rather during lunchtime, as most of some of the best outlets offer great set lunch deals then. While we hoped for any further easing of restriction for the most parts of both months, by the end of September, we didn’t anticipate anything and already nerved ourselves that we might not be able to go to Germany for Christmas.
And here we are, one year in Singapore. We departed on October 16th from a rainy Berlin and arrived on the 17th in a warm and sunny Singapore. So much happened in one year, and yet, it doesn’t feel like we had been here for a year, at all. Maybe because, especially the second half of our year here wasn’t as eventful as we had expected it to be and unfortunately accompanied by lots of uncertainties, anxieties, and even some quiet thoughts of giving up.
And yet we have made it until here, and whatever happened, it can only get better. Rumor has it that Phase 3 is around the corner (even though we have been thinking this for months, really), and Singapore has just announced its first travel bubble with Hongkong that is supposed to be implemented soon. Meanwhile, it seems that second lockdowns and further restrictions surge in Europe, and by monitoring the – so it seems – chaotic approach in the various countries, I came to the realization that however slow the reopening in Singapore sometimes seems to me, we can be thankful that we have always felt very safe here, after all.
Fingers crossed Singapore has chosen the right way in opening up slowly and steady and that all the waiting, sitting at home, and restricting our lives to that extend were for a good reason eventually. And even though this marks one year in Singapore, the year 2020 isn’t over yet. So here’s to better times ahead! Things can only get better.