21 June 2012


I consider my move from the American Midwest to Singapore’s East Coast a pretty smooth transition. The first three months were pretty difficult, but for different circumstances than one might expect. I was fine living in a new country; I was fine figuring out the neighborhood. I did not, however, adjust well to the sweat factor, the sudden switch from four-inch heels to flip flops or the pain in my feet as I adjusted to marble floors.

My hardships were related to the fact that Paul’s employment pass approval took three months, delaying our ability to obtain cell phones or Internet access. The inability to move freely with an app like Google Maps meant that going anywhere outside of our neighborhood was pretty unlikely. The one time I tried to venture out, I found out the hard way that the way home is not always as easy as reversing the original directions. That is how I wound up lost, wandering the Little India streets.

My disinterest in immediately joining the American Women’s Association also delayed my ability to find friends. I kept myself busy for the first few months but, eventually, having the ability to call someone and meet her for lunch or a cup of coffee became invaluable.

I did not experience culture shock or climate shock (even though snow was falling when our flight departed the U.S.). I did, however, experience an overwhelming case of sticker shock that resulted in me rolling my eyes and then saying “O.K.” to ridiculously high costs and “bye-bye” to my money, accepting that life in Singapore means that money may as well be flushed or burned. The fact is that after a while, everyone just stops looking at the prices and pays through the nose for something they refused to purchase months prior.

In the U.S., I could purchase a candy bar for under a dollar (though I still remember when Wal-mart sold them for 33 cents), I could purchase a decent bottle of wine (nothing fancy) for under $10 and I could eat a meal at a higher-end restaurant for less than $30 a plate. Now it is normal to pay almost $2 for a candy bar, $20 for grocery store wine and $30 for a cheeseburger with a half-portion of fries. I will pay $7.20 for a grande soy white mocha but I will also pay $3 for a plate of chicken rice and $2 for the most amazing freshly-squeezed juice in the hawker and food centers.

My mom and I yesterday had a conversation regarding grocery costs. On my way home from work today, I stopped at the butcher and the grocery to grab a basket full of supplies and walked out minus $70. I haven’t done a cost comparison in a while, so here is how it looked:
  • $21.70 for 800 grams of minced beef (the cheaper option here still equates to $12.30 a pound)
  • 75 cents per Fuji apple, which I believe is cheaper than the American cost even though I am much closer to China
  • $13 for a half-gallon of almond milk, which I have been dying to try since Christmas and previously rejected the high cost (see – everyone eventually sucks it up and pays through the nose)
  • $6 for a 2-liter jug of skim milk
  • $4.20 for a four-pack of sandwich buns
  • $2.70 for taco seasoning (just the seasoning packet, not the kit)
Then there are the things that do not make it into my cart – sorry, trolley – because I just don’t love them that much. Today I saw a rare find – a yellow box of Cheerios – for $11. JIF peanut butter runs $9 for the small jar. Eggo waffles are $9 or more a box; Pillsbury anything is more than $12 a can. Cheese of any kind costs between $8 and $14; I do buy cheese.

I do my best to find cheaper alternatives but Paul likes to remind me that none of them come close to his Aldi adventures. This is my life.

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