Our furniture and boxes finally arrived!
We had so many issues with the shipping company, I despaired of ever seeing our things again. First, the shipping company hired a 3rd party contractor to pick up our things. No issue with that. What worried me was when they started dismantling the furniture.
“Aren’t you going to bubble wrap them?” I asked as his assistant carted out the disassembled chairs and tables.
“No, we don’t have the supplies but I’ll wrap them in a blanket I have in my van so they get some padding. You can pay me $10 for it,” the guy said.
I was right to be worried. H received an email that our items were rejected at the port because they weren’t packed properly. A series of back and forths ensued with the shipping company claiming packing the furniture wasn’t part of the contract. H highlighted the portion that read “disassembly included.”
How were we supposed to pack our furniture when the pick-up people were going to disassemble them?
Second, the shipping company had to send our items to their warehouse to be packed. Consequently, the items didn’t depart on the original shipping date. No issue with that either. The problem was that we were charged additional fee for packing and storage.
H was on the phone and on email until the day we departed Boston and through the first month in Singapore.
Third, the shipping date got pushed out due to the hurricane. Fine. Not their fault.
Fourth, we had to pay an additional fee for the local customs port charges. Nope, the shipping company said, the fee doesn’t cover that. Paid that.
The local agent was much better. They introduced themselves via email and called us to update us on the whereabouts of our items. The only thing they required aside from the port charges was a copy of my passport and my Singaporean identity card. H had to apply for a new passport since his passport was going to expire in 6 months.
When the local agents came, 6 of them, they were so professional and careful in transporting our boxes. They were even apologetic and told us that a glass may have been broken. When they opened the boxes, the sound of broken glass turned out to be the screws in a Ziploc bag. The only damage was on the back panel of the console. The agents quickly patched it up and realigned the back panel.
With our items delivered, H is back negotiating with the overseas shipping company. Again, they put the blame on us. They weren’t the cheapest, in fact, they were the second most expensive we found among the shipping companies. We thought we’d be getting better service. We’ll see how the BBB complaint goes.
Now, it’s a matter of unboxing. Fun times!
Have we settled in yet?
That’s the question I get asked the most. We’re getting there. We’re no longer living in a serviced apartment. We have our own place now.
Hunting for Condos
We still have to buy a few more furniture, a sofa bed and a TV for the lounge, a movable tray or a small kitchen cabinet, and a rack for my clothes. The closets are tiny!
In fact, our condo is on the small side, 70.98 sq m to be exact, much smaller than our condo in Boston. However, the size isn’t that unusual in Singapore. What we found was the following:
1. Affordable condos usually have small spaces but they have gyms and lap pools.
2. Executive Apartments in HDBs (public housing managed by the Housing and Development Board) are much bigger, minimum of 124 sq m with at least 3 bedrooms, but no pools
3. The closer the place is to the CBD (Central Business District), the more expensive. Some tiny apartments can cost SGD 2,800 for a studio.
4. Space is a premium. Some landlords are resistant to removing their furniture from their apartment. Some landlords use the other rooms in the apartments as their own storage space.
I was initially keen about getting an Executive apartments since the space was bigger. However, the places we saw were slightly rundown and would require maintenance, there was no balcony to hang clothes (the clothes needed to be hung on a bamboo pole either close to the kitchen or in between the space between two walls outside of the window), the landlords were using the rooms as storage for their antique items, and, most importantly, there was no pool or gym. We didn’t want all those swimming lessons to go to waste so a pool was a must.
We found a condo, beautifully landscaped, new buildings, small space but had everything we wanted. We viewed two apartments. Both of them fell through. The first one, the agent misunderstood and thought we didn’t want it and signed a contract with the next prospective tenant on the list. The second one, the agent hemmed and hawed and stood us up on a meeting. I suppose the universe was telling us something.
That was on a Monday. We had to check out of our serviced apartment on Saturday. We quickly looked for another apartment, messaged four agents, saw two apartments, and chose the second apartment we saw.
Of course, it wasn’t as simple. We had to transfer funds to our recently opened local bank and Transferwise blocked the transaction pending submission of additional data. The agent and landlord was accommodating and kept the condo for us until the money was wired to their account on Friday. I think H grew more white hair from all the stress.
The condo was completely unfurnished (fridge, oven, stove, and washing machines were already installed). Thank goodness, the previous tenant left behind their relatively new mattress. I checked for stains. We did bring our air bed but we didn’t have to use it.
Quick dash to Ikea for an outdoor table and chairs and we had a semi-furnished apartment. =)
I bought cabinets, storage cabinets, bed frames, and a shoe rack (my shoes needed to be aired) online. They didn’t have a similar Jordan’s Furniture here. It was either very cheap made of particle board-type of furniture or very expensive teak furniture. Even Ikea isn’t as cheap as in Australia.
Now that our furniture from the US are here, I’m glad we brought them over. H probably disagrees.
Opening a Bank Account
Aside from looking for a place and buying furniture, opening a bank account was a priority for us. Like in the US, I couldn’t open a bank account in my own name as a dependent until I had my own credentials. In the US, that meant having my own Social Security Number. Here in Singapore, I needed my dependent pass ID, the confirmation letter was enough to open a joint account with H but not for my own. We also had to show our passport and our tenancy agreement.
It took close to two hours but at the end of it, we received our own bank cards with our name already embossed and activated! How neat was that? No waiting for 5 to 10 business days to withdraw money from the ATM.
Once I received my pass, four business days after the confirmation letter arrived, I went back to the bank and opened my own account.
Due to the high cost of owning a car, we decided not to get a car. Besides, the public transport here is pretty reliable, although if you read local news, you’d think they have a horrible public transport system. Granted, there had been incidents of flooding in the MRT which resulted in train services being shut down but overall, it’s much better than in Melbourne or Boston.
Here’s an article that explains what owning a car entails in Singapore: http://www.livinginsingapore.org/how-to-buy-a-car-in-singapore/
In brief, a Honda or a Toyota that would usually cost around US$15K to US$20K can cost US$70K due to the Certificate of Entitlement that’s built into the car price.
We’ve ridden in buses and trains to get around Singapore. It’s cheap and they get you from point A to point B. For those who don’t like riding trains or buses, taxis, Uber, and Grab are around. We’ve used their services, too, for transporting bulky items or late night rides.
What are the other things I’m doing?
Looking for a Job
Since I took a sabbatical from the corporate world, I had to polish my CV. I wasn’t sure about the format and what the local market looked like so I hired Suzanna at ten04partners. I wrote about her in a separate post.
I sent out 16 CVs so far and had a pre-interview with one company. Nothing from the others. I also reached out to a Recruitment Agent within one company but haven’t heard back.
I’m not worried. I believe the universe will tell me when it’s time.
To keep myself busy, I volunteer at a woman’s organisation. I co-chair a special interest group and we will be launching our first event on 6 December. Aside from these, I’ve been going to meetups to meet new people, I’m writing my second novel, I’m attending writing workshops, and I contribute articles to an online lifestyle magazine.
Therefore, to answer the original question, yes, I think I’ve settled nicely in Singapore.
Have any of you wandering souls had similar experiences?