Ashley’s Guide to Singapore

Welcome to Singapore, the tropical sunny island located just north of the equator! This bustling Asian metropolis is on the rise as a tourist destination and makes a great jumping off point for a Southeast Asia trip. You’re not likely to stumble into a crazy rich Asian like Nick Young on the street but you will find a melting post of Chinese, Malay, and Indian residents (and food!) Here’s your handy guide to planning a trip to the Lion City.

Planning a Trip

  • Days – 3 days is the optimal amount of time to see the main sights, after which you can spend your time shopping and eating like the locals do. Bali, Indonesia is a short flight away and I also recommend the highly underrated Malaysia or very popular Thailand to round out your Southeast Asia trip.
  • Flights – You can fly direct from Seattle, LA, SF, or NYC via Singapore Airlines, one of the top airlines in the world. If flying on a regional budget airline, make sure to fly one with high safety standards like Jetstar or Scoot.  Avoid AirAsia and Thai Lion Air.
  • Accomodations – Book a hotel (Airbnb is illegal). I recommend staying close to the CBD and near one of the Downtown (blue) line stations. This includes the Central area, Esplanade, Little India, Bugis or Chinatown. Many of the higher end hotels are in the Orchard area, great for shoppers. For the iconic infinity pool shot, you’ll have to pay a pretty penny to stay at the Marina Bay Sands.
  • Attractions Klook consistently offers the lowest prices for attractions like Gardens by the Bay and anything on Sentosa Island. By pre-booking you can pay with credit card (and even pay in USD). Show up with your voucher for easy check-in. Save S$5 on your first order with my referral link!

Know Before You Go

  • Weather – Average temperatures are in the 80s but can feels like 90s+ with the humidity. There are no seasons so you can visit year-round, though it’s slightly wetter in the rainy season (Nov – Jan).
  • Timezone – GMT +8 – When it’s 8pm in NYC after Daylight Saving Time ends, it’s 9am in Singapore. In the summer it’s a 12 hour difference (flip the am/pm).
  • Language: English (and others) – As a tourist, you will have no problem conversing with others though you will hear locals and expats speaking many other languages. Some hawkers or restaurants in ethnic neighborhoods like Chinatown might not be as English-friendly but they’ll still take your money!
  • Safety & Cleanliness – Singapore has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. It’s also impeccably clean. You can drink the tap water, unlike the rest of Southeast Asia.
  • Money – $0.74 USD = $1 SGD (also noted as S$1). You can withdraw cash from any ATM or use the currency exchange at the airport. If you have a credit card with no foreign transaction fee, you will only need cash for hawker centres, taxis, and a few discount stores. When asked what you are paying with, it’s best to say “Visa” instead of “credit” or you can say “paywave” if you intend to pay with a contactless card or Google/Apple Pay.
  • Transportation – You can reach most places using buses or the MRT, Singapore’s clean and efficient subway system. You can purchase an EZ Link card at the airport tourist desk or at any 7/11 or MRT station. Or use contactless payment! You will need to tap upon entering and exiting MRT stations as the fare is distance-based. When not using public transit, you can use Grab, the SEA version of Uber, or hail a taxi. Not all taxis accept credit card and can incur a 10% surcharge when they do, so make sure to ask.
  • Electric plug: UK type G plug, bring an adapter.
  • British influence – Walk/drive/stand on the left. Use words like air con, takeaway, lift, queue.
  • Singaporean things – The locals like to queue for things and infer value from how long a line is.
  • Apps to Download
    • WhatsApp – Messaging app of choice
    • Wireless@SG – Automatically connect to free Wi-Fi
    • Grab – Ride-hailing app like Uber. Do not use GrabShare, only JustGrab.

Things to Do

Must See

  • Spectra – This Vegas-style light and water runs every night at 8pm and 9pm (+10pm Fri/Sat) in front of Marina Bay Sands. It’s most impressive right up front but you can get some great shots across the water.
  • Gardens by the Bay – Check out the Supertree Grove and the largest indoor conservatory in the world. Make sure to catch the dazzling Garden Rhapsody show nightly at 7:45pm and 8:45pm. The views from the OCBC Skyway (requires ticket) are stunning, but it’s free to watch on the ground.
  • Marina Bay – Take a nice evening stroll on the promenade at night to see the Merlion, Spectra light and water show, and Helix Bridge .
  • Jewel at Changi Airport – This impressive rain vortex was completed earlier this year and cost a whopping $1.7 billion. Terminal 1 has a ton of good food and drink options, including Shake Shack if you’re craving a burger.
  • Skyline views: Altitude, Atlas (art deco cocktail bar), Marina Bay Sands rooftop at Lavo or Ce La Vie.
  • Chinatown – Visit the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, stroll the souvenir streets (maybe try some durian?), and shop/eat at Chinatown Point.
  • Little India – Check out the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple and eat Indian food at Tekka Centre, a hawker centre frequented by Indian residents.
  • Kampong Glam – See the impressive Sultan Mosque and take pictures with the surrounding street art. Walk through Haji Lane and shop at the boutique fashion stores. Also try the murtabak (Muslim stuffed meat flatbread) at Zam Zam.

More Attractions

  • Singapore Botanic GardensThis UNESCO world heritage site is full of lush tropical plantlife and a nice respite from the city’s urban core. It’s free to enter and S$5 for the popular orchid exhibit.
  • Sentosa Island – Spend the day at Universal Studios Sentosa (buy on Klook to save $) and the S.E.A. Aquarium, or visit the man-made beaches and hang out at Tanjong Beach Club. At 8pm, there is a free Crane Dance show with light, water, and visual effects. 
  • Take a stroll by the river around the Esplanade, Asian Civilisation Museum, and National Gallery. Boat Quay and Clarke Quay have many nice restaurants with riverside views.
  • Chijmes – This former convent also happens to be the location of the Crazy Rich Asians Wedding. It’s now a complex of bars and restaurants that is popular at night.
  • Peranakan Houses in Joo Chiat – All of the influencers come here to take pictures in front of some of the most expensive and colorful shophouses in Singapore.
  • ArtScience Museum – Great for kids, especially Future World, the teamLab permanent digital exhibition. Sign up for the free Sands Rewards program to get 1-for-1 (i.e. buy one get one free) tickets.
  • National Museum – See artifacts from Singapore’s colonial past and learn about the history of this young nation.


  • Orchard Road – Here you’ll find the most concentrated area of malls from low end to high end. Many are connected underground so you don’t even have to go outside! The best food in is in the basement food halls.
  • Daiso – S$2 ($1.50 USD) Japanese dollar store filled with cute and useful items. Go crazy and bring cash!
  • Don Don Donki – This Japanese superstore sells all kinds of goods and also has a few food stalls including the popular Japanese sweet potatoes.
  • Any grocery store’s snack aisle – It’s always fun to try new snacks or familiar snacks in new flavors (popcorn kit kats taste like kettle corn in the best way!)
  • Irvin’s salted egg snacks – Go bold and try the salted egg fish skin or pick up the salted egg crunchy roll, always a crowd pleaser.
  • Uniqlo – It’s even cheaper than the US but take note of sizing, which runs on a smaller scale. Also bring your passport: if you spend S$100 you’re eligible for a tourist tax refund, a 7% discount.


Must Eat 

  • Chicken rice – The national dish of Singapore is simple poached chicken served over a bed of fragrant chicken-infused rice with cucumbers and fresh chili sauce. Tian Tian at Maxwell is the famous one but Ah Tai a few stalls over usually has shorter queues. 
Chicken rice from Tian Tian
  • Roti prata – South Indian crispy flatbread served with curry. Can be doughy or crispy like a scallion pancake.
  • Hokkien mee – Wok-fried egg & rice noodles cooked in a flavorful prawn stock and lard, topped with a squeeze of lime.
  • Satay – Juicy chargrilled meat sticks served with a peanut sauce. You’ll find these all throughout Southeast Asia but preparation styles can vary.
  • Soya sauce chicken at Liao Fan Hawker Chan – The famous “cheapest Michelin star meal in the world.” I recommend the egg noodles instead of the rice, as the noodles have a nice chew. Go to the original stall in the Chinatown hawker centre.
  • Soup dumplings (xiao long bao) at Din Tai Fung – Consistently the best pork XLB around. Even their veggie dumplings are very good! Most locations don’t take reservations so try to avoid peak lunch and dinner times unless you are willing to wait .
  • Carrot cake – Forget everything you know about the sweet American dessert. Here it’s savory stir-fried cubes of radish cake and egg in a smoky garlic soy sauce with caramelized bits. Can order black (sweet) or white (no black sauce, savory).
Not the prettiest thing you’ll eat but don’t worry, carrot cake is delicious

Hawker Centres

  • This is the best thing about Singapore and is also distinct from the street food stalls you’ll find in the rest of Southeast Asia. Hawker centres are open air food courts where you can find inexpensive, delicious, freshly prepared local food.  All of my must eats listed above, except for Din Tai Fung, are found at hawker centres. Grab a table beforehand and chope your seat by leaving a set of tissues then walk around and join the queue at the popular stalls.
  • If you want to avoid the touristy atmosphere, skip Lau Pa Sat and Newton Centre.
  • My personal favorites are Old Airport Road and Chinatown (also like Maxwell and Tiong Bahru Market) and these are all close to downtown by public transit.
  • It’s generally better to go during the day at lunchtime, as many stalls close in the evening.
  • If you are vegetarian, be aware that many stalls use lard so look for stalls that specifically have “vegetarian” in the name or ask the hawker. Shrimp paste is also commonly hidden in sauces like the peanut sauce served with satay.
  • Oh and be prepared to sweat 😉
Lau Pa Sat is pretty but for the tourists

More Asian food

  • Tipping is not a norm, though many sit down restaurants will tack on a 10% service charge (on top of 7% GST).
  • Water is not always free at restaurants and not always cold, unless you specify.
  • Dim sum – Classic Chinese small plates, best with a group! Try the salted egg yolk custard (lava) bun, also known as liu sha bao.
  • Hotpot/steamboat – You can find these all over the island, even a street full of restaurants near Bugis. For a premium experience, go to Haidilao and make sure to order the tomato broth and fresh noodles!
Swishing meat is fun!
  • Peranakan cuisine – fusion of Chinese and Malay cuisines – If you like coconut milk and curry-based sauces, check out Violet Oon or True Blue.
  • Egg tarts at Tong Heng 
  • Japanese food – ramen, unagi, fluffy pancakes, wagyu beef, you name it and it’s here – Check out Takashimaya Food Hall for an array of options.
Souffle pancakes at Antoinette

More local dishes

  • Chili crab at No Signboard Seafood or Jumbo Seafood – Actually more sweet than spicy, make sure to get the fried mantou buns to dip in the rich sauce.
  • Bak kut teh at Song Fa – Herbal pork rib soup is comfort food for Chinese people.
  • Kaya toast at Ya Kun Kaya Toast – Kaya is a coconut jam infused with pandan (hence the green color) usually served with soft boiled eggs and kopi (coffee).
Kaya toast with soft boiled eggs at Toast Box
  • Laksa – Thick wheat noodles in a spicy coconut curry soup base. Sungei Road Laksa is the famous one.
  • Nasi lemak – Malay dish with coconut rice, fried chicken, egg, cucumber, peanuts, anchovies, and sambal chili. Available at many hawker centres and the Coconut Club.

Singapore is a fun place to visit and I hope this guide makes your trip easier to plan. Let me know if you need any further recommendations. I am happy to help! 🙂

Farewell Singapore, one year later

It was always going to happen but I never expected to happen like this. In less than a week I’ll be leaving Singapore after a wild year of traveling Southeast Asia, stuffing myself with hawker food, and of course, living through the COVID-19 pandemic in a foreign country.

It’s bittersweet to leave in this strange time. The friends and colleagues that I’ve gotten to know in the last year that welcomed me to Singapore, taught me Singlish words, and recommended me restaurants have truly made my experience in the Lion City. I won’t be able to say goodbye in person to any of them and I might not see some of these people ever again. But, as a famous teddy bear once said, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard” (Winnie the Pooh).

My farewell party

I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to be an expat in Singapore at my age, and I’ve learned so much in the last year. I want to share some of the lessons I’ve picked up from living and working abroad.

Understanding and respecting the concept of saving face.

This is a huge aspect of many Asian cultures and it is important to avoid humiliating others. The American way is to be direct and confrontational. Here, this approach doesn’t work as well when trying to solve problems. When negotiating, always be willing to “give” a little to the other side in the end result. When delivering tough news, do so privately, give people time to absorb it all, and let people be “cameras off”. This will ultimately help you build rapport and stronger long-term relationships.

Adapting to different standards and learning to be uncomfortable.

I knew that learning the metric system would be a challenge, but I underestimated how much date formatting would drive me crazy. Here, the day of the month is listed before the month, e.g. 4/5 is the 4th of May. This makes for confusing expiration dates on food packaging, depending on where an item is imported from. No one ever confuses a weather forecast in Celsius with Fahrenheit. I’ve since learned to write dates based on my audience’s preference (I do work in client services after all!) and while it takes some mental effort for this code switching, it makes communication smoother.

Timezones taught me to learn to stick up for myself and my team.

With the smallest team at the agency, it’s easy to be forgotten. I pushed for our APAC team to get visibility in front of our executives and get sent company All-Hands recordings in a timely manner. I shared praise from our clients so everyone knew the great work our team was doing.

A huge thank you goes to my team in Singapore for their patience as I’ve learned the ropes in the last year. If you’re ever in the States, I hope you’ll visit me in Chicago (or wherever I end up). I’m already looking forward to the day I return to Singapore and see the island nation transformed on my way to queue for a plate of hokkien mee 🙂

18 things that make me feel American

Living in another country challenges you to think about your own identity, and how much of it has been shaped by your cultural and environmental surroundings. This can make it hard to imagine how someone can grow up without [insert dryer/dishwasher/air conditioning unit] that you have always had. Becoming an expat makes you appreciate the things you miss and realize the tastes & preferences you have that will never change.

In the following list, I tried to avoid the obvious differences (politics, weather) to focus on the cultural elements of what makes me feel American (or Western in some cases) because it’s different from Singaporean locals or residents.

Work & Money

Explaining the concept of unlimited PTO. This wouldn’t even be legal in Singapore.

Being able to quit a job with two weeks notice (the average is TWO MONTHS in Singapore and it’s written into your contract).

Using my non-contactless American credit card because the rewards are better than those offered by Singapore banks.

Paying with credit cards and not having to worry about payment processing fees because the merchant will cover it. Budget airlines are notorious for tacking on ridiculous fees ($8 per person per flight).


Defending pizza to those who haven’t had a good foldable slice in NYC (you don’t want to know what blasphemous toppings I have seen on pizzas in Asia).

Ashley holding a slice of pizza

Asking for ice water at a restaurant (if you ask for water, it might be room temperature). Being annoyed when they charge for water.

The joy I get from not having to tip at a restaurant.

My obsession with eating mangoes all the time because it’s so hard to get good ones in the US.

Cut mango

Craving crunchy/crispy snacks or corn based snacks. Not a huge fan of rice crackers.

Craving soft, chewy cookies and not the dry shortbread ones that can be easily found in Singapore. Never thought I’d see a Famous Amos stand at the mall…


Talking about (American) football and attending games at the Big House (second largest stadium in the world).

Cheering for a specific sports team like my alma mater instead of a country’s team.

Having to think twice at the gym about which dumbbell to grab because they’re all in kg.

Wearing bright colors or athleisure when I’m not working out.

Sentosa Sandsation

Missing massive supermarkets where you could truly one stop shop.

Explaining the concept of trick or treating on Halloween or exchanging valentines on Valentine’s Day. 

Missing the convenience of a dryer.

Running the air con while I sleep.

What are some things that make you feel American?

Celebrating National Day in Singapore

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of experiencing my first public holiday in Singapore: National Day. Every year Singaporeans celebrate on August 9 their independence from Malaysia in 1965. For Americans, this holiday would be similar to Fourth of July, although it seems like a bigger deal here.

In the weeks leading up to National Day, I saw Singaporean flags and Happy Birthday Singapore banners everywhere. Many companies latch on to this holiday and run National Day specials, from special crab buffets to Singapore exclusive items. I enjoyed a very yummy chicken satay bun from Wu Pao Chun, a Taiwanese bakery, and also a kaya cream puff from Bread Talk, a local bakery chain. Too bad these items are limited time only as I would order both again.

 bun from Wu Pao Chun
Satay meets bun

Singaporeans have a ton of national pride and also work hard to get things right. As a result, they hold weekly rehearsals for the National Day Parade, including fireworks displays, which are ticketed events! If you ask a local what they think of these extra shows, they will say it’s like watching your tax dollars disappear.

The morning of National Day we head to the Singapore Sports Hub for their National Day Fiesta. It’s cool how Singapore promotes exercise and staying active with free events like these. We participated in the RED-X challenge, a series of 5 different workouts, so we could get free dry bags. No photos because we were a sweaty mess by the end of it. Shuttle runs in a sandy court are so not fun.

National Day Fiesta @ Singapore Sports Hub

For lunch, we stopped by nearby Old Airport Road Food Centre, only one stop away on the MRT. What better way to celebrate Singapore than to enjoy local hawker food? It looked like most stalls were still open, despite it being a holiday. I ordered the wanton mee (spicy noodles with dumplings) at Hua Kee Hougang Famous Wanton Mee for only S$4 (US$2.89)

We didn’t attend the actual National Day Parade, as you need to be a Singaporean citizen or Permanent Resident and score tickets through a lottery months before. Instead, we did the next best thing and watched part of the live stream at the National Museum, which was open and free for the weekend.

Red Lions parachute team
I spy the Red Lions parachute team!

I also got a crash course in Singaporean history and was delighted to find they had a small teamLab installation, Story of the Forest. If you’re not familiar with teamLab, they are a digital art collective out of Japan and you have to check out teamLab Borderless if you’re ever in Tokyo.

teamLab Story of the Forest @ National Museum

Oh, and I scored a free funpack! Inside the convertible tote/backpack were a flag, water, snacks, stickers, luggage tag, visor, and tissues. All necessary if you’re sitting in a stadium for hours.

Ashley wearing funpack

On Saturday, we visited Gardens by the Bay to see the nightly light show in the Supertree Grove, Garden Rhapsody. The show is absolutely worth seeing and changes every month. This month’s theme was National Day and featured covers of Singapore songs that any local would know by heart.

Garden Rhapsody National Day

Following the light show, we checked out the free National Day concert at the Meadow. It was nice to sit out in the (relatively) cool air at night and we scored goodie bags full of local snacks, plus a free plant.

Overall, National Day weekend was a fun time and I definitely felt the Singaporean pride. I’m already looking forward to the activities and celebrations around the next holiday, the Mid-Autumn Festival in September.

Flying Singapore Airlines Premium Economy on the longest nonstop flight in the world

“It’s a pretty long flight to Singapore, isn’t it?”

“Actually, it’s the longest flight in the world!”

When it came time to book my one-way flight to Singapore, I wanted to make sure I had as comfortable of a flight as I could get away with. I was given permission to book Premium Economy, so I started looking at direct flight routes from hub cities outside Chicago. In general, I’ve found the experience on transcontinental routes served by Asian airlines like EVA Air, to be far superior to American airlines like United in service, food, and comfort. I had never flown Singapore Airlines before but had heard very good things, so this was an easy decision. 

Coming from Chicago, I had to connect in either New York (Newark), Los Angeles, or San Francisco. The total flight time including the initial leg from Chicago was actually faster via New York, not to mention my previous bad luck with delays flying to SF. I decided to fly to New York the night before my 10:25am flight so that I could break up my travel. Side note: Singapore Airlines will also start flying nonstop to Seattle beginning September 3rd!

As for the long flight time, I wasn’t bothered by the idea of it. I’ve flown nonstop to Asia a few times, most recently Chicago to Shanghai (14 hours). Does a 17 hour flight really feel that different from a 14 hour flight?

Airport Check-In

Singapore Airlines offers a special check-in lane for Premium Economy. Since there were no regular Economy seats on the plane, this didn’t really matter but for other flight routes it might. There was no one in line when I arrived at the airport 1 hr 40 min before my flight. 

Singapore Airlines Premium Economy check-in lane

Terminal B was surprisingly small, only 10 gates. No water bottle fill stations, unfortunately. While charging my phone at the gate, I befriended an expat couple who were also making the one-way trip to Singapore – what are the chances? We exchanged WhatsApp numbers and have since met up a few times.

In-Flight Experience

I forgot which seat I had selected at check-in, aside from the fact that it was an aisle seat. I was delighted to see I got a front row seat which meant plenty of extra leg room. I put both my backpack and carry-on up in the cabin and got settled.

Singapore Airlines premium economy front-row seats

The flight attendants brought us hot towels – so nice! – and an amenity kit with socks and a toothbrush.

Singapore Airlines premium economy amenity kit

The entertainment on board included the standard movies, TV shows, and even podcasts. We also had noise-cancelling headphones, which were a nice touch. I ended up listening to an NPR podcast about travel tips, one of which was to always carry a deck of cards because you never know when or where you’re going to be stuck and everyone knows how to play a few games.

Ashley in-flight selfie
Work travel is so glamorous!


Eating is one of my greatest joys and while airplane food usually leaves a lot to be desired, I was hoping premium economy would have somewhat decent options. I read through the menu booklet and was pleasantly surprised to see some healthy options from Singapore Airlines’ partnership with Canyon Ranch. I tried their Baked Pistachio Crusted Tofu, which was pretty tasty albeit a little soggy.

Singapore Airlines Baked Pistachio Crusted Tofu in-flight meal

Later I had an apple and eggplant hummus wrap as a snack. My last meal was chicken with Chinese pork sausage in mushroom sauce. Pro tip: always choose the Asian option over the Western option – which in this case was beef hamburger steak with pasta.

Singapore Airlines Asian chicken in-flight meal

Overall, the flight was pretty comfortable and I didn’t feel all that different by the end of it compared to previous shorter flights to Asia. I even managed to take a 3 hour nap, which was a nice surprise because I can usually never sleep on planes.

Even if you don’t want to splurge on premium economy, I highly recommend flying Singapore Airlines if you’re looking for a nicer in-flight experience on your way to SE Asia!

A day in the life of an expat – month two

I’m already one month(!) in living in Singapore and it’s been interesting to see how I’ve adjusted into a new routine. Here’s a snapshot of my day today.

7am – Wake up.

7:30am – First meeting of the day is a call with the global team based out of Denver & San Diego. Working across time zones can be tricky but having these internal syncs is incredibly helpful as we’re able to get immediate responses to our questions.

9:30am – Lighting contractor shows up to check out my flickering room light. Turns out nothing is wrong with the light; it’s just not compatible with the preset dimmer on the wall. I am told to only use the remote to change the brightness (yes, the light is remote-operated).

10:30am – Walk to the client office at Marina Bay Financial Centre. On paper my commute is short but when you factor in time waiting for the “lift”, it doubles. First world problems.

11:30am – Eat lunch at the “canteen” aka the cafeteria. In the salad bar today the roasted eggplant is labeled as zucchini when really it should be “aubergine”. Still delicious! I’ve also been eating watermelon every day and am still not sick of it.

12:30pm – Drag my team out to Marina Bay to take a photo for the company website. It’s quite hot on the walk back but one thing I’ve noticed in Singapore is that people don’t talk much about the weather because it’s always the same. Instead we complain about how cold the air con is!

3Q Singapore team

4pm – Meet with the tax firm that will be handling the tax equalization while I am on assignment. I learn about how the Singapore tax year is paid in arrears and how if you try to leave the country with an overdue tax notice, you will be stopped at the airport. They do not mess around here!

5pm – Pick up letter during mail hours at our coworking space. I am offered a brownie and get invited to the Delegate birthday party on Saturday. There will be free food so I am tempted.

5:30pm – Drop-in for a weight lifting session at Platinum Fitness. Gyms here are very expensive and I miss paying $65 a month for Chicago Athletic Clubs. I started a free trial through ClassPass Singapore and used 5 credits to book this drop-in session. The monthly subscription is S$59 (~$43) for 25 credits, which would be about $8 a drop-in session, cheaper than a full-time gym membership.

Some things don’t change, like me being one of two ladies lifting weights in a gym full of dudes.

Platinum Fitness gym

6:45pm – Treat myself to dinner at Amoy Street Food Centre. Taking my time to explore and try food at hawker centres is one of the best things about living in Singapore, versus visiting. I see black bean sauce on a menu, which tastes way better than it sounds and is one of mom’s signature dishes, so I order it. So shiok! (That’s Singlish for delicious/good.)

chicken in black bean sauce

8pm – Stop by FairPrice for some groceries. I buy peaches, cauliflower, maitake mushrooms (the cheapest item at S$1.50!), and frozen gyoza for S$14.

9pm – Write this blog post.

There you have it! 

The first two weeks: highs and lows

A lot can happen in two weeks. A lot has happened in two weeks.

Singapore has been full of adventures so far! Overall I’m enjoying life here, particularly the food and walkability of this city-state.  I’ve been busy getting logistics in order but hope to share more blog posts once things simmer down. For now, here are the highs and lows of my first two weeks.


  • Registered for my employment pass – I can now legally work in Singapore!
  • Signed a lease for a condo unit! Apartment tour to come once I actually move in…
  • Met up for dinners with a former colleague I haven’t seen in 4 years, a freshly new expat couple I befriended at the gate in Newark, and a colleague’s older sister who happened to be traveling in SE Asia.
  • This sunset. Wow.
  • Ate a lot of…Japanese food. I’ve been staying in Clarke Quay and discovered the nearby Liang Court mall has loads of Japanese restaurants. So far I’ve eaten unagi, ramen, udon, and sushi. Lots of Japanese expats live in the area; that’s how you know it’s legit.
unagi hitsumabushi style @ Unagiya Ichinoji
unagi hitsumabushi style @ Unagiya Ichinoji
  • Booked tickets to Taiwan in August to visit extended family and reunite with my younger sister before she starts her fall semester in Shanghai.
  • Seeing the gorgeous Singapore frangipani tree for the first time, which looks exactly like a magnet I bought at Daiso (Japanese dollar store).
Singapore frangipani tree
Singapore frangipani tree


  • Learned of the many things you cannot sign up for without your physical employment pass, which I do not have yet. This includes utilities & Internet, a bank account (I’ve made three trips and learned of new required documents every time), Grab (the Uber of SE Asia), and my Gardens by the Bay resident membership.
  • Everything is on the left!
  • Being drenched in sweat after a nighttime run.
  • Every document needs to be printed and signed in person. No joke.

Other thoughts

  • People are nice here but in a polite way, not a Midwestern go-out-of-your-way-to-help way.
  • Word of the day: chope. It’s how Singaporeans reserve their tables at hawker centers by leaving a pack of tissues behind. It’s also a popular app used to make restaurant reservations.
  • NFC readers are everywhere, notably contactless credit card payments. The US is behind!

Every day I learn something new and my experience gets a little better. In the next two weeks, I have much to look forward to: moving into my new apartment, my first visitor, and a birthday trip to Chiang Mai!

How I prepped for my big move to Singapore

It’s been a crazy last few weeks packing and moving but I finally landed in Singapore last night! As you might imagine, there’s a lot that goes into a big move like this. I’ve been keeping track of all of the decisions I’ve made along the way. Hopefully this is helpful for anyone thinking about making a similar move to Singapore.

Employment pass

In order to work as an expat in Singapore, you need a work permit. There are different tiers depending on your needs, but your salary is one determining factor. You can learn more on the Ministry of Manpower website.

My HR team handled most of the work getting the employment pass. As part of the process, I signed a letter of secondment (not pronounced second-ment) that outlines the terms of my employment under our Singapore business entity. I also filled out a form with standard questions about my passport, work authorization, etc. The only odd thing that stuck out to me was that I had to provide proof of my education via college diploma.

Phone plan and other tech stuff

Possibly the biggest mental hurdle the last few weeks was switching from iOS to Android. I wanted to keep my phone number (partly for two-step verification) and have easy access to data in all the countries I visit without having to worry about picking up SIM cards. Switching to Google Fi was a no-brainer, since you have access to data in over 200 countries. As a treat to myself, I picked up a Pixel 3 on sale for $200 off, so I should have some nice photos for you all. If you’re interested in Google Fi, you can sign up via my referral link (we both get $20 off).

I already had WhatsApp on my phone from my last UK trip but was reminded by my friend Ian that this is what everyone uses to communicate.

Singapore uses a type G power plug adapter, the same as the UK. Our IT helpdesk sent me a few to use in the office. Due to the different voltage, I won’t be able to bring my CHI flat iron, which makes me a little sad because my hair needs all the help it can get to combat the humidity!

Picture of Charles Schwab card, Citi card, & type G travel adapter

Banks & credit cards

I already own more than a few credit cards with no foreign transaction fee, so I brought those along. My favorite cards are the Chase cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points since you can transfer to partners like United Airlines, Singapore Airlines, and Hyatt Hotels.

For cash, I love using Charles Schwab because you can use ATM’s around the world essentially fee-free (they refund you ATM fees at the end of the month). Earlier this year I had borrowed my sister’s card to use in China & Japan and it worked like a breeze. I opened my own Charles Schwab checking account recently and found out they were running a promo: if you are referred by an existing member, you will receive a $100 signup bonus (got mine last week). You can sign up through my link if you’re interested.

Finally, I set up travel notices for all of my cards. Fingers crossed I don’t run into any issues withdrawing cash anywhere.

Plane travel

I booked the longest flight in the world – 18 hr, 45 min – in Premium Economy on Singapore Airlines from Newark to Singapore. More to come on that experience in my next blog post 🙂

Since I was moving from Chicago, I did the math and found that it was a shorter total flight time connecting in NYC versus LA or SF. Not to mention, I’ve had terrible luck in over 50% of my flights between Chicago & SF having delay/cancellations and wanted to avoid being stuck in SF for a night.

Travel vaccines

I submitted a travel form through One Medical, my primary care clinic, listing which countries I intended to visit around Southeast Asia. They sent me back information on vaccines and medications that I may need. I then made an appointment and went in and got my vaccines. Since vaccines are preventive care, my insurance covered the cost 100%.

Research on living

This is the fun part! While there are countless blog posts out there that warn you about the humidity, I wanted to get a sense of what else I should know about living in Singapore, as an expat or local. Here are my favorite resources, which I’d recommend for expats in any city.

Refinery29 Money Diaries – These are fun to read if you like to live vicariously through others, judge other people’s financial decisions, or want to get an accurate sense of cost of living. These diaries provide a detailed perspective of what women living in Singapore actually spend on a weekly budget and also where they shop, eat, and workout because that’s also important 🙂

Facebook Expat groups – There are tons of expat groups, including some niche ones, but I’ve found the largest, most active groups to be the most helpful. These have been an amazing resource in allowing me to passively pick up knowledge in my news feed about whether Bintan or Batam is a better vacation spot, how you should make sure your letter of intent (for renting) includes a diplomatic clause, and much more.

Screenshot of Singapore Expats Facebook group

Instagram hashtags & location – I have used these to spy on views inside an office or hotel and check out pictures of the delicious food.

YouTube videos – After a lot of reading, I wanted to watch videos to see even more of Singapore. I started off with some Singapore travel guides and then spent an entire Saturday night watching videos about hawker food… One of my favorite channels is CupOfTJ. She has tons of food guides throughout Asia’s biggest food cities!

Reaching out to my friend Ian – It’s always nice when you can get advice from someone who already lives there. Thanks for answering my many questions, Ian.

So, that’s what has been keeping me busy. And now that I’m here, there are still many more things I have to do like get a bank account and a local number for phone calls. If you have any tips, please share in the comments.

Moving to Singapore with 3Q Digital

“I’m moving to Singapore in June.”

So has every conversation with family, friends, and coworkers begun in the last two weeks. It’s the biggest personal and professional change for me since I moved to Chicago to start working at 3Q Digital in 2015 and quite possibly the change that I need.

How did I get here?

Four years ago I was in Ann Arbor, Michigan, mulling over what I wanted to do next. I had tried working at a few tech startups but things weren’t working out and I was starting to think that I needed to get out of Michigan, my home state, and try something new.

Chicago seemed like the perfect option: city life without being too far away from home and my soon-to-be-long-distance boyfriend. I started reaching out to individuals from my alma mater, the University of Michigan, to get their perspectives on what it was like to work in various marketing roles in Chicago. One thing I heard time and time again was that working at an agency was a great place to start a career because you get to learn from some of the smartest people in the business and gain experience working in different industries with different clients (can confirm).

I was convinced that this networking was going to help me land a new marketing job, yet I ended up finding 3Q Digital through a LinkedIn job posting (very fitting, in retrospect).

Joining 3Q Digital

I started at 3Q as an Account Associate, our entry-level role in paid media. I was excited about the prospect of working with fast-growing tech companies but was uneasy about a few things. I enjoy interacting with people, so I wasn’t sure how I’d like being in a more analytical role. Also, Excel? Who wants to be working in spreadsheets all day?

Well, I was wrong. I love Excel, it makes my life so much easier! And I don’t mind chatting up my clients over conference call, though I do enjoy our in-person quarterly meetings.

I’m grateful to have worked with CuriosityStream, a global media company with a stellar documentary streaming service, to grow their business over the years. They’ve been true partners and are the reason I know everything I do about YouTube advertising. This experience has led to some of my greatest professional highlights: winning Google’s Premier Partner award in Video Innovation and getting accepted to speak at SMX Advanced in June.

Google Premier Partner Awards 2018

I’ve also been fortunate to work with Sean McEntee, my manager and team leader for nearly the entire time I’ve been at 3Q. Having a manager that is committed to your growth and supports you with opportunities, training, and promotions(!) is truly special.

A new opportunity

Every year I’ve been at 3Q Digital, the agency has grown and expanded into new offices with brand new roles.

Most recently, our executive team made the decision to expand internationally to support one of our most important clients, LinkedIn. With this came an incredible opportunity to move to Singapore for 6-8 months to open our APAC office.

One of my biggest regrets from undergrad is that I never studied abroad and here it was, an international opportunity in an exciting role at a company I genuinely enjoy working for.

The catch? I’d have to cut ties from all my current accounts, including my great clients and team. This decision was not at all easy but after consulting friends and mentors, I realized that this international experience would be a huge learning opportunity and great for my career.

So, here I am. It’s exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. I’m going to miss so many things: birthdays, bike rides on Lakefront Trail, and fall Michigan football games. But I can’t wait for all the food I’m going to eat, countries I’m going to visit, and connections I’m going to make along the way. I look forward to sharing this adventure with you!