1 Wedding, A Funeral, Maids & Cowgirls – Singapore: The Final 90 Days Part 1

This is the final chapter on my story of living in Singapore as an Expat in 2008-9, this one is a bit long so its split into 2 parts, and there’s no pictures but I wanted to at least finish it.

With the deadline set in stone by Immigration (I wasn’t going to attempt another border run!) and limited funds (I had money, but without replacement work, it wouldn’t last too long) it was time to start planning. The first question: Stay or go? I must have mulled this over a thousand times, and it carried on right up to the day of my flight, the problem is, its not just about me. Finding work in a foreign land is not so easy – I knew all the requirements for the Employment Pass etc, but a lot of the companies didn’t want to go through the hassle of submitting the paperwork, and so simply state PR (Permanent Resident) only. Fortunately I did have a fair number of recruiters with my CV trying to match me to roles, and I was getting a few calls and even went to a few interviews. All seemed to be going well. As time progressed however, it started to look a bit more of an issue, I was getting interviews, but no further. Seems my last role paid too well for them to match it, I’d have to take a cut in a new role. I didn’t mind this, as I still wanted to stay, and I thought it would be worth it providing the job was good.

My flat mate and friend had been gradually getting more irritated by my neighbour, who has a morning ritual of sweeping the landing area outside of her house – at 6am. Its all good and nice to keep the communal path clean and do your bit, but for a person with damaged hearing, the sound grates like fingers down a chalk board. That combined with the stress of his work (he worked for the same company but in a different dept) he was getting more and more agitated. As there was the good chance of me now having to make a somewhat swift exit, it was a good time for him to jump ship, and find alternative accommodation. He found what seemed like a nice spacious house not far from one of our friends, seemed nice and quiet and so he took it. I on the other hand contacted Crown again, for a quote on getting my stuff sent back to the UK.

After a while I got word of a role at one of my old companies, and for a job I was previously going to move to, albeit now in a different country. I jumped at the chance, it would be work I knew, people I knew and hadn’t seen for a while, and I’d be in the sun and still in Singapore. All seemed to go well, I had the interview, but then no call back. Seemed odd. I gave it a week, still nothing. I decided to contact a friend in the company, hes moved up quite high now and could likely find out what happened. It seems it was a mistake by HR. I was liked it seems, but when HR found out my previous pay, they decided it was too high for them to match it, and decided it was not worth trying to negotiate, and so they didn’t even try to call me. I immediately said I would take lower than my previous role and be willing to negotiate – as I had said at interview. The problem however, was they already hired someone else locally who was obviously on a lower pay than I had been on. Looking back on it all, this was probably the pivotal point between me staying and leaving Singapore, if this role had worked out, I would have stayed, and the fact it didn’t meant I had to accept the fact I’d be leaving.

Its always hot in Singapore, and with Stephan now in his own place with a garden and outside porch, it was the obvious thing to do. The idea was simple, lots of nice meat, lots of beer, and all our friends. Stephan had been working on the plans for this for a long time, the meat was not going to any old thing either, he was going to take real time over it and perfect it to some great recipes he knew – this meant he wanted good meat and to do it properly. We also completely filled the fridge with beer and other drinks. We invited pretty much anyone and everyone we liked to come over, it was a celebration of his new house, and also partly a bit of a send off for me as it was looking less likely I’d still be around for much longer. My memory might be off all this time later, but I think there was about a month left to go on my visa at this point, and I was already well into negotiations with Crown to move me back to the UK.

The day of the BBQ arrived, we even ended up inviting the staff from Country Jamboree, one of our favourite bars and the nicest in Orchard Towers, they play country music, all the staff dress as Cowgirls or Cowboys, and a lot of our friends hang out there. We’d been on really good terms with all the staff, and were friends with most of them. Sadly, they were working that night, so we didn’t expect many would be able to make it, and sadly they couldn’t. Despite that, we had a great time, our good buddy Pinkie came over and joined the fun, and even went to the shop round the corner and bought enough beer to completely re-fill the fridge – it was going to be a long night. Floyd and some friends from Cosafe came over, he brought us some nice packs of ribs from his restaurant – I’d become quite the rib fan, and really liked Cosafe’s ribs as well, so that was a really nice gesture and surprise. The party went on quite late, and eventually everyone departed with only a few of us left, and we eventually headed off for some drinks at CJ’s.

To be continued in part 2 (the last part)…

1 Wedding, A Funeral, Maids & Cowgirls – Singapore: Work, Holiday and no Work

This continues the story of my life working as an Expat in Singapore in 2009…

The Family Visit
Not long into the new year my parents decided to come out for a visit, this meant a good opportunity to take a little time off, and show them around. The photos in this section are mainly taken by my parents while they were here. As there were issues at work I wasn’t able to take time off for the whole of their visit sadly, but despite this we still had a good time and took a fair few pictures.

In order, Sentosa beach, Tanjong Pagar Malaysian Railway Station, Tony Roma’s Ribs, The Penny Black in Boat Quay at night, Boat Quay by day, The Raffles Hotel, Singapore Flyer and F1 track, the Merlion.

They also got a quick tour of the office…
My desk area, the pictures go side by side as displayed on the page, although they don’t line up as there’s a gap between them. I was still drawing anime characters and having my own personal panel of white board was perfect for it.

They also went to see the bird park for a day…

The final image is of Clarke Quay, before we visited the Crazy Elephant.

Work, and Leaving the Company
I’m not going to give details of the issues at work, but after working in support for 2.5 years, and due to some other issues, I’d finally decided it was enough. My health was suffering from the level of stress, and well it was time to move on. In the IT world many places want you out fairly quickly, especially if you deal with customers directly or if you might be in contact with security related data, therefore I was quite lucky and didn’t have to wait long from handing in the notice. For me I had done it, finally thrown in the towel, and I was wondering around City Hall area, and then this sudden overwhelming relief hit me, I suddenly felt free and finally all the stress just went in an instant. If only I had done that sooner, then I probably wouldn’t have felt so ill before, sometimes you can hold on too long, when its better to just move on. Technical Support is not my thing, the technical side and the customer service side of it is fine – if it were that simple then I’d have stayed, the trouble with support is that by nature it soon becomes a numbers game, the company wants to measure everything, time for each ticket, number of tickets, customer satisfaction – all these sound good in practice, but what tends to happen is they then try to push the figures, you have to do more cases and do them faster and increase the satisfaction, this dosn’t always work. If you go too fast, you make mistakes, if you take too many cases and then you get a problem that slows you down before you know it, you get behind on the others. Its a big balancing act, and as many will tell you, support is often a thankless job. I wanted to do something else.

Run for the border
A few days later I was invited back to the office, and we signed the papers and I packed up my things. My good friend Stephan decided to throw in a bit of humour, and gave me his “The Sims 3” bag to take my things back in. It also just happens to have a great big ‘Bon Voyage’ lettering on the side. It still cracks me up now thinking about it. The HR team however decided to cancel my Employment Pass and issue me a 5 day visa via the Immigration Board. The problem with this is that they were not going to pay my final salary until 5 days after my visa expires, the same pay which was going to pay for the relocation and flight back to the UK. When I complained about this, they just did nothing. I was therefore forced to make a day trip to Malaysia, doing this means you leave the country and therefore re-enter and in theory get a new visa. The problem however is that your not really supposed to enter either country without a ticket home, and therefore it was technically possible to be refused entry to both countries, and get stuck in the no-mans land between the two. I would hope and expect the embassy would assist in such matters, but I didn’t exactly want to get to that point. Unfortunately I had run out of time, and had to make the trip, I was on the final day of the visa, and had to leave that day, so off I go. The trip started out ok, but it soon began to rain, and man did it rain, it was torrential, like buckets, there was water flooding everywhere. The MRT (metro system) was fine, but the bus was a bit more ‘fun’ in the heavy rain, especially as I didn’t have an umbrella.

During my parent’s visit, it also rained heavy, these were taken by them while they were here.


While leaving Singapore, the immigration officer stopped me and wanted to have a more detailed chat, no doubt wondering why I was making this trip on the very last day. I explained everything, and he explained the risk above, and said I can go, but that he cannot guarantee if I can get into Malaysia or even back into Singapore, but as it was the last day, he agreed I had no choice, and so off I went. As it turned out, I managed to find a computer fair, and spent the best part of the day wondering around that, still in the rain, before catching the bus back to the border. All day I had this lingering feeling in the back of my mind if there was going to be an issue getting back. The bus trip seemed to take forever, mainly because the rain meant more traffic, and so a huge queue for the border. The actual border part went without any issue, I asked if I could have time so I could try to find new work, and the in-bound officer gave me the full 90 days visa without any problem, I then carried on my trip back to my apartment. In the relief of getting back in, I managed to forget the umbrella I had bought near the computer fair, it was when I got to the train that I remembered, and of course too late to go back for it, but given how well it had gone, it was a small price to pay. I now had 90 days to get everything sorted, and either find new work, or go back home. I started putting my CV out right away, and while waiting for news and do some interviews, I finally got myself a nice stress free holiday, with no work to worry about.


More Photos Soon…

Not had much time to upload photos recently and now there’s quite a backlog forming, here’s a list of the items still to be added in the intended order…

Devon in Winter – Day 3
The lost day – the final photos which were forgotten and were not previously posted, quite a lot of these so will be split over several posts again.

Spring Montage
A collection of photos taken in early spring of this year, a little late now but still worth showing.

Planned upcoming <-Back Posts:

Singapore 2007
Photos of Singapore taken in March 07. This will be the first “<-Back Post” of an event which happened BTB (Before The Blog).

London & The Eye
A set of photos taken some time ago in central London and around the Thames including the London Eye, also BTB.

London Photo Tour
A test of the Cameras – with a friend we take his new Sony SLR to London for an exercise in experimentation and comparison, firstly against a Sony K8001 Cybershot Camera phone and second against a Nikon D50 SLR. We completed our initial test with the two Sony’s on the 22nd June and we’re now waiting for the right conditions to take to the streets again with both SLRs. Photos, review and the results on the way…

Singapore Mobile – Active Again.

Finally got my old Nokia 6230i unlocked, and its now the home of my Singapore number with StarHub, which means those of you in Singapore can call / txt me on that number. If you call me and it cuts off mid-conversation it will be due to running out of credit (as its roaming in UK) But I’ll call you back from the UK number until I get a top-up. Just another note, my Japanese number was a rental phone, so don’t call that any more as its probably with someone else now!

StarHub Logo