Breathtaking skylines, a fusion of cultures and the ideal jumping-off point for Asia, Singapore’s charm runs much deeper for its large expat community. One amongst them is philosophy teacher John Sprague who moved his family to Singapore in 2015, and hasn’t looked back.
We arrived in Singapore seven years ago from Kent in the UK, although I’m originally from the US and my wife is Irish. Our two boys were both aged eleven at the time, they’re now seventeen. It’s been a wonderful place for them to be teenagers and there’s no doubt that our family life has improved since we’ve been here. We’re really happy in Singapore and we intend to stay for the foreseeable future.
Where to eat
Singapore is known for its food, with fruit stalls and wet markets scattered all over the city. My wife is recognised by sight at a handful of them, so if we want to have a delicious meal and are conscious about eating healthily, we’ll buy our ingredients fresh from them. There’s a lot of farming in Malaysia [just across the Johor Strait] so the stalls have fruit and vegetables that haven’t travelled far. There are tons of peppers, of all shapes and colours, and avocados as well – which are always better than in the supermarket. We make amazing enchiladas with peppers, onions, avocados for the guacamole, fresh tomatoes and cilantro (or ‘English parsley’ as it’s known out here) for the salsa.
Whilst there are big restaurants in Singapore – Dempsey Hill is popular with expats and the historic market of Lau Pa Sat also offers delicious dining – in our house, if we want a tasty meal with fresh ingredients, we make it ourselves.
Where to meet people
Activities are a great way to meet people in Singapore. Cycling is really popular and there’s a great group popular with expats called ANZA Cycling, which offers morning rides most days. They group you by average speed so if you want to hang out and chat to people you can, but if you want a breathless sweat-fest then you can go for that. And of course everyone hangs around afterwards and goes for coffee. I also do a bit of climbing and there are loads of climbing gyms in Singapore, which are very popular with the locals. A lot of them have cafes and snack bars attached to them for socialising afterwards.
Where to exercise
Singapore is an outdoor city and is very green. It’s not the urban jungle you would expect if you’re from Manhattan or London. There’s something called the Green Corridor which is the old railway track that runs from Malaysia into downtown Singapore and lots of people walk, jog and cycle along there. I spend lots of time in a place called Kent Ridge which is a range of mountains. They run along the south of the island and you can spend a lot of time trekking back and forth.
Where to escape
Pre-Covid, Bali was an easy jaunt, just a two-and-a-half hour flight away. There are also some lovely islands along the Malaysian coast, whilst Thailand and western Australia are very reachable. But to really get away, I’d recommend the Cameron Highlands, which is near Kuala Lumpur. Singaporeans and expats like to go there because it’s up in the mountains and it’s cold. That’s a novelty for people living in Singapore because there are no seasons here, it’s the same weather every single day of the year.
Where to try something new
There are a lot of water sports here and I have friends who go sailing and wind surfing. My family have taken up wakeboarding and we enjoy that quite a bit. There’s even a wakeboarding park which is on a rail system so you get dragged along by a cable in the sky. We’ve also done it by hiring a boat, on the north of the island, where we spent the day falling in the water.
Where to be mindful
We are in an Asian city so there are Buddhist temples all over the place, as well as Hindu temples, Muslim mosques and Christian churches, and they are all open. You pay your respects and if you talk to the people who are there, they will look after you. Downtown you’ll find temples tucked away between 40-storey buildings; go into one you’re in a totally different world.
Where to see something special
Marina Bay Sands is the classic hotel in Singapore: it’s the three towers with what looks like a spaceship sitting on top. The park associated with it has ‘singing trees’ which look like big mushrooms and at night time they light up and start to play music. There’s also the Singapore Grand Prix which is a four-day festival essentially. The Killers have played there, One Republic, Noel Gallagher…we took the boys to their first concert there. It was great fun.
In general my teenage boys love it here and Singapore is a really good place to raise teenagers. It’s very safe, with no street violence to speak of. It’s also great for outdoor living, so long as you don’t mind the humidity.