Where to order flowers in Singapore

28th July 2020 by Lindsay Yap 3 Min ReadNot all of us have the time (or talent!) to put together flower arrangements – that’s where knowing the best flower delivery services comes in handy. There are lots of great florists in Singapore, offering a wide variety of fresh flowers and bouquets that can be sent to your doorstep. Whether you’re looking for a gift or a centrepiece for your table, here are some places where you can order flowers in Singapore.Urban Meadow FlowersUrban Meadow Flowers was started in 2017 by expats Simon and Marc who wanted to fill the gap in affordable European-inspired flower arrangements in Singapore. These online florists believes that flowers should be a part of everyone’s life – not just for the big occasions. Each weekday morning, they personally select fresh and seasonal flowers to create a unique design for the day. They also only buy what they need; it means there’s no wastage and they can keep their prices low.The order process is straightforward: choose from three sizes (small, medium and large) of the flower arrangement of the day. The blooms come wrapped with a message card and are placed in pretty paper bags with ribbon handles. You can also choose to add on a personalised card, photo or even a vase. Arrangements start from $38 and include free delivery. The store also offers a special package called “Month of Flowers” – four medium or large arrangements (from $258). It’s the perfect gift for occasions such as birthdays plus you’ll save up to 10%! Keep an eye out for their subscription service too which will be launching soon.urbanmeadowflowers.com.sgFerns N PetalsIf you’re looking for variety, Ferns N Petals is the place to go! It offers beautiful flower arrangements for all sorts of occasions, from birthdays, anniversaries to get-well wishes and thank-you gifts. Choose from a wide range of fresh, preserved and dried flowers, including lilies, roses, sunflowers and tulips. These are sourced from all over the world, including Holland, Kenya, China and Malaysia, and come in a variety of pretty arrangements – bouquets, baskets, vases, boxes, you name it. If you’re in a rush or let a special occasion slip your mind, the company even offers same-day and one-hour flower delivery for orders made before 5pm and 6pm respectively. Customers have the option to pair their blooms with a little extra something by opting for one of their popular gift combos. There’s a good variety of items to choose from. These include greeting cards, cakes, chocolates, wines, teddy bears and even personalised gifts like photo frames and mugs. You’ll definitely impress your special someone!9727 9363 | fnp.sgFlower EmpireOffering stunning flower bouquets and boxes, Flower Empire specialises in original and elegant flower arrangements. Each order is approached with a fresh eye, making it exclusive and unique. The floral design company aims to bring across the message that floristry is not just about flowers but about joy that can be shared with others. The freshest flowers in the market are chosen by their creative designer and founder Angela, from countries such as Ecuador, Kenya, Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Japan and New Zealand. Flower Empire’s stylish flower boxes are especially popular amongst customers. The boxes don’t require any maintenance – they come with a special floral foam with water and food to keep the blooms healthy and pretty. To kick it up a notch, opt for the surprise box with a designer flower box – open the box and balloons will fly out! The store is also planning to launch a collection of gift sets with flowers and champagne. You’ll be glad to hear that there’s free daily doorstep delivery for all orders (no minimum order). You can also get same-day delivery for selected bouquets if you order before 1pm.flowerempire.sg | instagram.com/flowerempire.sg Looking for more about living in Singapore?Best parks for picnics in SingaporeLooking for a family photographer?

Mozzie and repellent myths – debunked!

20th July 2020 by Lindsay Yap 4 Min ReadThe dengue situation in Singapore is now serious, with active clusters being found and infections being reported daily (an average of 200 cases each day). It’s even been announced that this year’s dengue outbreak might be the worst one in the country’s history! While we’re all generally aware of what to look out for, there are plenty of myths about mosquito repellents and mosquitoes that you can come across. Here, the team at Thermacell Singapore run through some of them and tell us why they’re not true.#1 “You can only get bitten by mosquitoes at night”While mosquitoes are commonly known to bite at night, Aedes mosquitoes are daytime biters. In fact, their peak biting periods are in the morning after sunrise and in the evening before sunset. And how do you spot one? Aedes mosquitoes have characteristic black and white stripes on their legs and body, giving them the alternative name, the tiger mosquito. #2 “Mosquitoes prefer certain blood types”The myth about mosquitoes favouring a certain blood type started with a misinterpretation of a study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology back in 2004. Past studies showed that blood type O was the preferred choice among mosquitoes; however, the authors eventually concluded that the results of their new study didn’t strongly support that claim.Mosquitoes actually rely on three cues to find their target:Carbon dioxide that we exhaleThermal signals from our body heat (to differentiate between blood hosts and objects that don’t emit body heat such as trees)Lactic acid from our skin and breath (they’re attracted to people who emit higher levels of it)#3 “Applying mosquito repellent once is enough”Like sunscreen, skin-application mosquito repellents also wear off over time. Here’s how you can apply them correctly:Apply as liberally as possible to all exposed areas of the skin.Reapply after swimming, sweating and towelling. Some repellents include a recommended number of hours before reapplying on the label, so read instructions carefully.Be careful when choosing repellents for young children and babies. Look for products that cater to them, and consider combining non-application methods such as zone repellents, mosquito nets for strollers and long clothing.When sunscreen is also required, apply it first, followed by mosquito repellent.#4 “Natural and organic insect repellents are better”It’s not true that repellents made with chemicals are not as effective or safe to use. With all products, it’s important to verify the authenticity of product claims before using them.In Singapore, mosquito repellents must be registered with the National Environment Agency (NEA) under the Control of Vectors and Pesticides Act. You can find out more about approved repellents in Singapore here. You can also refer to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) for more options. Approved repellents are in line with safety and efficacy regulations.#5 “Lemongrass, pandan and neem can repel mosquitoes”While lemongrass contains citronella oil in its leaves and stems, the oil only works when extracted in its pure form from the plants. The plants themselves do not have mosquito repelling properties.What’s more, without proper maintenance, overgrown plants can pose mosquito risks as they provide shelter for resting mosquitoes and stagnant water for breeding. #6 “Burning citronella candles and incense can repel mosquitoes”Currently, there is no scientific evidence that proves that citronella candles and incense are effective repellents against mosquitoes. Also, mosquitoes detect these scents differently and only through direct or close contact to concentrated quantities.#7 “Mosquitoes can only breed in large quantities of stagnant water”Aedes mosquitoes don’t need much water to lay their eggs – they can breed in a puddle of water as small as a 20-cent coin! So ensure that you look out for these in your home. You can also check out NEA’s handy list of potential mosquito breeding spots to help you.#8 “If a member of my household gets dengue, I’m safe, since it cannot be spread directly from one person to another”The virus can be transmitted through an (initially uninfected) Aedes mosquito that bit a dengue-infected person. Since mosquitoes are generally weak fliers compared to other insects, they tend to bite within a close proximity. So it actually means that those close to the infected person or dengue cluster could be still at risk.Protecting yourself from mosquitoesThermacell has been producing zone mosquito repellents over the past 20 years. Originating from the US, the brand’s products offer a signature “zone of protection” that keeps mosquitoes up to 4.5 metres (15 feet) away. They are also approved by NEA and the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA).You’ll find repellers and lanterns as well as torches that are perfect for backyards and other outdoor spaces. Cordless and portable, the repellers and lanterns are handy to bring out and about. And, unlike lotions and sprays, they don’t need to be reapplied. Each scent-free product works by heating up a repellent mat containing Allethrin (a naturally occurring repellent in chrysanthemum flowers) using a fuel cartridge, dispersing the repellent into the air to create a “zone of protection”.Snag a deal online!Quote “EXPAT10” when you checkout on the Thermacell Singapore online store and enjoy 10% off. This one-time offer is valid for regular-priced items until 31 December 2021. Not applicable for use with other promotions, discounts, refills and combo deals. Delivery charges will still apply for orders below $100.Written in collaboration with Thermacell Singapore:thermacell.com.sgRead on for more about living in Singapore.The expat’s guide to where to live in SingaporeWhere to donate items in Singapore

Volunteering: How to help migrant workers

6th July 2020 by Melinda Murphy 4 Min ReadWant to know how to help Singapore’s migrant workers through the COVID-19 crisis? Here we meet DIPA SWAMINATHAN, the Singaporean woman behind one organisation that’s been supporting migrant workers for years – even more so now in this crisis – and we learn what we can do to pitch in too. There’s still a lot to be done after the Circuit Breaker period as nearly one in five people living in Singapore is a migrant worker, and more than 300,000 of them are living in dorms. Tell us about the organisation you founded.It’s Raining Raincoats started in 2015. I was doing bits here and there on my own to support the migrant workers. A Facebook post in a now-defunct group went a bit viral and the Singaporean Kindness Movement encouraged me to create an official organisation to support migrant workers.At the time, my suggestion was to carry around disposable raincoats and give them to migrant workers as they’re often caught in the rain without one. When the government asked me for a name, I came up with It’s Raining Raincoats. Now, we do a lot more than just raincoats.What’s the mission of the organisation?It’s a simple mission: support migrant workers. We try to do whatever it takes to do that, short of legal representation. No worker who comes to us in need goes away without help. We’ve been successful because we’ve come up with fairly simple, innovative and imaginative ways residents can reach out to migrant workers in need.You have a big job as the Assistant General Counsel at Singtel.How do you have time to do this too?I’m hooked. I get such satisfaction when we get these heart-warming messages from the migrant workers saying things such as, “Thank you. I was so hungry. Your gift meant a lot. God bless you.” It’s an empowering feeling knowing I can help somebody. Yes, it takes a lot out of me to do all this, but it also energises me. I wake up every morning buzzing with ideas, limited only by my time to give. It also helps that I have an amazing team supporting me.How does It’s Raining Raincoats help migrant workers?In normal times, we run several drives for migrant workers throughout the year. For example, at Deepavali, we do drive-by pizza drop-offs. At Christmas, we make sure every worker gets a gift, even if it’s something small such as Tiger Balm that the worker can use. Each gift is wrapped with a handwritten note. We have 30 to 40 collection points across the country for that. We also run a year-round activity, collecting unsold food from designated Starbucks outlets, four times a week, all year long. That obviously is suspended now, but we always need help with these types of ongoing things and we will continue to need help, long after the crisis has passed. Do you need volunteers?We have been very fortunate with lots of people reaching out to help the migrant workers during this crisis. In fact, the number of volunteers has swollen, doubling in size from our normal ranks and we now have about 500 people on our roster. Managing them all becomes a whole separate problem for an all-volunteer group. My hope is that we keep some of these amazing volunteers after the current crisis is over. There will be a lot of clean up from this such as workers not being paid; people too weak to work; breadwinners who no longer have jobs; figuring out where do they go and more. This will not abate soon and our worry is that this crisis will not disappear overnight.How can somebody help the migrant workers now?The best way to help just now is for a person to come to us with a fully-formed and executed idea. Once you tell us what you’ve done, we can then help with the last-mile assistance, meaning we can help you get your collection to the workers in need.For example, you can self-organise a drive in your condo, at your school, within an organisation or amongst friends. Once you have everything collected, we can help get it there. Normally, we accept pre-loved items, but just now, we need to be careful not to inadvertently bring germs to the migrant workers so all items must be new.If you look on the Facebook page, you can see what’s needed, but items to help pass the time such as games, puzzles and cards, old phones in working condition, data top-up cards, books and magazines in their language, and snacks are always appreciated. It’s better to give smaller amounts in bigger quantities so we can spread the joy. For example, give five $10 data top-up cards rather than one $50 card. The government is providing Wi-Fi for these workers, but there is always more needed.For more information about It’s Raining Raincoats, check out the Facebook page at fb.com/itsrainingraincoats.This article first appeared in the June 2020 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase a copy or subscribe so you never miss an issue!

Guide to being self-employed in Singapore

15th June 2020 by Lindsay Yap 3 Min ReadAccording to the World Bank, as much as 14% of the workforce in Singapore in 2019 was self-employed. While you may have to manage most things on your own, there are benefits of self-employment, such as flexible hours, workload and more. This can be particularly handy if you have other commitments like taking care of young children. The team at Pacific Prime answers some FAQs about being self-employed in Singapore, including legal issues and health insurance.What defines being self-employed?In Singapore, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) categorises freelance work as a type of self-employment. Some other examples of self-employment include being a taxi driver, operating an online business, or working as a real estate or insurance agent.The IRAS has also compiled a list of important details for self-employed individuals to take note of, including filing for income tax. Can an expat be self-employed in Singapore?Legal self-employment in Singapore is only possible if you’re a Singaporean citizen or permanent resident. Additionally, you’ll have to pay income tax and contribute to your Medisave account, which is the mandatory medical savings program for all Singapore permanent residents and citizens. As an expat, you’ll need either a Work Permit, S Pass or Employment Pass to work legally. Fortunately, there are two ways around this. The first option is to set up a local business, which will require having a director who is a Singaporean resident. Alternatively, you can apply for an Entrepass, which will require you to incorporate a company. Additionally, you’ll have to raise funding or look for partnerships with approved organisations.What if my spouse or partner is a resident?It is illegal to work while you’re staying in Singapore under a Dependant’s Pass (DP) or a Long Term Visit Pass (LTVP) without a Letter of Consent, Work Permit, Employment Pass or S Pass. An employer would typically apply for a permit from the Ministry of Manpower.  The Letter of Consent, however, accommodates DP or LTVP holders who are living in Singapore under their spouse or partner’s EP. If the EP expires, the Letter of Consent immediately becomes invalid.Do self-employed expats need a business license?A business license isn’t necessary for self-employed or freelance work in Singapore, though some industries require it. For example, if you plan on running a real estate agency, you’ll have to get a license from the Council of Estate Agents (CEA). Similarly, you’ll need to get a license from the Land Transport Authority (LTA) if you want to provide a ride-sharing service. You’ll also need a license if you want to be a food stall hawker or an insurance agent.How about health insurance?Citizens and permanent residents in Singapore contribute to mandatory national health insurance called Medishield. All they have to do is pay an affordable yearly premium to help cover inpatient hospitalisation and medical treatment. As an expat, you’ll need to secure an expat health insurance plan in Singapore if you want to avoid paying out of your pocket. Most expat employees working in Singapore will have medical insurance from their employers. However, if you’re a freelancer or self-employed, your only option is to get your own personal health insurance. How does individual health insurance differ from employer-provided health insurance?One good thing about employer-provided health insurance (or group health insurance) is that pre-existing medical conditions are covered. Most individual health insurance policies, on the other hand, do not cover medical conditions that you had prior to purchasing the plan. That said, group health insurance plans often offer fewer benefits. For instance, some employers won’t provide coverage for dental, maternity or vision care. Buying your own plan allows you to choose the coverage you need. Are there any other insurance plans I should get?You won’t have access to worker’s compensation insurance, a type of employer-provided insurance that ensures you still have income if you can’t work for some time. The good news is that you can purchase business interruption insurance or other sorts of income protection instead. These can be real lifesavers in situations such as injury or sickness.Want to find out more?Pacific Prime Singapore has years of experience in helping expats and their families find the right health insurance plan. Its team of experts are on hand to answer insurance-related questions and provide free plan comparisons and quotes. Contact them now.Written in collaboration with:Pacific Prime Singapore18 Cross Street, China Square Central, #14-056346 3781 | pacificprime.sgRead on for more about insurance and other health-related topics in Singapore:Top six health issues in SingaporeLocal vs international health insurance

6 ways to help out during COVID-19

9th June 2020 by Expat Living 3 Min ReadMillions of livelihoods have been affected by COVID-19 – and we’re not sure how long the situation may last. If you’re in position to help those in Singapore who are struggling in the pandemic, from small businesses to vulnerable communities, there are lots of options. Here are some ideas for starters – a small act can go a long way!#1 Shop onlineMost of our favourite stores may not have opened their doors yet, but we can still show our support by shopping online. Whether it’s your favourite furniture store or grocer, many companies have online platforms that are easy to browse and order from. Best of all, you can get everything sent right to your doorstep.#2 Buy cash vouchers or packagesSome brands and entertainment centres are offering advanced purchase packages and cash vouchers that you can use when things are up and running again. Not only will you be helping them through this difficult time, you can look forward to enjoying their services later on! #3 Choose localAnother thing you can do is to visit your local hawker centre and drop in to small neighbourhood eateries and cafés that may be having a tough time. It’s the smaller places that really need our help right now! Plus, there are also small home-based businesses that we can support.We also have a great list of restaurants with delivery and takeaway options – some have great dining deals to snag! And, if you’re able to, it’s a nice gesture to add a tip for your food delivery guys (or even order a meal for them – GrabFood allows this option).#4 Volunteer your timeCharities and organisations are working around the clock to help people in need. There are many ways you can help, from befriending and accompanying the elderly for medical appointments to packing meals and tutoring needy students. Head to sgunited.gov.sg to find out how you can help.There’s also Love Translated, a cool initiative where you can send encouraging messages to migrant workers in Singapore. Just WhatsApp your message to 8110 5683 and it’ll be sent to the workers in their native languages!#5 Donate moneyIf you’re keen to give a cash donation, there are many causes to contribute to. Giving.sg is a great platform for finding out who you can donate to. They include heartwarming ground-up initiatives that have started in Singapore. Virus-specific relief is also listed. For instance, you can contribute to the Migrant Workers’ Assistance Fund to sponsor meals for foreign workers, Beyond Social Services to provide Wi-Fi access for low-income families or AWARE to help women who are victims of sexual assault. The list goes on.We also shouldn’t forget practitioners in the arts scene – many of them are struggling financially due to cancelled performances and gigs. You can send in donations to help them during this period. Some non-profit local theatre companies to check out include Wild Rice and The Singapore Repertory Theatre. #6 Donate essential itemsAnd, of course, you can make in-kind donations for items that different communities need during this time. If you have working laptops lying around at home, for example, send them to Engineering Good. They’ll fix them up and pass them along to needy individuals. Or, if you’re good at sewing, join the efforts by Masks Sewn With Love to make reusable cloth masks for vulnerable communities in Singapore.Along with masks, sanitising products are also in high demand. If you’ve got some of these to spare, why not pass them along to others who need them more? Contribute.sg and Masks for All SG have teamed up to collect and distribute these items. Find out more now.City of Good is also working with charities to find out specific items that they need, from antibacterial soap to thermometers. Find out more about how you can help here. Looking for more about living in Singapore?Virtual therapy and counselling sessionsLook chic with a mask on!

Why join one of the expat associations?

8th June 2020 by Rebecca Bisset 4 Min ReadIf you’re a newcomer, joining one of the expat associations is a great idea. They’re ideal for meeting like-minded people or getting involved in a hobby or sports group. But, even if you’re a long-term expat like me (22 years now!), friends leave regularly and sometimes you just need to boost your social network.Life stages also change. If the kids have flown the nest, it might be time to find some new interests; or, if they’re going to school, you might want to get back into the job market. Expat Associations in Singapore can help in many ways.There are a few good associations for expats in Singapore. We talk to the team from the American Association of Singapore (AAS). They’ve been active in Singapore for over a century – obviously with a few changes to the team!Why join the American Association of Singapore?The main differences between AAS and other associations for expatsAside from being one of the island’s oldest associations, at over 100 years old, a uniqueness we have is our family tree. We actually chartered quite a few of the American organisations in Singapore that grew organically as the need arose; following AAS came the American Women’s Association (AWA), then The American Club, Singapore American School (SAS), AmCham, SACAC for counselling and youth sports, Boy Scouts of America Troop 7 and the American Dragons Dragon Boat Team. We also have close ties with the US Marines and US Navy League, as well as the US Embassy.What’s great about the solid relationships we have with these organisations is that we not only offer a fantastic pillar of support to our collective community, we have opportunities to collaborate on a huge number of events. The main aim of the associationAAS is all about celebrating American culture through our events, and this revolves around our motto, “Have Fun, Give Back, Be Involved”. The AAS team genuinely loves getting members together and helping them get the best out of Singapore. We do this through our events – including our American heritage major events and smaller Connexions events, the most recent of which have been a huge hit online – along with our Careers Resource Centre for Excellence (CRCE) service, volunteering at charitable organisations we support, and staying connected with our publications, Living in Singapore magazine and the Living in Singapore Reference Guidebook.We can’t wait to start ramping up our major events soon – we’ve got the 87th George Washington Ball on our calendar for 27 February next year already!The demographics of your membersWe’re mostly made up of US citizens, but we are very much a “come one, come all” organisation, with members of all ages from all over the world. Our members hold a “family membership” and we look to cater for all in our membership base.The most popular activities or groups that members can get involved in?Our “At The Table” women’s career and networking and Metworks men’s networking and Coffee Connexions meet-up groups are our monthly event staples. Plus, once the current restrictions are lifted, we’ll be reintroducing our Burger Crawl, Quiz Night, Newbie Night events and the Living in Singapore Talk, based on our guidebook.Our major events, such as Toys for Tots at Christmas-time, Thanksgiving Picnic and our Fourth of July Celebration, are fabulous fun for all the family and very much at the heart of what we do. As too are our long-standing annual George Washington Ball and Ambassador’s Cup Golf Tournament. How much does it cost to join, and roughly how many events do you have a year in “normal” times?AAS Membership is $120, and AAS and CRCE Membership, including our career service, is $220 – and that’s for all the family. This is great value in view of the fact that we have at least two smaller events per week and five major events each year.What’s New!Like many organisations at the moment, we’ve been agile in how we can best serve our community. Our virtual events have been highly successful and we foresee a demand for this in the future. We recently held a very well-received At the Table event online, and our Career Counsellors have been hosting virtual one-on-one sessions with those who need some career advice. We’ve also begun collaborating with partner groups, such as The Growth Faculty, to bring big names in online events to our members’ screens, which is exciting.To find out more about the AAS, email [email protected], or call 6738 0371aasingapore.com

Plants in Singapore

No doubt you’ve been out walking around Singapore more than usual during the Circuit Breaker. Maybe you’ve noticed more plants than you do when zipping by in a car. But what are they exactly? There are so many different types of flowers, trees and other plants in Singapore – some are native, but heaps have been imported over the years. Here’s a handful to satisfy your curiosity plus some interesting stats! Watch this space for more…Jungle FlameThese beautiful plants are found all over Singapore. They’re also prevalent in Myanmar, where a romantic marriage custom involves building a floating garden and planting jungle flame on it. On the wedding day, the bride sits on the garden in her finery; the ropes holding the garden in place are cut and she floats down the river to meet her groom. Pong PongMany Singapore plants have elongated leaf tips called “drip tips”; they’re designed so rainwater can run off quickly without creating mould or bacteria. A common drip-tip plant here is the pong pong, also called the suicide plant – it bears a fruit known as othalanga whose potent poison has been used in suicides and even murder.BougainvilleaThese stunners are all over Singapore in a variety of colours, yet the colourful part isn’t the flower at all – it’s a special kind of leaf called a bract. The true flowers are tiny and white. Bougainvillea sap is mildly toxic; if ingested in large enough quantities, it can make you quite sick. The leaves aren’t toxic, but stay away from the sharp thorns as a prick can lead to a skin rash. Sugar PalmBig bunches of these trees, which grow up to 20 metres tall, look like strands of green pearls. An important sugar source over the centuries, they are harvested year-round and can produce 20 to 30 litres a day. Sugar palms only grow in diverse forest environments, so they can’t be planted in rows like palm oil. They’re a great source of food for animals, with three times more energy than sugar cane. Palm sugar is usually produced in an eco-friendly way, and is healthier for humans than white sugar. Sun DewThis plant eats bugs! When it feels an insect on its sticky, specialised leaves, it moves its tentacles towards the centre of the leaf. These tentacles contain digestive enzymes that slowly digest prey, leaving only the exoskeleton. Once the tentacles have flung inwards, they can’t be unwound or used again. No worries: the plant makes many new leaves every few days. Butterfly PeaEver tried one of those magical colour-changing cocktails? The secret ingredient is the butterfly pea, whose dried flowers produce a blue solution that turns purple when lemon juice is added! The same blue pigment is used in Peranakan desserts such as kueh salat. People swear by the plant’s medicinal benefits, too, from improving eyesight to enhancing the immune system and strengthening hair. But before you go on the hunt for some flowers yourself, remember it’s illegal to pluck roadside plants in Singapore! Traveller’s PalmThese giant fans sticking up in the air aren’t true palms; rather, they produce big, erect flowers like heliconias. But they seldom bloom in Singapore due to the wet weather. The fans supposedly always lie in an east-west orientation, serving as a crude compass for travellers (though it’s not necessarily true). This tree collects a lot of rainwater – each hollow leaf base can hold about a litre, making it a favourite for mosquitos. Singapore is aggressively pruning them to fight dengue. Red Lip TreeYou know how it is: you walk by an enormous house and strain to get a look at it, but you can’t because of the hedge. The trouble-making plant just might be red lip tree, as it’s often used as decorative fencing. The red leaves are edible, by the way, with a spicy, peppery and slightly botanical flavour. Be careful, though; there’s another plant with red leaves called the blindness tree; it’s highly toxic and shouldn’t even be handled without gloves!Lipstick PlantNot be confused with the above, this plant native to Singapore has flowers that look like giant red lipsticks peeking out of dark tubes. You can buy them at the nurseries to grow indoors, but in the wild, the lipstick plant grows as an epiphyte, climbing on tree branches and soaking up water from Singapore’s humid air.Wormwood (aka Mugwort)If you’ve walked in Fort Canning, you’ll have seen a lot of wormwood. Also known as Asian dill, this herb has a dill-like flavour and slightly bitter aroma. It’s been used in traditional medicine for hundreds of years, and also to flavour absinthe (the drink’s name comes from the scientific name for wormwood). For a long time, it was blamed for the problems caused by the drink, so much so that wormwood – long considered a hallucinogen and potential poison – was banned in America from 1912 to 2007. Today, it’s legal again. The Handkerchief TreeThis tree is named for new leaves at the end of branches that are almost white in colour and resemble soft handkerchiefs. They hide small reddish-purple flowers inside. These harden over a few days and turn green, joining the others on the branch. Birds love these trees, which have big, brown, round fruit pods. The timber is quite strong, too, and can be used for making furniture.Want to know what the plant is you’re looking at? Try the free Picture This app. Simply take a photo and it will immediately give you loads of details and even save your photo.Singapore’s plants in numbers• 4712 flora species• 88 tree families• 1,689 tree species• 259 heritage treesSource: NParksNParks has a website that identifies every plant in Singapore: nparks.gov.sg/florafaunaweb. Also, see the cool interactive map at trees.sg.This article first appeared in the June 2020 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase a copy or subscribe so you never miss an issue!

Now what? Losing your job in Singapore

It’s happening all over the world. People are losing their livelihoods. The pandemic has brought the world’s economy to its knees and millions are now out of work; businesses are folding; and many are losing their jobs in Singapore, too. We’ve all read the statistics and they’re just plain bad – downright awful, even. If the virus doesn’t get your body, it just might get your wallet.But when job loss happens to your own family, the statistics become a reality. And, frankly, it knocks the wind right out of you. I know because we learned this week that my husband’s company is shuttering its Singapore office. The timing is awful. The job he’s held for two decades as a commodities broker is now gone —  just four weeks after his father died. We have now been living here in Singapore for more than seven of those years and now — overnight — our whole life is turned upside down. We have no idea what the next month will hold. I hate this damn virus. I hate 2020.Job losses are stacking up across the globe. So, what do you need to know if you lose your job in Singapore? Employment Pass basicsFor many expats living here, that all-important Employment Pass (EP) is key to staying in Singapore. The EP must be cancelled within one week of the employee’s last day of work with the company. The cancellation takes immediate effect. Once the EP has been cancelled, the former EP holder will be issued an acknowledgement letter and a  Short Term Visit Pass (STVP) that’s good for thirty days. Yup. Thirty days. You have just thirty days to get your life in order. Are there exceptions, especially now? Spencer Chew, a Senior Legal Associate with Consilium Law Corporation, helps distill the current situation.“An STVP holder can seek an extension through ICA. There have been a number of STVPs extended due to the COVID-19 situation. The employer can request an extension for its former employee because of the pandemic situation using this form. This form is applicable if:the employee’s pass has already been cancelled, but the employer is unable to send the pass holder home due to the present travel restrictions in place; ora flight has been booked to send the pass holder home by 31 July 2020.”All the passes tied to the EP such as the Dependant’s Pass (DP) and  Long Term Visit Pass (LTVP) will also be automatically cancelled at the same time as the EP. If  the DP holder happens to hold a job with a Letter of Consent (LOC), the LOC will also be automatically cancelled.That’s what I have to work at Expat Living, an LOC. That means I also will lose my job. Both of us will be out of work and the whole family has to go. But go where? We have no idea. Heading back to the US with 36 million people unemployed and a raging pandemic doesn’t seem optimal, but unless we find other jobs, that’s likely where we’ll end up.Other passesIf you want to stay in Singapore, there are a few things you can do while you look for a job that comes with an EP.High-earning EP holders can apply for something called a Personalised Employment Pass (PEP), a one-time extension that is good for three years. To qualify, current EP holders must make at least $12,000 a month and overseas foreign professionals need to pull in $18,000 a month or more on their last drawn paycheck. You should apply for this pass before the EP is cancelled so get right on it. If you get a PEP, your family can generally get the same passes they held before. This means everybody can keep going to school and working while the EP holder looks for another bread-winning job. PEP holders cannot be business owners or engage in entrepreneurial activities. Unfortunately, the government has been issuing very few PEPs in the current environment. Another possibility is applying for Student Passes for your children if they are enrolled in a recognised program within Singapore. Most international schools will help you with the application as it’s in their vested interested to keep your kids at school, but not all schools can do this so you’ll need to check. Then, only the mother or grandmother of the child can apply for a Long Term Visit Pass (LTVP), allowing the mother and child to stay in Singapore even after the EP holder loses a job.Spencer has advice on these passes, too. “Some schools also require both parents’ authorisation to apply for their children to be placed on a Student’s Pass. This sometimes becomes an issue when parents are going through a divorce, and the EP holder refuses to provide authorisation. In such circumstances, the parent without an EP may have to apply to the Family Justice Courts (FJC) to seek the necessary orders against the parent who is refusing.”Setting up your own businessYou can even try setting up your own business by incorporating through ACRA. Be sure to plan well and use a company to walk you through the incorporation process and know that there may be more red tape and hurdles to cross than in your home country. If you’re not a Singapore PR or citizen, you’ll have to have a local person act as your director; most of the companies who set up companies can provide the director for you for a fee. They will also charge a fee every time there needs to be an official signature, which could be expensive if your company requires a lot of contracts to be signed. Take a look at this Expat Living article, which has more about what you need to know to set up your own company.You can set up your business with a pipe dream, but then applying for an EP under your business is far more involved. First off, be prepared for a lot of paperwork. MOM will probably want details on the company’s activities and proof of ongoing business operations such as bank statements, sales invoices issued to major clients, financial statements, major client contracts secured, and latest corporate bank statements. They’ll likely want details on the company’s products, licenses and photos of their operations. The main concern is the financial health of the company.How are things different during COVID-19?I think most of us know that, in light of COVID-19, the Singapore Government has restricted entry of foreigners into Singapore in order to reduce the number of imported cases. That means that employers are encouraged to defer all new applications and appeals for EPs until after the end of the circuit breaker period (1 June 2020 – unless extended further). It is unlikely that MOM will approve any new pass applications during this period unless the applicant is already in Singapore.After the circuit breaker period, companies can resume applications for new work passes. However, the ban on the entry of Short Term Visitors into Singapore may well continue to be in place. For applicants who are not currently in Singapore, employers will have to get approval from MOM for employees to enter Singapore and only a limited number of these will likely be granted until the situation stabilises. Even if entry approval is granted, the employee must serve a fourteen-day Stay Home Notice period at a designated facility upon arrival.All to say, getting another job approved in Singapore during this pandemic is likely to be far harder than usual. But perhaps in some ways, if you’re already living here and the employer really needs somebody, this could work to your advantage as nobody else can come in from outside the country. The field is narrowed in your favour in some ways.Negotiating severanceSeverance packages must be negotiated, but there are some things employees are obliged to pay to a foreign employee, such as the following:unpaid salaryunused accrued annual leave entitlementsalary in lieu of noticematernity benefits (where applicable)other benefits under employment contractBut there are some other, non-obligatory things that you might try to have added to your severance package.ex-gratia paymentscash allowancescontinuation of insurance planout-placement serviceslegal feesSearching for new jobLooking for a new job during a pandemic may seem impossible. Isn’t the whole globe out of work? How can you interview just now? Don’t worry – there are jobs out there. But where do you start?Well, first of all, take a deep breath then tell every single person you know that you’re looking for a job. Let your network of friends and colleagues help you. Don’t get hung up being embarrassed. Your friends understand that the economy is awful and COVID-19 job loss is part of our current situation. Remember that most people get jobs through networking. There are still people hiring. In fact, there’s even a special page on LinkedIn where companies are listing jobs. And, of course, there are the traditional head hunters.There are lots of job search sites, too, such as Job Street and Monster. And now Google even lists jobs. You can type in, “Journalism, job, Singapore” and Google will list the vacancies.Dealing with landlordsMost expats probably have a diplomatic clause in their contract. They’re all a bit different, but generally, if you’ve lived in your home for twelve months, you can give two months notice and get out of your lease if you’re being transferred out of Singapore by your employers, or if you cease to be employed. But it’s important to read your lease well as not all are the same. Some also require you to pay a portion of the rental agent fee if you ditch out of your contract too soon. Some landlords are even more difficult, nitpicking every little thing as they’re frustrated at losing months of expected rent. Work hard to get your home in good order before moving out. Perhaps even work with your landlord to find somebody to take over your lease. Spencer helps decode what to expect in these COVID-19 times. “Generally, unless the tenancy agreement specifically stipulates, the landlord isn’t under any duty to offer concessions to the tenant, and the tenant remains bound to his obligations under the agreement.”So if you don’t have a diplomatic clause, you may be stuck. Pay particular attention and look out for things in your lease such as a diplomatic clauses, a right to terminate clause, or any force majeure clauses.What’s a force majeure? It’s a provision that addresses unexpected external circumstances that may prevent a party from discharging its duties. Does COVID-19 count? Well, the two parties have to agree on the scope and definition of these external circumstances, and force majeure clauses are usually drafted narrowly. It will depend on each and every situation.Spencer explains that it’s usually for the tenant to prove that:the event in the clause has occurred and results in the tenant being unable to or delayed in performing his contractual obligations;the non-performance is due to the unforeseen and unexpected circumstance;the circumstance is beyond the tenant’s control;there are no reasonable steps that the tenant can/could have taken to avoid or mitigate the event or its effects.Moving home when you lose your jobIf you don’t get a new job and none of the other passes come through, the law in Singapore is that the company that held your EP must pay to repatriate your family and your belongings. Spencer explains, “A company is responsible for any costs associated with repatriating the foreign employee unless the EP consents otherwise in writing, like in the employee’s contract. The requirement is statutory and, as such, as long as the foreign employee holds a valid EP, this is a legal obligation on the part of the employer.”So, even if you are working without a contract, but your company sponsored your EP, the company must pay all repatriation costs.Be sure to also check on your medical insurance. Will it cover you when you move? Many companies offer health care extensions, but if you aren’t so lucky, you’ll need to figure out your options back home. Be vigilant about this. You do not want a period of no coverage, now moreso than ever. Be sure to get medical records to take with you, and check in with the orthodontist on your kid’s plan so that you can get the same care where you move.I also spoke to our vet and it turns out that moving your pet home is harder now, too. The prices have increased dramatically in some cases and some countries are requiring quarantine prior to flying when they used to not. The quarantine only adds to the price tag. She recommended using Jason’s Pet Relocation.Culling your thingsYou’ll likely want to dump stuff before you leave. Wattage on appliances is often different where you’re headed and you cannot bring some things into another country such as alcohol. But even getting rid of things has changed during COVID-19.You can still get pass things on to others via Facebook pages such as Real Singapore Expat Wives Classifieds and Classifieds – Singapore Expat Wives. Or you can try selling them on Carousell. Lots of people also sell stuff on their school’s Facebook page. But be forewarned: people aren’t buying like they normally do in May when everybody is repatriating. Everybody is a bit scared of germs. Selling things may be tough.If you want to donate items, many of the usuals such as New2U Thrift Shop, MINDS Shop and Metta Welfare Association are currently closed. However, you can still list donations on Pass It On, and The Salvation Army donation-in-kind booths are still open. And, of course, you can send items home to your helper’s family for $150 a box to the Philippines.Managing emotionsOf course, a big part of leaving when you lose your job is the emotions that go with it. There’s shock, denial, anger, grief, embarrassment – it’s all there. You need to give yourself space to embrace all these things: the feelings are important to acknowledge. Yet you can’t let yourself be paralysed by it all. You have too much to organise in those thirty days.Still, juggling these emotions is downright hard. Maria Luedeke from Aspire Counselling offers some advice.“Who we are is largely socially determined by what we do, so the loss of a job is the loss of a part of our identity. It can trigger all sorts of anxieties. It’s important to focus on the fact that while you didn’t choose to leave your job, you do have a choice as to how you react to losing your job. Coping with job loss positively revolves are three basic areas: first, planning for changed financial circumstances; second, cognitive restructuring of thoughts and ideas around job loss; and third, taking definite action including setting goals and structured work aimed at taking charge of the situation and moving towards a positive outcome.”If you’re having a really tough time, find a qualified counsellor or coach to help you move more positively forward.Letting your helper goFor me, one of the hardest thoughts about leaving Singapore and losing our jobs would be saying goodbye to our amazing helper, Cristina. She started working for us the month we got here when my children were just toddlers. She is a huge part of our family. I want to make sure Cristina finds a good family who will treat her well. She is an absolute gem.And so one of the very first people I told our news to was Jennifer Yarbrough, my good friend who owns White Glove, an employment agency that places helpers who have been working in Singapore. Jennifer matches families and helpers and also helps apply for EPs and DPs. She has a few suggestions:First and foremost, make sure your helper finds a reputable agent who will help ensure they find another job quickly.Suggest your helper join Facebook groups to aid in their job search. Jennifer is the admin on Singapore Expat Helpers, and she posts jobs daily and keep everyone updated on the latest changes with MOM.It’s very important to write your helper a letter of recommendation so that she can provide it to prospective employers, both now and in the future. It helps get her interviews.Be flexible. Let your helper interview as often as she can, even during work hours. She may also need your help setting up a virtual interview. This will help her secure employment quickly.Saying goodbye in the time of COVID-19Part of the grief is having to say goodbye to friends; and that may not be possible with the pandemic under way. If some form of the Circuit Breaker is still in place, your kids may not get to go back to school, which means it’s very likely those big leaving parties we’ve all grown accustomed to won’t be happening. How sad to slink out of Singapore after so many years without getting to hug our dear friends goodbye!I’m a grown-up. I can handle all this. But I’m worried about my children, ages nine and eleven. They moved here as toddlers. We haven’t told them yet, hoping to have some idea of where we’re going before we drop the news. Maria has advice on helping children, too.“Leaving friends is never easy, and this is all the more complicated in the middle of the Circuit Breaker measures. The same things you’re doing to stay socially connected right now can help children process their loss. FaceTime and Zoom playdates as well as social media, video greetings and slideshows can all be used to create farewell parties, memory ‘boxes’ and points of connection and ceremony for our children. Moving and grief go hand-in-hand so it’s important to acknowledge that your child will be grieving — for a loss of their friends, school, home – and also the pervasive grief that we are experiencing globally right now for the loss of our ‘normal lives’.”Basically, we’re all going to be sad – and that’s okay. Be there for your kids. Hug them. Make them feel safe. And let them grieve. Then try to find something to look forward to and set some goals for them, too.So now what?Recently, I wrote about the silver lining. My mom used to tell me if I looked hard enough, I’d always find one. And I know there will be one here, too. I actually love reinvention and new challenges. It’s good for the soul to “uproot thyself” and to try something new. Things usually work out for the best. Jobs are like evolution. The next one is usually better than the last.But for today, for the moment, the great unknown is a bit overwhelming. Still, I’ve already begun to see a glimmer of good. So many of our friends have stepped up to help us, sharing our resumes and giving us words of encouragement. People have brought us food. Even my physical therapist gave me a free session and a flower. Crisis has reminded me that I have a lot of love in my life. We’re going to be okay.In case I don’t get a chance to say it, I’ll miss you all. And I’ll miss Singapore, my chosen home. How I love it here!Oh, and by the way, my husband and I both have pretty strong resumes – if anybody’s looking. I’m just saying…Looking for a job in Singapore? Check out this article for useful tips.

Great scooters for ‘big’ kids

18th May 2020 by Lindsay Yap 3 Min ReadE-scooters may be banned from sidewalks in Singapore, but you can still have some fun with a traditional kick scooter! If you’re not sure where to buy scooters for adults, check out White and Black Trading. You can easily order online from this outdoor sports store and have everything delivered straight to your doorstep. There’s a wide range of scooters and accessories on offer, including safety equipment like helmets, lights and bells. (PS: There’s free delivery for orders above $100!) From picking up groceries and taking away food to getting a quick workout, here are some cool rides to check out. #1 Micro Urban How much? $355This foldable scooter is great for use in a city environment. With an ergonomic design, it has a wide T-bar and large wheels with front suspension for a smooth and comfy ride. It also includes safety features such as a tube light and reflectors on its brakes, which will come in useful during night rides.#2 Micro Downtown Micro Downtown Black Scooter from White and Black TradingHow much: $345Great for daily use, this practical ride can be folded up in seconds with the touch of your foot. It’s compact and not too heavy (6kg) so you can easily take it along on the bus or MRT. Coming with a wide handlebar and handbrake, this lightweight scooter also has a wide deck and large wheels for a comfortable ride on all sorts of surfaces.#3 Micro Speed How much? $235Expect a smooth ride on this foldable scooter that comes with shock-absorbing wheels with silicon-bedded ball bearings. It’s also great for teens (ages 12 and up) who have outgrown their kiddie scooters. Get it in mint, black, silver or grey.#4 Micro Monster Kickboard Micro Monster on the leftHow much? $395Want to get around in style? This scooter is sure to get you noticed! Coming in a black frame with a red and white tribal design, it has a wide wooden deck and three super-sized wheels like the Micro Rocket. It can take up to 100 kilograms and has an interchangeable joystick and T-bar.#5 Micro Kickboard Original How much? $295 (originally $395)This three-wheeler comes with a flexible deck made of fibreglass and wood, making it stable for curving and carving. It also has a foldable and interchangeable T-bar so you can change between pilot steering and T-bar steering whenever you wish. 5 ways to keep your scooter in good shapeKeep it clean by wiping it with a wet cloth after each ride to remove debris and dust.Ensure that the brakes are working well and replace parts such as the brake cables and pads if there is wear and tear.Store your scooter indoors in a cool and dry place as extended exposure to sunlight and heat can wear down its components more quickly.Look out for loose parts such as bolts, handles or wheels.If you face an issue you can’t solve on your own, get professional advice. White & Black Trading’s Micro repair centre has scooter technicians who can help you out (services will go back to normal after the circuit breaker).White & Black Trading6521 7018 | sg.whiteandblacktrading.comRead more about living in Singapore:Children’s shops: Stores & websites for kidsThe expat’s guide to where to live in Singapore

Virtual Therapy & Counselling Sessions

During this period of high tension and lots of unknowns, our mental and emotional wellbeing is more important than ever. If you need professional help to manage and treat emotional issues, anxiety and stress, resolve relationship issues or tackle your child’s behavioural struggles, here are some clinics offering virtual therapy and counselling sessions. Read on to find out how these therapists and counsellors can help.Aspire CounsellingMaria Luedeke from Aspire Counselling offers virtual counselling and psychotherapy sessions for individuals, families, couples and children. Highly experienced in video counselling, she will be able to meet you over a secure online conferencing platform. Maria is a highly qualified American counsellor with international educational qualifications from USA and Australian institutions. She has also undergone advanced training in several areas of therapy including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Solution-Focused Brief Therapy, Choice Theory Reality Therapy and Gottman Couples Therapy. Having studied and worked internationally, she takes on a multicultural approach and possesses great sensitivity when counselling individuals from different backgrounds and nationalities. What’s more, she specialises in anxiety management and self-care, amongst other areas including body image, life changes, relationship issues, addictions, parenting, grief, behaviour and anger management. Besides being a counsellor and psychotherapist, Maria is also a certified International Coaching Federation (ICF) coach. So, in addition to helping individuals who are facing struggles, she’s also able to offer professional guidance to those hoping to live better and more meaningful lives. This can be in work, relationship, health and other domains. Look out for her new weekly podcast, “Aspire to Wellness”, which discusses various mind, body and soul topics to help listeners move towards total wellness.aspirecounselling.netCounsellingconnectzCounsellingconnectz aims to offer a safe space for individuals to find balance, empowerment, independence and direction in their lives. They conduct tele-sessions via Zoom, all secured with individual meeting IDs and passwords. Using a broad range of techniques, the team provides emotional and mental support to individuals of all ages. Their counsellors are highly qualified and certified master practitioners. They’re registered with the Association of Psychotherapists and Counsellors of Singapore (APACS), the Singapore Association of Counsellors (SAC), and the Australian and New Zealand Infertility Counsellor Association (ANZICA). Areas of expertise include acceptance and commitment therapy, depression, anxiety, burnout, change and life transitions, coaching, cognitive behaviour therapy, fertility, couple counselling, depression, grief and loss, pregnancy support, trauma and stress management. During counselling sessions, besides working through struggles, counsellors will offer self-help tools that you can practice on your own. The clinic also runs an infertility support group, conducts sessions for couples undergoing fertility treatments and provides certification training for professionals. They have also presented study research results at international medical conferences.counsellingconnectz.comPsych ConnectClinicians from Psych Connect have been providing teleconsultations for many years. They are experienced with conducting counselling and therapy sessions on online platforms and believe that therapy doesn’t need to be limited to a clinic setting. Psych Connect offers online individual and group psychological therapies (such as emotional regulation and social skills groups for children) and educational therapy sessions. They also have individual and group art psychotherapy sessions (including parent training). Catering to children aged seven to 11, the emotional regulation group course is especially relevant for times like these. It enables kids to learn how to manage their feelings and stress. The team of therapists have experience with a huge range of ages. They have even conducted psychological therapy and counselling sessions for children as young as three years! Psych Connect uses a convenient online platform called PlatoConnect – connecting to it for a session is easy. Upon confirmation, just click on the invite sent to you. The system is protected by AES-256 encryption and SSL Certificates, so only authorised parties can access the consultation. So, you can be assured that the communication with your therapist will be kept fully confidential.psychconnect.sgRalitza PeevaBoasting a Masters in Counselling, a PhD in Sociology and numerous other coaching certifications, Ralitza Peeva is a wellness and life coach and counsellor. She has lived and worked in Europe, the United States and, for the past 18 years, Singapore. She offers therapy and counselling sessions on Zoom, Skype, FaceTime and over the phone. Taking on a person-centric and solution-focused approach in her consultations, she strongly believes in tailoring her sessions to individual needs and qualities. Ralitza supports individuals to manage emotions, identify their priorities and create a balanced lifestyle with healthy and satisfying relationships. With the aim to create a supportive and safe space for guidance, Ralitza offers support in various areas. These include anxiety, stress and depression management, relationship issues, life transitions, parenting challenges, divorce or separation, grief and loss as well as empowerment and life coaching. She also integrates multiple disciplines and methodology in her practice. As a certified administrator and facilitator of scientific tools such as the MBTI instrument, she is able to learn more about her patients to help them more effectively. Through these tools, individuals are also able to learn more about themselves.ralitzapeeva.comState of ReikiStephanie Schueller has been a certified Reiki practitioner since 2018 and uses the Usui method of Reiki founded and taught by Dr Mikao Usui. Suitable for anyone, Reiki aims to improve the flow of energy around the body. It enables relaxation, reduces pain, speeds up healing and reduces symptoms of illnesses. Stephanie also practises “distant Reiki”, where the energy is sent remotely. It can treat body pains, illnesses as well as emotional issues. During the Circuit Breaker, you can choose the amount to pay. It will be donated to It’s Raining Raincoats, a non-profit organisation supporting foreign workers in Singapore. All you’ll need to do is provide your name, a photograph of yourself, the country you live in, a brief description of the state of your health and your desired outcome. After the session, Stephanie will send written feedback of her findings. Lasting about an hour, sessions can be done anytime and sent anywhere in the world. Patients are said to feel a change in mood, and an improvement in their energy and stress levels.stateofreiki.com | facebook.com/StateofReikiSingaporeLooking for more about living in Singapore?The expat’s guide to where to live in Singapore5 tips to stay healthy