Moving to Singapore during COVID-19
By Millie Tan
On the 6th of July 2020, I arrived at Heathrow Airport together with my husband and our two young children with a one-way ticket to Singapore.
The first time I saw Singapore properly as my “home” was from a taxi on the way to my COVID-19 swab test.
Leaving the hotel where we were serving our SHN (Stay-Home Notice) period was an emotional feeling, having been inside for so long in an air-conditioned room; the fresh, hot air was so welcome. I sat in the taxi with the windows down, the wind on my face, taking in the tall buildings. I realised that this was now where we’d be living – something we had been dreaming of for a few years now. Yes, I had a mask on, but under that was the biggest smile.
We pulled into an old school and I was escorted through winding ticker-tape and long corridors of empty classrooms to the main assembly hall. I’ve worked in schools for many years and it felt eerie walking along the deserted halls. All the shutters on both sides of the hall were open and a cooling breeze passed through. A small queue of people nervously shuffled forward, one metre apart as per safe distancing regulations, towards a check-in desk.
It was my turn for my swab test. I have a GP friend who I’d asked for advice and sympathy; I guess I was hoping she’d quash my fear of being sick during the test; but no such support came back! I’d heard the swab can make you gag – and even the thought of gagging makes me gag!
By the time I was called to sit down, my heart was already beating hard and the mask exacerbated the feeling of not being able to breathe enough air. Needless to say, at the point of seeing the swab, I was feeling flustered. But the two young men conducting the tests were patient and reassuring and let me take my time. It was over in less than a minute! The test itself did feel very strange – it’s kind of like when you get chlorine up your nose in a pool and it stings a bit. But worse. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, mind you.
Another enjoyable taxi ride back gave me a chance to think. I’ve always considered myself a country girl; once upon a time, a big city seemed daunting. But there is something so special about Singapore that makes it feel home to me, even as a newcomer. As a permanently cold person in the UK, the year-round heat here is definitely appealing.
The SHN was easier than I thought, too. We brought lots of activities and new toys for the children to do, which also kept us busy. We’ve had some quality family time and really rested, as we hadn’t realised how much energy relocating had taken out of us over the past few months. Having an end date also made it easier.
We’ve been in our own condo for two weeks now and Singapore has made us so welcome already!
Tell us a tale and receive $200
Here’s your chance to get published – and make some money at the same time. We’re looking for 500-word written contributions on any funny, poignant, practical or even controversial topic that touches on expat life in Singapore. Simply email your stories in a Word document to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll consider them for inclusion in an upcoming issue.
For more great reading, head to our Living in Singapore section.