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The Debt: Missing (cheap) home comforts after moving to Singapore

By: Amy Greenburg

After relocating to Singapore, I find myself missing countless things I took for granted in the US, including chewing gum and reasonably priced wine. But what I often miss the most on a sweltering day, is leaving a self-serve frozen yoghurt shop with a mountain of frozen goodness in hand, having only spent $4.

Shortly after moving, my husband and I spotted a self-serve yoghurt shop. We had been craving the sweet treat since leaving Los Angeles, the unofficial frozen yoghurt capital, and knew our prayers had been answered! We didn’t hesitate to walk in and fill up our cups – mine topped with granola and his with Oreo bits. Excited to dig in, we arrived at the register…

“That’s $34.50.”


“No, $34.50.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” I blurted. “Is that even legal?”

We were met with blank stares. My husband looked like he was about to jump out of his skin.

“Okay… do you take AMEX?”

“No, just NETS.”

“What’s NETS? I only have $20. Is there a Citibank ATM near here?”

There wasn’t.

“Okay, well we don’t know what to do. Either we can throw away our yoghurt or give you all the cash we have…”

The solution was to write my name and number in a little black book by the register, noting the amount owed for our two cups’ worth, and a guarantee I would return to pay off the IOU. We were utterly shocked as we sat down to eat our yoghurt, an experience marred by our aggravation. Sure enough, the next day I trudged back to pay our yoghurt debt. I handed the saleswoman cash and watched as she crossed off my name from the book; my heart sank as I left, sans yoghurt in hand.

Days later, while getting a manicure, a woman waved to me as if she knew me. Sensing I couldn’t place her out of context, she said, “You’re the yoghurt girl! The one who came back to pay!” Were we so memorable from causing a scene that the saleswoman recognised me? “Yep, that’s me!” I said, mentally noting how glad I was that I had returned to pay.

After chatting awhile, I asked her why the yoghurt is so darn expensive, and learned that the mix is imported from the US, thus the price. That made sense; I guess if cheese costs an arm and a leg, why wouldn’t the dairy-based frozen dessert? However, I still vowed never to pay the hefty price for yoghurt while in Singapore.

Since then, I have found other ways to satisfy my sweet tooth on a budget. Ice cream sandwiches on the street, for one, are dirt-cheap; $1 can buy a nice slab of ice cream between wafers or bread. Another personal favourite is a McDonald’s vanilla cone for just 70 cents. You can’t beat that!

All in all, I am happy to report that going yoghurt-free has saved me some money. Now, I can fund my $10 Cheerios fix.