Top 10 Things I Miss The Most From America & Their Perfect Singaporean Substitutions

By: Laura Oliverio Blinkman

The Blinkman Buzz: Top 10 List Things I Miss the most from America & their perfect Singaporean Substitutions

10.   Large stores that sell everything under the sun!  The big box stores of America don’t exist in Singapore.   There is no Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot or Best Buy.  When we first moved to Singapore, I really missed these stores, until I discovered that  instead of shopping at mega-stores, there are thousands of individually owned “mom & pop” stores to choose from, each packed floor to ceiling with everything you could possibly need.  Mr Lee is my favorite shop owner, and he usually carries what I am looking for.   He knows me by name, always asks about my kids, and he really loves when my husband stops in, because Mr. Lee loves to hear about all about my husbands work at 3M and their products. 

9.   Large Grocery Stores!   Grocery stores do exist in Singapore, but to get the freshest meats and produce, at the best price, you must substitute your favorite grocery market with shopping at the wet markets.  You can choose from many family-owned vendor stalls offering vegetables, fruits, beef, chicken, seafood, flowers, and more.   These wet markets can be found throughout Singapore, and each one is different from the next.  I especially love the Tekka Market in Little India, but I also frequent the Yishun Street 22 wet market.  Of course, the Empress Gardens wet market is within walking distance, and is my favorite because Mr. Lee in the DIY Store, Suzanne and her husband Boon who sell their chicken, and Esther at the small grocery store.

8.   I miss parking lots with free parking.   In Singapore, parking lots with free parking simply don’t exist.  We use car parks ... these ramps are in (often under) every building, and you pay to park in them.  The car has an electronic device that is “topped up” with cash, and as you exit it automatically deducts from your account.  Some car parks are quite expensive with a high hourly rate, like those by Orchard Road or some medical centers, while others are more reasonable, like those by the wet markets.

7.  Forks.  Well,  we don’t really miss them, but we have learned to go with out them.  We no longer use forks in my house ... only chopsticks.  I decided that we cannot possibly return to the states without learning to use chopsticks, so a few weeks ago I packed away the forks, and substituted them with wooden chopsticks.  It was difficult for a few days, and as our hands and fingers cramped up we really missed our forks.  And my three teenagers weren't too happy when hungry after long swim practices, it took what seemed forever to eat.  But we have since graduated from beginner users with wooden chopsticks to upgraded porcelain ones, and now we don’t miss those pronged utensils at our dinner table.

6.   His & Hers.  Cars that is.   Our luxury of being a two car family is now a “one car plus taxi” family.    The public transportation system in Singapore is outstanding, so this is an easy one. There are thousands of taxi’s with apps to call them, an efficient bus system with apps for their schedules, and along with the MRT trains, two cars are not needed for a family to get around.   The kids love the independence they have with being able to take a taxi,  and the beauty of taking taxis is not having to pay to park!

5.  Seasons.  Specifically:  Winter!  Coming from the upper mid-west  (shout out to  Minnesota/Wisconsin!! )  we have substituted our snowy season for endless tropical weather.  We no longer have boots, hats & mittens, heavy coats or ski pants,  but instead we have flip flops, sandals, shorts,  strappy tee-shirts, and sunglasses.  Oh, and we have  the very necessary stash of umbrellas.  We have umbrellas in the car, in our purses, in briefcases,  by the front door ... we miss the snow but love the warm tropical climate!

4.  A long drive over the mountains and through the woods, and doing so 60+ miles per hour.    Road Trips are a thing of the past for us.  This island-country is only 274 square miles, so it doesn’t take long to get from one side of the country to the other.  And during those quick trips here in Singapore, it is impossible to drive fast, as there is usually heavy traffic.   Even with most families using public transportation, and one car families, this heavily populated country has so many drivers that there is always heavy traffic.  Going fast is not an option.   Instead we take a quick ferry across the Singapore Straight to Indonesia, or we can hop on a plane to go to Phuket or Bangkok, both in nearby Thailand. 

3.  Phone calls are substituted with skype & facetime.   International calling rates are very high, so  expensive that talking even for a few minutes can empty the wallet.  But with internet access, skype and facetime are free, and you can “see” the person you are talking to!  Before we left the states, we gave my parents an iPad, and with a few lessons, they quickly became facetime experts.  Well, truthfully, they constantly ask “Can you see me?” and most of the time instead of seeing their beautiful faces I instead see the ceiling fan.

2.  The small town by the river that we left behind is substituted with a very large city.   Hudson, Wisconsin is like any small town in the USA ... a beautiful main street with shops owned and operated by our friends and neighbors.  A school system where the kids have known each other since kindergarten.  Our church family and Pastor Mark.   These things, people, and places, and their familiarity, oh we miss desperately.  But the substitution for familiarity and comfort of routine of our lives in America is the adventure and excitement of living in Singapore.  Singapore is a large, urban city, with a population of over 5 million people, with a fantastic mix of nationalities.  My friends here are American, Australian, Malaysian, Dutch, Swiss, Korean, Filipino, Spanish, British, South African, Chinese, Japanese, New Zealanders,  and of course, Singaporean.  My kids go to a school with  students from all over the world.   Every day brings new adventures which are anything but routine.   Southeast Asia is full of fascinating destinations and all are nearby that need to be explored.

1.  Family!  Friends!  We miss our family back home in the United States of America!  Nothing can replace parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, dear neighbors, swim coaches.  We love you all so much!  But in the few short months that we have been living in Asia, we have met so many wonderful people,  new friends that have quickly become family to us.   Because nearly all the expats living here in Singapore are without their family, friendships as  expats strengthen quickly, bonds that will last a lifetime.  We celebrate each others kids birthdays together,  cheer them on at their sporting events, dance recitals.  But we have not only met some wonderful expat friends from all over the world, but we also have met some lovely Singaporeans, who have graciously accepted us into their community.  My kids swim on a local swim team, and the parents from this team are welcoming and kind,  quick to help us navigate our way in our new home country.  We miss our family and friends back home, but have surrounded ourselves with new friends who are like family to us.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingLaura Oliverio Blinkman is an American expat living in Singapore. Blog description: BlinkmanBuzz is about the daily living experiences of myself, hubby & 3 teens. I have been documenting our journey from the day we found out we were being deployed, including photos of new friends, travels, foods, schools, and more!
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Contest Comments » There are 107 comments

Rachel wrote 10 years ago:

Wonderful to read & hear all about your adventures. We miss you & love you dearly!

Jan wrote 10 years ago:

I enjoy reading your blog and staying abreast of your families adventures while living in Singapore. Always a good read!

Robin wrote 10 years ago:

Great blog. You nailed it! You sound like a veteran :-)

Gwen Anderson wrote 10 years ago:

Great Blog I love hearing about your life in Singapore!! We miss you around here, thanks for keeping All of us in Wisconsin in the loop!!

Shannon wrote 10 years ago:

Love to read your blog's its fun to hear about your adventures while in Singapore.

Mary wrote 10 years ago:

Laura! Your blog is always amazing and a funny twist to reality we can always rely on. Keep up the great work, it's almost like we are there with you! Mary

YJ wrote 10 years ago:

It's always so refreshing to read your blog posts! I am amazed by your adventures in Singapore, so please keep on blogging!

Mark wrote 10 years ago:

I LOVE the Blinkman Buzz! It is very insightful and humorous. It is fun to hear how this family adapts to living in a foreign country.

Audrey wrote 10 years ago:

Laura Great Job...Enjoyed reading about Singapore..Still very Jealous!

Patti wrote 10 years ago:

Love reading your blog as it feels like we are right there with you and living through your adventures.

Wen Spencer wrote 10 years ago:

This makes me want to try living in Singapore! What a great adventure.

Sue wrote 10 years ago:

The Blinkmans have taken to the streets of Singapore like real pros!

Jeff W. wrote 10 years ago:

Laura's blog is wonderful because it describes the things that most Americans would want to know about Singapore, but would never think to ask. Keep on blogging!

Alyssa wrote 10 years ago:

Love your submission essay! Sounds like you are getting it figured out! Congratulations on a great blog!

Jenny Boylan wrote 10 years ago:

Love love love your blog! Your expat stories are both informative and very funny. Sounds like you are taking full advantage of the experience!

Kathy Holmstadt wrote 10 years ago:

I enjoy hearing all about life in Sing and am extremely jealous of all the wonderful experiences the Blinkman's are having!

Wendy Weiss wrote 10 years ago:

Love your blog! All of it hits home :) As an expat myself I can totally relate!

Sue M. wrote 10 years ago:

What a funny and touching reflection from an ex-pat and her new adopted country. We should all be so lucky to experience life this way. Continue traveling and seeing the world and giving us these amusing glimpses from time to time. Blinkman Blog is the best!

Vera Lenning wrote 10 years ago:

This has been informative and entertaining. I feel like I have been able to experience a little of Asia with youe family. Best of all it has kept me connected with all your activities.

Jamie Laino wrote 10 years ago:

Hi Laura....I really enjoyed reading this blog. It was so well writen that I could only image what a great experence this is for you and the kids. Miss you ALL lots! xoxox

Jamie Laino wrote 10 years ago:

Hi Laura....I really enjoyed reading this blog. It was so well writen that I could only image what a great experence this is for you and the kids. Miss you ALL lots! xoxox

Michaela B. wrote 10 years ago:

Awesome blog! It made me want to take a trip to Singapore! Wisconsin has been hit recently with the first few snows (about 6 or 7 inches). I, too, enjoy winter, but the thought of flip flops and shades are almost foreign at this point, and it would be nice to feel tropical temperature!

Kelly L wrote 10 years ago:

What a great list!!!! We miss you all!!!! Can't wait to read more about your travels!

Paul Stein wrote 10 years ago:

If you haven't done so already, get to know Laura and her family. They are an absolute blast! Insightful and easy to share stories with. True friends. Love the top 10!

Scott Gifford wrote 10 years ago:

So glad you guys are here and are our friends :)

Cindy wrote 10 years ago:

I love this essay! I love the way you describe your hometown in America sounds lovely!

Sammie wrote 10 years ago:

Having moved to Singapore recently also I loved reading your blog. It made me realize that I am not alone in the things I miss having moved from the US too. Well written and very entertaining!

Lori wrote 10 years ago:

Wow, Laura!! You really are a talented writer!! I love that you compared the things you missed with the local 'upgrades'! BTW, why do they call it a 'wet market'?

Sue Groves wrote 10 years ago:

I love reading your blog and hearing about your adventures. It's fun to see that side of the world through your eyes. Enjoy and keep posting!

Nicole wrote 10 years ago:

I love hearing about what you guys are up to and what you think of being in Singapore. I think its a great way to keep in touch and fun to read!

Angela wrote 10 years ago:

Hi Laura! What a great list! I love reading about your adventures. This blog makes me want to take my family to Singapore. Thank you for sharing this journey with us!

Becky wrote 10 years ago:

Lovely post Laura! I love the chopstick rule! you and your family have such an open heart to making this experience all it can be!

Nancy wrote 10 years ago:

Laura I love hearing about your experiences! You shed light on living abroad in a country most don't visit much less reside! Your twist of humor shared with your seemingly surprising experiences always brings a smile and a chuckle. Keep posting friend!!

Emma Olson wrote 10 years ago:

I love this! It's really a great way to see what you guys are up to since the time difference is so huge! I'm glad you're having a good time!

Samantha Cramm wrote 10 years ago:

I've really enjoyed reading about your adventures overseas. My favorite blog so far has got to be the one about the cobras. It made me laugh but horrified me at the same time. I'm so glad you and your family are having a great time of it there. Keep 'em coming!! Oh, and Merry Christmas!

Carlos wrote 10 years ago:

This blog makes me want to visit Singapore! I totally enjoy reading about your adventures! Best of luck to you in the contest!

Ashley wrote 10 years ago:

A great perspective of all the United States has to offer; I'd love to try out NOT having a big box retailer on every corner!! Love your blogs!!

Jill wrote 10 years ago:

Fun read! Nice to hear about Laura's adventures. Makes me want to travel more myself.

Shane wrote 10 years ago:

Hope you win this contest! I love your blog. You are doing a great job journaling about our lives here in Singapore!

Steven wrote 10 years ago:

This blog is a great way to not only keep up with your family, but also to learn about a part of the world I'll never get to visit! Thanks for sharing!!

Anna wrote 10 years ago:

Laura, Your blog may be very helpful around the world. There are so many people who moved countries, continents and find themselfs lost/ home sick due to changes. It can have a big psychological impact. I love how you express your feelings of what you miss but also found . Please keep going with sharing your feelings/ adventures with all of us . Today you made me think of my home country "Austria " and all the things I miss and appreciate million times more when going home one time a year. Your friend, AZ

Jennifer wrote 10 years ago:

Great list but seasons? Not sure that's one that would have been on my list... (I'll take the steady tropical weather) hey when you come back one of those special seasons you miss will bridge the gap to your new Sing traffic norm

Sylvia Badgley wrote 10 years ago:

As a family member I love this connection! We really feel like we are right there with you..I love it!

Vickie Thomas wrote 10 years ago:

Laura your blog is wonderful. It is so well written I was as if you were telling me in person!! Miss that:( . I love your humor.

Jennifer wrote 10 years ago:

Thoroughly enjoyed reading this! Being an American living in Austria, I can relate to lots of the points, especially the lack of big box stores, but have come to appreciate the mom and pop stores and markets, just like you in Singapore. We do have forks, though, and winter too. Always better to seek out and appreciate the new rather than complain about what's lacking!

Kris wrote 10 years ago:

Blinkmanbuzz is such a great blog. Laura has such a great way of bringing us the facts but also adds such fun and humor. Thanks Laura and family for sharing with all of us following.

Amy Miller wrote 10 years ago:

I love reading about the Blinkman's adventures in Signapore! It makes us feel like we are right there with them. Love the pictures that are included too. Fun to see what another part of the world looks like! :)

Nikki wrote 10 years ago:

I love reading your blog! And I agree, I would miss all of those things, too!

Maria wrote 10 years ago:

Well written blog, gives good information about Singapore and our family adventures! Love your top 10 list! Good luck! Hope you win!

Shirley wrote 10 years ago:

I'm impressed that you are adjusting and have learned to navigate your host country so well in a few short months. Love your blog, seeing pictures of your sweet family! We all miss you at home, and look forward to seeing you this summer! Good luck in the contest!

Kathryn Gilson wrote 10 years ago:

I love the Blinkmanbuzz! Laura's magnetic personality comes across in every one of her entries and every post draws me in. Great blog!

Trent wrote 10 years ago:

I have really enjoyed your postings and what you do to record and share the adventures of the Blinkman family in Singapore! What a great blog. This shows the good side of the internet. Thanks for sharing.

Karen Pietrusinski wrote 10 years ago:

I enjoy reading your blog and following your adventures abroad. I guess when you are in a position to not have what we are accustom to you would miss those things...I know I would. Good luck and Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Aparna wrote 10 years ago:

Very interesting read! Great to see that Trent and you have settled in so nicely in Singapore!

Kitty McClean wrote 10 years ago:

Loved reading your blog,I hope you win the contest!!! Merry Christmas to you and your family and Happy New Year!!!

Jim Fellows wrote 10 years ago:

Fantastic blog that keeps us close to the action with the Blinkman's despite the many thousands of miles that separate us. Gives us a chance to live vicariously through their many adventures in Singapore! Thanks for sharing and keep us the great work!

Joni wrote 10 years ago:

I love reading the Blinkman Buzz and learning about Singapore!!! It's a weekly MUST!!!

Jeff Riser wrote 10 years ago:

Laura, what amazing experiences you guys must be having virtually everyday! Your essay painted a nice word picture of your life in Singapore!

David Hosseini wrote 10 years ago:

Very interesting. Learned a few things. I would miss the big box stores as well, but not the snow. Keep the Buzz alive. I look forward to reading more.

Winnie wrote 10 years ago:

Your blog is amazing, and I will never tire of reading your posts!!! Can't wait for more! :)

Bobbie Scarfo wrote 10 years ago:

I enjoy reading about your family's adventures! Thank you for letting us into your lives and keep blogging!

Shelia wrote 10 years ago:

It is refreshing to see such positive comparisons...and they are so true! Best of luck and keep up the great blogging. Happy Holidays!

Jeff wrote 10 years ago:

The #1 thing America misses is YOU, and there is no substitute!

Barbara Daltorio wrote 10 years ago:

Thanks that was a wonderful excerpt of Singapore and your lives. It's a taste that most of us don't get to see. I love going to different countries and hearing about the ones I haven't been. Almost makes me want to visit.

Randy Shaw wrote 10 years ago:

Terrific blog that captures the positive aspects of living abroad. What a wonderful experience to share with your children and all of us vicariously through the well written blog. Looking forward to following the saga from the frozen mid-west of the U.S.A.

Scott Holway wrote 10 years ago:

Great to hear how all the Blinkmans are doing, we all knew you would thrive, I would have liked to have seen the kids getting used to chopsticks. Have a wonderful Holiday and Great New Year, All the Best, Scott

John wrote 10 years ago:

Fantastic and thorough blog! I feel like I know Singapore very well now. I would miss watching live sporting events! I wonder if Trent misses watching the Steelers...maybe not this year since they are not doing well! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Take care.

Renee Cox wrote 10 years ago:

I love reading about you and your families adventures over in Singapore! They are enjoyable and funny and make me want to hop on a plane right now to join you!

Joe Heser wrote 10 years ago:

What a wonderful experience for all of you and especially the kids. Isn't it great to see that there are terrific people all over the world and friends available wherever we live.

Tammy Cord wrote 10 years ago:

I love to read your posts Laura! You have such a way with words. Plus I get to see the world through your eyes. Miss you and love you girl! Merry Christmas to you and your family!

Steve W wrote 10 years ago:

Sounds to me like a great family adventure. Since it has been below zero here in MN, I am very jealous of your tropical weather. Take care.

Paula Steiner wrote 10 years ago:

Love your blog!So much fun to hear about your adventures and challenges. My favorite is the fact you threw away utensils!

Angela Dreis wrote 10 years ago:

Great comments about life in Singapore-glad to hear you are all doing so well

Cynthia Benson wrote 10 years ago:

You are so right! It reminds me of moving from California to Minnesota and how much we missed the mountains, the beach and our friends/family(but not the smog or the traffic).

Scott Buss wrote 10 years ago:

Love the TOP ten! Glad to see the Blinkman's are adapting so well. Take advantage of the experience! Winter wil be here when you come back to MN.

Sandra wrote 10 years ago:

What a wonderful and welcoming place to have this expat experience! Hats off to you and your family for truly engaging with the Singaporean people and culture.

Georgia wrote 10 years ago:

Laura, thanks for sharing you adventure with the world! It's fun to keep up with you and the family! Best of luck!

Cassie Gregory wrote 10 years ago:

Wow! What an exciting adventure for your family! I have really enjoyed hearing all about Singapore & I am also jealous as I sit hear looking at snow and subzero tempatures!

Jeff Travis wrote 10 years ago:

Blinkman's- Thanks for sharing your adventure with all of us! Be safe...enjoy!

Sarah Hanson wrote 10 years ago:

Love to read about your adventures in Singapore. Miss your smiling face at Family of Christ & HASA. Merry Christmas to you all!

Hector wrote 10 years ago:

Fantastic Laura, it makes me miss the Blinkman's and living in APAC. Have a very Merry shorts and t-shirts!

Dee Erickson wrote 10 years ago:

Thanks for including me, Trent and Laura! So glad you are adjusting and enjoying your new environment. Agree that no family can survive w/o the luxury of BB stores, esp Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Best Buy, Menards, the list goes on! NO FORKS??? Would certainly be a challenge for my double-jointed fingers/thumbs to do chopsticks! Again thanks for including me and I will be following Laura's blog!!

Lisa wrote 10 years ago:

So funny about not using forks! Now that's a way to learn how to use chopsticks! You have to teach us how to use them! Love the blog, keep up the great writing!

Shaun wrote 10 years ago:

Merry Christmas!! I am totally jealous of your tropical weather!! Love the blog, good luck!

Roberto Evaristo wrote 10 years ago:

Living abroad is all about flexibility and embracing the new even if only for a while -- and even when things are different and do not seem to make sense at first. You guys show us great ways to do exactly that. Thank you!

Erika wrote 10 years ago:

Congratulations on your essay for this contest! I love your blog, I check in often to see what's going on with the Blinkmans. I would totally miss Target! How do you do it?? We miss you! Merry Christmas!! XOXO

Bob D. wrote 10 years ago:

Singapore! This post makes me want to come visit you! Sounds like you are adjusting well and learning your way around your host country! Great job!

Elaine wrote 10 years ago:

Love the Blinkman Buzz, and totally enjoyed this contest! Hope you win this contest! You are a Gold Medalist in our eyes! Happy Holidays!

CJ wrote 10 years ago:

Laura, love your Top 10 list! Keep on blogging!! Happy Holidays from the USA!

Amy wrote 10 years ago:

Happy Holidays, Blinkmans! Love reading the Blinkman Buzz - thanks for taking us on your journey. Glad you are all enjoying your life abroad!

TFrey wrote 10 years ago:

Blinkmans, Merry Christmas. We miss reading about your three fish in the paper.

Lynny wrote 10 years ago:

What a great incite flu post. I really enjoyed reading it, well done!

John Kelly wrote 10 years ago:

Always fun to ready your blog and find out what you are up to. You have a gift for writing, a witty humor, that I totally enjoy. I'm betting your kids love having their lives posted for all to see. Good luck on the contest, keep us posted! Look forward to your next update!! John

Rick Koskinen wrote 10 years ago:

Thanks for giving us a glimpse of your fantastic adventures. Making exotic connections and finding local meaning is fascinating.

Scott Miller wrote 10 years ago:

Great to hear things are going so well in Singapore. Love the list.

Bruce Johnson wrote 10 years ago:

I stumbled on your blog a few weeks ago when doing a search on Bali. Loved all your photos, and the way you described the island. I have since read all of your blog posts. You seem to make friends wherever you go, and have become an ambassador of the USA. Congratulations on your blog and contest submission, good luck. I look forward to your next blog post! Bruce

Scott wrote 10 years ago:

I love it!!! Great Job! What I would miss most aside from family & friends would be the food! I love food (especially now that I have lost 50 Lbs.). But the diversity of food available in the places I have lived in the US is astonishing. Nothing like a great steak! But Mexican, Chinese, Italian (NY Pizza), Fresh seafood, Vegetables and friut from farm satnds in the Summer, Apples in the Fall! Yum!!! All my best wishes to you and your family for a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy, Safe & Proporous New Year!!! Scott

Paul wrote 10 years ago:

Click your heals together 3 times and repeat after us...."there's no place like home". The Blinkman Buzz rocks!!!!

Travis wrote 10 years ago:

Great job Laura!!! Do they have Ice Hockey in Singapore?

Suzy wrote 10 years ago:

Wow! I can't even imagine being that far away from home... You are really brave!!! Life is about making the best / most of it!!! You have to embrace it to make it everything it can be. Sounds like you are doing just that!

Peter Eisenberg wrote 10 years ago:

Great Blog thanks for sharing. Please have a great xmas and talk with you soon.

Sheena wrote 10 years ago:

We are the neighbors Laura talked about. Who ever happens to be the neighbors now are very lucky people. The Blinkmans are a class act family, and we sure do miss them.

Laura wrote 10 years ago:

Thank you everyone for taking the time to comment. I really enjoy blogging and keeping a written journal of the Blinkman Adventures while living abroad. While not every day is a \\\"10\\\", most are pretty great! Thanks again, Merry Christmas!! Love you all!!! Laura

Andy Green wrote 10 years ago:

I would really miss the big stores like Walmart, Target etc. too. But I think I could get used to the weather (w/o missing MN winters)!

Mark wrote 10 years ago:

Having spent time in Singapore on a number of occasions, I know exactly what you're talking about, Laura. Enjoy the adventure!

Pat Mannion wrote 10 years ago:

Excellent Job - hope you win the contest!! I love the list of things that you miss. Makes me stop and think about things I miss. We take allot for granite at times!! Bet your dad misses the Steelers!!

Michaeline Neu wrote 10 years ago:

Your Blog is terrific and very informative! So glad you have adapted well to your new home. How exciting for you and your family to experience the world together! It would be a dream of ours. Thanks for sharing your adventures!

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