“The vast variety of goods on offer, gorgeous food, lovely people – locals and expats alike – and all the fun stuff that goes on; it’s almost overwhelming – we’re so spoilt for choice. In my view, life doesn’t get any better than here!”
“I absolutely love Singapore. I’m very enthusiastic about this city.”
Ina Hammer and Marida Jacobs are truly enthusiastic about Singapore. Not just because they are both “selling the city” to recently arrived families and foreign investors as real estate agents with Citiprop.
Both married to British men and both left their home countries, Norway and Denmark, at a young age. Contrary to most so called ‘trailing spouses’ they also have their own careers.
“When I grew up in Norway, I always dreamt of living somewhere hot, among palm trees,” says Ina, even though London was the first stop on her life abroad. But in 1999 her husband was offered a position in Singapore and the first thing she saw when they landed – was palm trees.
Since then she has been in the tropics, including a stint in the Caribbean. But while there she “missed Singapore every single day”.
A recent lifestyle survey from The Urban Development Authority also showed that both Singaporeans and foreigners found Singapore to be a much loved home and with a growing sense of belonging.
The level of satisfaction is increasing, indicating that efforts to remake the place into a more vibrant city is succeeding.
Marida could not agree more: “Look at what they’ve accomplished to bring in business; the casinos, the Formula One, biomedical industry, banking, the arts etc. – it’s incredible and a very positive city for business. And the government gives lots of incentives.”
Ina thinks Singapore on the whole is a much more vibrant society compared to a decade ago.
“The way Singapore is constantly changing is quite something to behold! It’s a thriving, happening place. The days of it being a ‘hardship posting’ are long gone! I hear people are applying in droves to come here.”
“The nightlife here is amazing. Clarke Quay is something I’ve never seen anywhere else. Young party people must surely think they’ve died and come to heaven when they first step in there!”
Unique forward planning
The Lion City has really gained respect around the world in recent years, she says.
“The forward planning of Singapore is very unique; some of the infrastructure here is simply amazing – coupled with the fact that crime is very low in comparison to other countries.”
“To me, says Marida, Singapore – and this might sound strange – reminds me very much of Los Angeles where I lived for over 20 years. Because I love the greenery, the cleanliness, Beverly Hills has the same thing. And I love the order, everything is easy.”
“The cleanliness, ease of living, not polluted like Hong Kong, and with fantastic international schools. To be able to have your kids grow up in a society where it’s so safe is such a relief.”
For her the recent improvements within design and architecture are especially striking, given her background as interior architecture.
During her years in L.A. she found a niche market in renovating, furnishing and selling properties. Over here in Asia she has also continued building some houses for clients.
“Especially in landed properties, I find there’s a development within Singaporean architecture that is just amazing. Really world class!”
“I’ve seen such a change in what is going on. And once they get on the bandwagon they do better than anybody else; they want to prove themselves. There is some unbelievable architecture in town.”
No language barrier
Ina started working with Citiprop after she returned from the Caribbean. “Citiprop has always catered to the expats, whether they have just moved here or been here for some time. It has built up a strong team of expat agents who understand the needs and requirements of expats. We have a good, solid reputation among the long-term foreigners here.”
She and Marida obviously handle Scandinavians clients.
“Not only can we converse in Norwegian and Danish, but we also naturally have a much better understanding of their requirements. We know the importance of a nice, spacious outside seating area. Scandinavians love sitting outside. And here they can do it without a blanket or a heater nearby,” says Ina.
“The feedback I get from my clients is very positive, that we immediately grasp the Westerner’s needs and their lifestyle, because we’re expat ourselves.”
Marida, who first took care of her children for some years after moving to Singapore in 1997, joined Citiprop since she simply loves architecture – and socialising.
“I love meeting people. I always try to identify what it is that clients want and hence I hone in on what that is within a very short time frame. I’m quite successful at that. Then, because of my design background, I look at properties in a different way than most people. I try to find something a little bit different to the norm. Then of course it depends on the budget and so on…”
Their all-inclusive service extends beyond what the regular agents do.
“Citiprop goes the extra mile in settling our clients into their property. Our clients are always able to call upon us for anything that needs doing or fixing in the property at any time after they have moved in. We also set up TV, Internet etc. for them. It’s very reassuring for the clients to know that we will help with any issues that may arise.”
Compared to Scandinavia
When asked to compare Singapore to their home countries, Ina says:
“Living in Norway and living as an expat in Singapore is a world apart in more than just distance; such different lifestyles in every way.
My brother called us ‘a bunch of spoilt brats’ when he was over. I can see his point but I don’t see why life should be a struggle.”
“Sometimes I miss the nature and wilderness of Norway. But since I left so long ago, I rarely think about skiing and the fun of snow anymore – I think I just appreciate so much always being warm!”
But she misses certain things like hot dogs, pepper sweets etc.:
“Anyone coming to visit me gets a long shopping list – for food stuff. We managed a full-on Norwegian Christmas Dinner this last Christmas! I am also very proud of all my beautiful Norwegian Christmas decorations and have kept up the traditional Christmas celebrations with my family.”
Marida went to visit her brother in Denmark for Christmas last year.
“How can you have a Christmas without being in Denmark,” she smiles.
“I have very strong ties with my home country. And my family still lives there. But, oh my god, it was so cold, unbearable!”
So is it all rosy?
“No,” Marida says and mentions an example of what she doesn’t like about Singapore.
“I feel sad when they pull down beautiful old buildings which should be preserved. Rochester Park is an example. It breaks my heart to see what happened to what was an exquisite, historical estate. These black and white houses were built by the British for the services and dated back to the 1920’s.”
Ina mentions that Singapore is quite an expensive place to live.
And whilst the ‘green movement’ is gaining foothold, she is still exasperated by all the plastic waste going on.
“The recycling has an awful long way to go. My hope is that Singapore will soon get itself up on par with other developed countries in this respect.”
The overall conditions for expatriates also seems to be changing, where companies increasingly no longer offer the extensive packages (housing allowances etc.) that used to be the norm.
“Companies don’t have to offer them on the same scale; people want to come anyway. School fee are very expensive however, and placing children into local schools is usually not an option for expats. The international schools are superb – but so are their fees!”