An Expat’s Guide to Chinese New Year

Gong Xi Fa Cai

It’s almost Chinese New Year! On the 12th February, the Year of the Ox will begin. Hopefully it will be a lucky year for you and you enjoy your days off. What do you do over Lunar New Year? And how do you plan to spend it this year?

  Many expats (myself included) spend this time to relax, maybe go to the beach club, or hitting some bars at Haji Lane- but what about the local traditions? What could we take part in? What is the process?

Reunion Dinner

Similar to Christmas Day, on the Eve of CNY, people will gather with their immediate relatives, usually three generations, and catch up. Sometimes the matriarch of the family will cook their famous dishes. Single relatives are often berated with questions about their love life or when they’re getting married. Many who celebrate love the Reunion Dinner, as the food is normally the best, but some dread this day as it may feel like the Spanish Inquisition.

Chinese New Year

Normally people meet at one house, and the owner of the house is presented with two mandarin oranges. This is to signify good fortune and wealth. If you’re not married, the owner of the house normally gives you a red packet with money inside. If you are married, you are given good blessings. In Singapore, people will normally visit their older relatives’ houses. If you’re the oldest, you’re the host. The house will already be full of food and CNY snacks. Depending on how big the family is, there could be multiple visits.

Next up will be the Yu Sheng; the Prosperity Toss. This is a Cantonese-Style raw fish salad. The raw fish, normally salmon, is mixed with vegetables and sauces. Each ingredient represents something to do with good fortune. The Yu Sheng is tossed into the air with chopsticks; the higher the toss the more likely your wish will come true. So be prepared for some high-flying vegetables! Many people will shout their wishes out loud and is an integral part of CNY. If you’ve had a bad 2020, this could be a good start to your 2021.

 It is believed that what you eat is coming your way that year.

The night is normally the fun part. This is when friends will gather and secretly gamble and play games. After eating, chilling and watching shows together, locals will often play Blackjack, Mahjong, In Between, 3 Kings or Bacarat. Those who do not want to gamble can still sit and join in with the tradition; watching others gamble with their Ang Bao money. If your luck is good for the new year, you can win yourself some extra cash.

A Day To Relax

For all those relatives that weren’t visited on the first two days, they will be visited on the third day. Still expect some snacks, but the best food has already passed. Others who don’t have such big families, will just spend this time to chill.

You could use this time to visit Chinatown, maybe you may even catch some fireworks.

  Chinese New Year is one of the biggest and most important festivals to many in Singapore. It’s something that we may not experience in our home countries. Instead of the usual this year, why not spend time with your local friends and colleagues and try and immerse yourself in this local tradition? You may try some food you’ve never eaten before; learn a new game or just see a point of view that you never normally would.

What’s your favourite Lunar New Year tradition?

Singapore Rediscovery!

We’ve all been stuck here for a pretty long time. Singapore is a small city, so you may feel like you’ve ran out of things to do. But fear not! I have complied a short list of awesome and exciting things to do on this little red dot. Perhaps you may find something that takes your fancy, or end up doing something you’ve never tried before.

HydroDash, Sentosa

Located in Sentosa, the HydroDash is Singapore’s first floating aqua park. This inflatable obstacle course is a thrilling challenge that also has discounts in January! You can use SingapoRediscovery vouchers, or Klook has $20 tickets right now.

Skyline Luge, Sentosa

Keeping on the Sentosa theme; the Luge is also incredibly fun. It’s like go-karting but without electrics; you can drive your luge round several courses, then take the skyline back up to the top! Not for those who are afraid of heights (trust me!), but racing your friends is a lot of fun. One person costs about $23.

Bird's Eye Photography Of Sea

Art Jam Session with drinks, 313 Somerset

If you fancy something a bit different and the weather isn’t as sunny as you’d have hoped- you can consider unleashing your creative side. For just under $50, you can spend a few hours chilling, vibing and being as artistic as possible, with a group of like-minded people. Coffee in included, as well as supplies.

HomeTeamns, Adventure HQ, Khatib

I went here the other day and, although it was terrifying, in retrospect it was a lot of fun. Inside you will find many height-related activities, such as Singapore’s longest indoor slide; a 16-element ropes course; and loads of things that you climb and jump off of. For the adrenaline-junky, this is a perfect day out. Treat yourself afterwards to a few beers at Orto down the road.

Boulder+, Kallang

If that wasn’t enough fear-factor for you, try bouldering at Kallang. Rock-climbing without harnesses, bouldering is a high-intensity workout. Day passes are $24, with youth passes at only $19. It’s a fun day out for all, and something to try if you’ve not done anything like this before.

Asian alpinist ascending climbing wall during workout

Holey Moley, Clarke Quay

If you haven’t tried this indoor golfing experience, you really must. I don’t even like golfing that much but this is honestly so much fun. There are 27 holes, each with a different theme (my personal favourites being Jaws and Bat Out of Hell). Not only that, there’s a range of cocktails; a cool dining area and good music. There are even a few vegan-friendly options on the menu, so don’t be put off by the bar food. Plus, it’s pretty affordable, with different deals on throughout the week.

Haw Par Villa

If you’re looking for something a bit stranger and more bizarre to do on your day off, why not try visiting Haw Par Villa. Apparently, people used to bring their kids here to frighten them into behaving. There are over 1000 statues depicting Chinese legends, with my personal favourite being the Ten Courts of Hell, where you can go and see for yourself what happens to those in the afterlife. Best part, it’s free.

Timezone, various locations

Unleash your inner kid with this indoor arcade. You can find something for everyone here, with all your classics like claw machines, shooting hoops and even bumper cars. Most games win you tickets, which are uploaded to your Timezone card. The prizes are also pretty good, too; not only can you get all the usual kids’ stuff like sweets and plush toys, but you can even get slow cookers, toasters and coffee machines. Plus, they frequently have promotions when you top up your card.

Led Lighted Bowling Arcade Machine

Jurong Bird Park

This attraction is so underrated in my opinion. It is such a good day out, with regular shows, a nursery full of baby birds and even the chance to feed the penguins yourself, there are lots of cool things to do. One of the highlights in the giant greenhouse aviary that has a massive waterfall inside. I also would recommend feeding the paraquets, although be careful, they tend to bite!

Tiger Brewery Tour, Joo Koon

I have saved the best till last- the Tiger Brewery. For only $20, you get an hour-long tour around the brewery, which includes the chance to win free beer if you answer questions correctly about beer. At the end, you are shown to the on-site pub, where you can cash in your free beer coupons for lots of different beers (not just Tiger). The pub has pool and darts, but the best thing is that the beer (if you purchase) is only 4 bucks a drink! So cheap!

Blue Plastic Pail

Comment what’s your favourite thing to do in Singapore!

A Bit About Me

Hi there,

First of all, thank you for visiting the site. On this page, I will be sharing with you some tips that expats should consider before making the big leap to invest in Singapore.

Thinking about money is often quite daunting, and we frequently put dealing with it to the bottom of our to-do list. I will be trying to make everyone’s lives a bit simpler, by addressing the main questions surrounding investing, along with dispelling some common myths.

Not only that, stay tuned for posts about my favourite places in Singapore; fun things to see and do; the best food and even local deals you might be interested in.

I moved to Singapore close to three years ago now, and I really wish that someone had given me a few pointers when I moved here. I’m happily settled now, and working in the finance industry- so I hope to share some insiders knowledge and insight with fellow expats here in Singapore!