Why Did Crypto Crash?

  It seems that we can’t catch a break this year, markets are down, there’s a war, inflation is up, and now the value of cryptocurrency has plummeted, leaving many feeling disheartened with their investments. But, why did it happen? It’s actually a much broader picture. Let’s do a deep dive…

Inflation

  The first thing that triggered the crash was investors losing confidence in cryptocurrency and fearing the rise in inflation; inflation has been rising the past few months and apparently has not reached it’s peak yet! This is somewhat due to customer demand after the pandemic, along with Russia invading the Ukraine.

Interest Rates

  The Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate by 0.75%, which has been the biggest increase since 1994. This has had a massive impact on the crypto market. Interest rates make debt more expensive and negatively affect the economic climate; it can decrease the value of asset classes, particularly stocks and of course…cryptocurrency.

Stock Market

  As I previously mentioned, the hike in interest rates and inflation has massively affected the stock market; recently the S&P 500 decline has been even worse than at the height of the pandemic, as it dropped 5.8%. All these factors indicate a global recession is coming, and usually during bear periods, higher risk assets, including crypto, take a hit.

High Yields Were Promo Rates

  Many crypto platforms, such as Celcuis, offered returns of 18% and some platforms even more. These rates of returns are even higher than that of the stock market and could not be sustained year upon year for a long period of time- some were merely promo offers to get their platform some buzz and traction. Many people thought that this was a risk-free yield…definitely not the case! That 18% had to come from somewhere, essentially a borrower, and when more people want to gain these returns instead of borrow…that’s when problems arise.

Energy Crisis

  I’ve already mentioned the Russian-Ukraine crisis but the knock-on effects of the energy crisis have taken its toll on crypto too. If you’ve read my previous articles on cryptocurrency and the environment, you’ll know that mining crypto coins uses up a hell of a lot of energy. The cost of electricity has massively gone up since the Russian sanctions were put in place, meaning that it costs a lot to mine coins. This lowers the profit margins of the cryptocurrencies, depreciating their value.

In Summary

  To summarise, it was not just cryptocurrency that took a hit during this period; global markets are down, and many people are feeling the pinch. Rising living costs often leaves less disposable income for other things, including investment. But remember, historically bear markets (when the market is down) last on average for about 12 months, whereas a bull market on average lasts for 2.7 years…so the good times are mostly longer than the bad.

  One thing to remember is that cryptocurrency is unregulated and financial authorities cannot step in if anything goes wrong. This makes it a higher risk investment; remember that before you invest.

What I Wished Someone Told Me When I First Moved To Singapore

I’ve been living in Singapore for about four years now, and whilst I’m very grateful for my life here and I’ve adapted well, there are some things that I wish people would have told me as a first-time expat! I feel like if I could go back in time and tell myself these tips, my integration would have been a lot easier and smoother.

Co-living Condos Exist!

When I moved to Singapore, I knew no-one. I heavily relied on my work colleagues when it came to hanging out and making friends, which of course was great, but it didn’t help much in terms of expanding my circle of hanging out with many locals. I really wish that someone had told me about Figment or Hamlet properties; that way I would have moved into a co-share apartment with like-minded people and I could have met new friends that way.

I also wish I knew this when I first arrived so it would have made my renting experience a lot better. When I first arrived in Singapore, my employers put me up in a hotel for a week and in that time, I had to find an apartment and move out. If I had known about co-living, this would have been no problem. However, instead my employers only told me about certain rental websites and Facebook groups. I ended up renting from someone who claimed to be a ‘landlord’. I am now fully aware that this was an illegal sub-let, with no proper contract and the experience almost becoming unbearable. My ‘landlord’ installed CCTV without making me aware, would often move my laundry and keep it in his own room, and would constantly act inappropriate towards me, even though he had a wife. Had I have rented somewhere with good agents that were used to short-term rentals for expats, I’m sure I would have had a much better experience.

No Alcohol Past 10:30!

In a bid to minimise public disorder, Singapore doesn’t allow you to purchase alcohol in a shop past 10:30pm. This was even before Covid! I remember madly rushing to 7/11 to buy a final bottle before the time is up! Yes you can still buy alcohol in bars, but if you’re hanging out at home, it’s best to stock up before 10:30!

Join Facebook Groups!

Going back to what I previously said, I wish that I’d have put more effort into making friends outside of work when I arrived. I feel like in the UK, not as many people use Facebook anymore. But here in Singapore, Facebook groups are awesome for meeting new friends and joining groups full of likeminded people. Of course, it’s sometimes hit or miss who you end up meeting, but still it’s a great way to get yourself out there.

Which Hawkers Are Good!

There’s not just Newton Food Centre or Lau Pa Sat! There are so many other good hawker centres across Singapore with delicious food you may never have tried before! Check out my two articles about Hawkers For Expats for some great ideas and cool places that you can check out.

Avoid Over-Priced ‘Expat’ Brands!

Might be a controversial one, but there are so many companies that market themselves purely to expats just so they can jack up the price. I was recommended a few of these places when I first arrived to Singapore and I slowly realised that are a lot more local shops that you can get your hair, nails, alterations, anything done at a local shop that won’t cost you a fortune!

What I Should Have Brought Over from the UK!

There’s a lot of super weird things in Singapore that are expensive for no reason, and if I’d have known, I would have brought it over from home. I found that bedsheets, towels, toiletries and tanning products were super expensive here. All of these things I could have gotten really cheap from back at home and brought over with me. Especially tanning oil, that absolutely pains me to pay what they charge here when I could have gotten it cheaper from Home Bargains.

Hopefully this can help some new expats who come to Singapore with a few helpful tips!

How To Travel On A Shoestring

With travel restrictions opening up and it being easier to travel, you might be overwhelmed with how to kickstart your travel bug again! You may be worried that travel is now incredibly expensive post pandemic, but fear not! I have some travel tips for you so that you can successfully travel on a shoestring.

Of course, all travel planning starts with buying the ticket. You may think this is the most expensive part of the trip, so here are some ways you can save on ticket prices. 

First of all, always check the flights in Incognito mode. Those cookies are going to track all your searches for flights otherwise and jack up the prices. I often find that using price comparison sites such as Sky Scanner, means that I get the cheapest flight possible, even cheaper than booking directly through the airline! One thing I really like about these travel comparison websites, and it’s even possible to do through Google is a price alert. Here, you input your email address, and the website will alert you any time the price goes up or down. This way you can try and get an even cheaper price. Some days of the week tend to be cheaper than others, monitor your alerts and see what works best.

Flying direct can often work out quite a fair bit more expensive than if you have any connecting flights. Whilst connecting flight might be a bit of a pain, they could save you hundreds of dollars off your tickets. If you don’t mind, and are travelling through countries with multiple cities and airports, consider connecting flights to save a bit of cash.

Here’s an idea, if you’re not sure where you want to travel to, but you still want to travel on a budget you can use comparison websites or Google to search for flights, and choose the starting location of Singapore. In the destination you can choose anywhere, and search for price lowest to highest. That way, if you’d like to try something new and exciting, you can make sure that it’s within your budget!

Do take note of travel restrictions, some countries have completely dropped all of their Covid restrictions, such as the UK. Whereas some countries, like Hong Kong or Macau, have still got very strict rules implemented. This may mean further costs for you. If you want to save on swab tests, you can choose a country that has a little bit more lenient restrictions.

Next, I want to talk about preparation. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail! There are some things that you can do that will minimise your spending costs whilst you are on holiday. Of course, the most important thing is to make sure that your passport is still valid. Generally, you can only travel if you have at least six months validity left on your passport. At the moment, after the pandemic, there is quite a backlog on renewing your passport, so make sure to get this sorted quickly! 

When it comes to currency, there are a couple of great hacks that I frequently use whilst travelling, to make sure that I don’t get ripped off with exchange rates. First of all, change your currency in Singapore before you leave on your travels, avoid changing your Singapore dollars in your travel destination country, as this exchange rate will not be favourable to you. Lots of currency exchanges overseas choose their own rights of exchange, and can often take advantage of unsuspecting tourists.

You may have heard people say that if you travel to anywhere in Southeast Asia or South America, you can use US dollars as your spending money. Respectively, you can use euros in any non-EU country in Europe. I would strongly discourage listening to this advice. Yes, it is easier for you to carry one currency, and you can definitely use those currencies abroad, but unless you are going to America or somewhere in the EU, other countries that use these currencies can massively rip you off. Because it is inconvenient for them to hold onto this foreign currency, the exchange rate is normally very much at a disadvantage to you, meaning that you are paying a premium just for the convenience of having one type of currency with you. In my opinion, this is not worth it. For example, when I was in Laos, I only had Thai Baht with me. It was accepted in all shops and restaurants, but when I converted back into dollars, I realised that it was a lot more economical for me if I just changed into Laos Kip instead, I saved a lot more money this way.

If you ever get stuck and have run out of cash whilst in a foreign country, it’s always a good idea to have an international bankcard to hand. Most ATMs abroad will charge you for withdrawing using a foreign bank card, so if you use your DBS card overseas, you could be charged a fortune! I use a Monzo international bankcard, it is linked to my UK bank account, but I can withdraw from any ATM overseas and will not be charged. There are similar companies that you can get a bank card from in Singapore like Revolut or Wise, these cards are so handy to have a new, and work by topping up from your main bank account. I think this is great because if you keep your bank account on these cards quite low, it’s not so risky if you lose them overseas. They also come with very useful apps that you can access with ease, meaning if you lose your card whilst on holiday, you can freeze it without having to visit a bank branch or calling an international hotline. 

Speaking of hot lines, a lot of people will often buy a Sim card in the country that they are visiting, and use that for the duration of their holiday. Instead of doing this, I recommend renting a Wi-Fi box. This little portable device comes with you during your whole trip, and works almost like a little router. You can connect multiple devices to it, so if you are travelling in a group you don’t need to rent more than one! This works out to be a lot more cost-effective than everyone buying their own Sim card. And I don’t know about you, but I feel a nervy taking out my Sim card whilst I’m abroad, it would be just my luck that I would lose it!

Of course, nowadays, we need a lot more extra paperwork then we previously did when travelling. So, from my experience, I would say it’s best to have all these documents, such as your vaccine certificate to be notarised and printed out when you travel. Most airlines will except soft copies on your phone, but I always think it’s best to carry a hard copy in case your phone battery runs out or you have no signal. Generally, you will need your vaccine certificate, boarding passes, proof of travel insurance with Covid coverage, and a passenger locator form for the country you are travelling to. You may also need to print out your proof of swab tests.

My final tip for preparation is a small one, but it can actually save you some money every time you travel. I would recommend bringing with you your own travel blanket, travel towel, and travel pillow. Reason being is that you can find these things very cheap in stores such as Mustafa‘s or even value stores across Singapore. A lot of airlines will charge you for using a blanket or a pillow, especially if you’re travelling on a budget airline like I often do to save money! Some hostels that you stay at might not even provide towels and things like this, so it’s always best to have your own. This means that you don’t have to keep re-purchasing every time you go abroad. 

I want to tell you ways where you can save money during the itinerary of your trip. 

Instead of hotels, hostels are of course a much cheaper option, and come with the added perks of meeting new people whilst you are travelling. If you don’t like the idea of sharing a room with strangers, most hostels will have private rooms available, that are still a lot cheaper than if you were to book a hotel. Something I love about hostels is that you can generally book a lot of trips and excursions through the front desk staff. They often have tie-ups with a lot of travel companies, meaning that your trips out and about maybe a lot cheaper than if you were to go and source for these things yourself. A lot of hostels I have travelled to also put on free events for the people staying there, like parties, quizzes, free drinks at the bar and different kinds of meet up activities. Not only is this a great way to meet like-minded people, but it also means that you can have very fun cheap night out or nights in at the hostel itself! Not only that, you may also meet people at the hostel that you decide to go travelling with further, enhancing your backpacking experience and meaning that you get to meet people from all walks of life. 

Hostels may also be able to organise drivers and transportation for you, but if they don’t, try and find the local version of Grab or Uber and download these apps. This generally works out to be cheaper than hailing a cab, and in some countries is a lot safer as well. For example, when I lived in Vietnam, you could hire a Xe Om, or motorbike taxi from pretty much any corner. However, as soon as they noticed you were a foreigner, they would charge you triple the price of a local, and you may not feel 100% safe. At least with Uber and Grab, the motorbike fares were at a fixed rate and you were certain of your safety.

If you’re going to be travelling to multiple locations in the same country, or even cross country, like Europe, instead of booking flights in between each location, consider getting coaches or trains. These work out to be a lot cheaper and definitely an enriching backpacking experience. I would definitely recommend if you ever get the opportunity to do so, to take an overnight train to your next location. It’s definitely a memorable experience, with beautiful views and the chance to meet and mingle with locals. When I travelled around Myanmar, I got overnight coaches to most of my destinations. Even though the journeys were sometimes 16 hours, it was incredibly cheap, the locals travelling with you were super friendly, and included food. At the time I also thought it was great value for money because it saved me booking a hostel for that night.

Now that things are starting to feel like they used to, I hope this post can inspire you on your next trip. Enjoy travelling on a shoestring! Remember, it’s about the journey, not the final destination.

Tax Relief For Foreigners

It’s tax filing season, and a lot of expats here in Singapore don’t know that they’re eligible to certain tax reliefs. Today I’ll be talking about how you can legally save on your taxes in Singapore. Just a disclaimer, My job isn’t tax planning, I’m a financial consultant, but these are some things that I do and have researched, that you can put into practice. And of course, this is just for Singapore. I know about some tax laws in other countries but I’ll just be talking about Singapore today.

I want to do a quick overview of the tax system in Singapore, tax reliefs available here and a bit of an example of SRS savings. So you may be shocked as to how many expats are in Singapore. It’s actually approximately 1.68 Million. So quite a lot, but 1 in 8 lost their job in 2020. While job security is a worry to most of us, at least Singapore is doing quite well when it comes to dealing with Covid. And unemployment rate is definitely not as high as other countries during this crisis. There are also many affluent citizens and residents here. Tax, whilst low in Singapore, can still take away a large chunk of your salary.

For tax in Singapore, the amount you pay is broken down into various brackets. Singapore is seen as one of the top first world countries for having low tax, it’s somewhat of a tax haven, but you can see that if you are in the higher income bracket, for example $200k and above, your tax for the year is quite substantial.

So, how can we legally minimise the amount of tax we are paying each year?

There are several things that can give you tax relief. This may appeal more to those that plan on staying here long term, or even longer than just a couple of years, as all these reliefs add up in the long run.

The first and easiest tax relief you can get is employment relief. This is automatically calculated into your tax and is capped at $1,000 for below 55. And then it goes up depending on age bracket.

Next is life insurance relief. If you have any insurance policies from an insurance company in Singapore, you are entitled to a relief of maximum $5,000 per tax year, provided the insurance is for yourself, and is not an accident or hospital policy, or a pure investment policy. This relief can be filed at the end of the tax year under e-filing.

If you have anyone here with you on a dependent pass and they’re not working, you can claim for tax relief. You are entitled to claim $2,000 for spouse, $4,000 for child and $9,000 for a parent on a DP.

To me, this is the most effective way to save on taxes. SRS scheme is great because not only does it offer you tax relief, but you can also make use of the money inside and grow that money for a retirement plan. And, what’s great is it’s available to expats, it’s actually more flexible for expats. Singaporeans can put $15,300 into SRS each year and expats can put $35,700. Just note that if you want to put this maximum amount in, you have to go to the bank and declare that you’re a foreigner.

Everything inside this account is eligible for tax relief, which is done automatically. After the retirement age, you can make withdrawals from this account penalty free. Before that, there’s a 5% charge. The great thing about SRS is after the retirement age, anything that you withdraw from the account, only 50% of it is taxable.

So what can we do with the money inside the account? Well, seen as the interest rate in an SRS account is about 0.05%, I would recommend putting it somewhere where it can grow more, so, if you leave Singapore or you decide to retire here, you’ve got a huge lump sum waiting for you. As you can imagine, if you are putting the maximum amount each year into SRS, you can have a very good pot of cash at the end.

How does all of this look in terms of tax savings each year? Let’s take for example, a man on an EP who earns $250,000 a year. Say he claims $900 in tax on expenses. His original amount he should be paying on tax is $29,829.50

But let’s say he utilises all these tax reliefs he is eligible to, he will save about $10,547 per year on tax.

So you can see, this is a very substantial amount. SRS will give him a tax relief alone of $6.8k.

Here’s an example for someone on $100,000 a year. With all these tax reliefs, there a 4 and a half thousand dollar saving. Just on SRS alone that’s $3271 of savings.

Filing your taxes is so easy to do on the IRAS website, and with SRS being automatically calculated into your tax relief, all you really have to do is input your various other relief schemes. I think SRS in particular, is an excellent way for expats to plan for long term goals, such as retirement, whilst minimizing tax.

I Travelled During a Pandemic and got Covid

I wanted to write an article about my recent travel experience regardless of the outcome, and I wanted to write it to help those who are going to be travelling during this time, or are even thinking about it. We’re in our third year of the pandemic and I hadn’t seen my family in two years. Regardless of the situation, I was going to take any opportunity I could to go home to see them.

That being said, there’s a few things I wish I knew before flying. Even though I had friends that had flown before me, there were new developments every day with the Omicron variant that definitely kept me on my toes.

Pre-Flight

My main concern was coming back on a VTL (vaccinated travel lane) flight, meaning that when I returned to Singapore there was no need to quarantine. This was paramount as I had face-to-face training booked at work. I was going for two weeks, mainly because I’d already taken a lot of time off for our wedding and staycays, but also because I am a licenced financial services consultant in Singapore- I cannot legally work or give financial advice in other countries and if I was out of SG for too long I would run into tax issues.

VTL flights were CRAZY expensive- one BA flight was about $6,000. I love my family but was not about to pay that. So, I found a cheaper way to fly via Berlin with Scoot, return VTL, pretty cheap. I also booked a pre departure test for the UK, booked a day 2 test for when we got there, completed our passenger locator form and my VTP (vaccinated travel pass). I would recommend printing everything off for a smooth transition, and I even printed off all travel itinerary, insurance and our marriage certificate (he’s a Singaporean so I knew I could come back on a family ties lane if there was another lockdown).

Flight

With all our documents ready and check-in online done it was time to head off. Thank goodness we got to the airport early because, even though we had already checked in, it didn’t matter. We still had to queue and have Scoot check all our documents, which was fine and didn’t take too long, but they seem to have more staff ‘assisting you’ at the automatic booths than for the Covid checks, which seemed counter-productive, and our assistant kept pressing all the wrong buttons, so it would have just been easier to do it ourselves. But once check in was done, everything was easy and the flight to Berlin was pretty smooth.

That’s when the panic started. We only had a two-hour layover in Berlin (which was totally my own doing; we landed at 9am and all other flights to England weren’t until 7pm, and I would rather take my chances than sit in an airport for that long). The issue was that, because it was self-transfer with two different airlines, we had to go through passport control, collect our bags, check them in again, go through security and then immigration a second time before boarding our next flight. This was the most stress I’ve experienced in a long time, and if it weren’t for the kind family in front of us at immigration letting us past, we would have missed our flight. Anyway, we got our connection just in the nick of time and arrived safely in Manchester.

Being At Home

I am not over exaggerating when I say that seeing my mom at Manchester Airport for the first time in two years was like something out of Love Actually. I cried, she cried, and there was a tonne of people in the exact same situation, embracing each other after years of being apart. It was at this moment that I realised that all of this was worth it. It was like time had stood still and nothing had changed being back at home. It was also very special because this was the first time my husband was coming home with me and had met my parents face to face.

Whilst I was home, I met friends, got my booster and went to a club. Although I will say that because of my constant fear of Covid, we were super careful; wore masks EVERYWHERE, constantly hand sanitised, stayed in small groups and sat by ourselves with masks on in the club (lame I know). The UK had become very lax about the situation, with no one really checking vaccination status or wearing a mask. And to some extent I agree with the majority that it does need to be taken as an endemic now, but I had a flight to catch in two weeks.

Omicron Panic

During the trip I had several friends cancel on their plans because they had tested positive and were self-isolating. I was happy to hear, however, that they weren’t taking long to recover and had little to no symptoms. Governments worldwide didn’t see the positive side, however, and with news that Europe was shutting their boarders the panic started to set in. Our flight back to Singapore was again via Berlin and it wasn’t long until EasyJet cancelled our flight from Gatwick.

Then Singapore announced that it was suspending all VTL sales…we had 4 hours to frantically book flights. I found a pretty reasonable booking with Turkish Airlines arriving in Singapore on the 1st January.

Heading Back

We flew back from London and, after a lovely time with family and friends, we got our lateral flows done in Boots somewhere in Piccadilly, did our Health Travel Declaration for Singapore and stayed next to Heathrow Airport.

The gentleman at the Turkish Airlines desk was incredibly helpful and the document check was very smooth. Everything from that point to Istanbul went very well and felt like normal flying times. When we got to Istanbul we had to have our VTL documents checked again, which was fine for us but not for all- there were people being told they had to say in Istanbul Airport, others on the phone to their respective embassies and some being interrogated about their trip to Singapore. I genuinely think this happened because Turkish Airlines doesn’t make it clear on their website that the flight is a VTL- I had to trawl through several websites to confirm and the VTL flight only happens in January once every two weeks. And if you weren’t from Singapore, how would you even know what a VTL is?

Landing

Everything when we arrived in Singapore was smooth- we got our bags quickly, and, although I hadn’t pre-booked my PCR, it was quick and efficient. We got home and awaited our results…the morning came and my husband got a call from MOH saying that he had tested positive on his PCR. This came as quite a shock as we were both negative before we left, my whole family had tested negative and we are now testing negative on ART tests. Hours later I still had not received my results. But eventually they came in and were positive too. We now both have to quarantine for ten days (from result, not from test, so essentially 11 days), which I am pretty upset about. For some context, it came out in the news that those on non-VTL flights will no longer have to do a PCR on arrival, and self-isolate for 7 days. If they test positive on an ART they have to isolate for 72 hours or until they test negative. Please tell me why for VTL it is a 10 day quarantine, regardless of how soon you test negative?

Final Thoughts

All in all I am very happy I went home and nothing will take away that time I spent with friends and family. However, I do feel that the VTL scheme is just a way of making money- ticket prices are insanely high, the number of tests is insurmountable and the PCR upon arrival was $125, which I got the results well after 24hrs instead of 6-12. And on top of that I still have to quarantine longer than if it was non-VTL. The level of extra documentation and stress made flying incredibly nerve-wracking. I used to be a frequent flyer and travel a few times a month- this trip I was incredibly anxious, panicked and it was overall such an unpleasant experience. Also, if I knew I was going to test positive anyway, even after all the many precautions I took, I probably would have cared less and relaxed a bit more.

Here’s to 8 more days stuck inside!

How To Have A Healthy Conversation Without Mentioning Covid

We’ve been stuck in this situation now for almost two years (I know, I can’t believe it), and how Covid is affecting the world can be a lot to take sometimes. I definitely get down about how things are, especially because I’m unable to see my family. But then I also feel a huge amount of guilt, because I still have my health, my husband, my job and thankfully all my family are well and safe. I know that many people are not that lucky; those that have lost family members, lost jobs, got covid themselves, stuck abroad etc…so I feel that the pandemic can affect me two-fold; feeling sorry for myself but then feeling worse for others and feeling guilty that I ever felt sorry for myself. (Have I talked about my feelings enough yet?)

Not only has Covid-19 majorly affected peoples’ mental health, it’s affected the way we communicate. Lockdowns meant that we didn’t have many new topics to chat about, most things were online so we lost that personal touch and, arguably the worst thing…we can’t seem to have a conversation without talking about COVID! So, let’s cut the chit-chat and let’s explore ways that we can have healthy conversation without bringing up 2021’s ‘He Who Must Not Be Named’…Covid-19.

Be Open Minded

It’s often difficult to talk to someone you may feel is not on the same page as you or someone who has different opinions to you, but try to be understanding of people’s situations. We all deal with stress differently, so if we all try and take other’s perspectives into account, it can lead to a healthy conversation that is not closed off or filled with animosity. Conversations are there to put us in a good mood; we are social creatures and communication mentally stimulates us. If you’re unsure of what conversation topics to start with, try finding some common ground. Even if it’s just the weather, or discussing an object in a common space, this is a good way to start and allows you both to openly talk and feel more comfortable.

Be Observant and Listen

Everybody wants to feel heard. Everyone appreciates a listening ear and no one really likes to feel like they’re being ignored or talked over. To be an active listener, try to ignore any distractions in the room; talk in a neutral environment; focus on what they are saying, not how you’re going to respond and don’t rush the conversation. Observe the other person’s body-language and facial expressions. This is great if you’re running out of stuff to talk about as well, you can comment on something they’re wearing (nicely) and ask them more about it.

  Practicing good listening also can lead to better, more valuable conversations. You can keep this going by asking open-ended questions, use affirmations to validate the other person when you agree, and always try to show an interest in what the other person is saying.

Change The Topic

When someone else brings up Covid, and you would really rather not talk about it, there are some ways you can steer the conversation away. You can use the topic to ask if anyone has learnt any new hobbies or skills, share your experiences or ask how people are handling working from home. If you’re having this conversation over a video call, take the opportunity to ask for a house tour or ask about things in the zoom, to steer the conversation away from the C word. You can talk about current pop-culture references; we’ve all upped our Netflix intake over this period, so talk about Too Hot To Handle, Squid Game or The Circle…or whatever you’ve been watching!

Here are some conversation starters if you’re getting a bit stuck:

  • Have you learnt any new recipes lately?
  • Are you working on any new projects?
  • How are your family?
  • Have you been reading anything good right now?
  • Where do you normally go for a stroll/bike ride?
  • What have you been doing to wind down in the evening?

I’m sure that one of these will land, and then you can use your other tools to build your conversation from there.

                Honesty Is the Best Policy

If all else fails, don’t be afraid to share how you’re feeling. If you don’t want to talk about the pandemic, you can firmly state that you simply do not wish to discuss it and that you want to talk about other things. This may be necessary if you feel that the other person does not share the same views with you when it comes to the rules, restrictions, vaccines or how the government is handling it. It’s not worth getting into arguments over things that you cannot change, so sometimes it’s best to just…not talk about the topic at all.

I know that all of these things are always easier said than done, but implementing a few of these tools and techniques can improve your conversations and relationships with others around you. Not only that, it can improve your mindset, making you feel calmer and in control of your discussions. I hope this has helped even one person- being mindful about these things, particularly being an active listener, has really helped me over this tough period. Stay safe everyone and we can get through this.

Fun Places To Go As A 5!

The Phase 2 Heightened Restrictions have been eased! We’re now allowed to hang out in groups of 5 again. All this time working from home and staying in the house might have had you wondering…what fun stuff is there to do in a group these days? Look no further! Here’s a list of some awesome places to go in a group!

  • Adventure Cover Water Park

If you like water slides, fish and relaxing whilst floating, then this is the place for you. Adventure Cove is a water park that is a great day out for a group of friends or a family. There’s thrilling water slides, lazy rivers and you can even snorkel with fish! This water park is a perfect way to cool off on a hot day and you can book tickets online beforehand.

  • ArtScience Museum: Virtual Realms

From now until January, you can explore and immerse yourself with six installations at the ArtScience Museum. For art lovers and videogame enthusiasts alike, this exhibition has teamed up with some of the world’s leading video game developers to bring you this multi-sensory gallery. Submerge yourself into these different virtual realms that have been created. The exhibition is $16 for adults and $12 for children.

  • #InstaWalk

No good pictures to post online because you’ve been stuck outside? Want to meet new people? Then check out #InstaWalk; this guided tour has two options- Civic Colours or Bugis, Waterloo, KG Glam. Take this 2 hour walk and explore whichever are you choose out of the two options. The tour guides share tips on how to take great insta-worthy shots, whilst telling you about the history of the area. Not only that, if you sign up, you can get CapitaLand vouchers for free!

  • Gardens By The Bay

If you’ve got a group of 5 and it’s a lovely sunny day, consider a day out at Gardens By The Bay. Start off by grabbing some food at Satay By The Bay or Makansutra and then head over for the new exhibition Dale Chihuly: Glass in Bloom. This renowned artist’s glasswork is being shown until 1st August and has been shipped all the way from Seattle. Casually stroll around the gardens and see the beautiful glass structures and you can even chill and wind down with some drinks and a little picnic at Marina Barrage.

  • Durian Party!

It’s durian season! And I’ve left one of my favourite things (eating durian) until last. Many fruit stalls are now stocking up on this delicious spiky fruit, and if you want to try some, or have all your friends over to eat durian, now is the best time! The most popular (and most expensive) is Mao Shan Wang. It’s soft, creamy, sweet and yet a bit bitter. It’s definitely one of my favourite types, but it can be up to $25 per kg. Black Thorn (or Black Gold as I’ve also seen it advertised) is new to the market and similar (if not better) in taste to Mao Shan Wang. If you’re new to durian and want something sweet, not too bitter, and a cheaper option ($9-$17 per kg), try Red Prawn.

More things are set to open up as the month progresses, but here’s just a few things that can keep you and your friends busy until then!

Circuit Breaker Anniversary: Mental Health Awareness

As we surpass the one-year mark of the start of circuit breaker in Singapore, I would like to reflect on our mental health and how the pandemic has affected us. Although things are definitely doing well in Singapore (we can go the bars, restaurants and beach clubs without worrying), it definitely doesn’t make things better in terms of our mental health. Many of us are still worried about the situation overseas, particularly with our families and some feel anxious with the large crowds and normality in Singapore.

  About one in three people in Singapore feels their mental well-being has worsened since the circuit breaker kicked in a year ago, a poll commissioned by The Straits Times showed. Working from home has highlighted how blurred work-life boundaries have become. If you work from home, it can often feel like you must always be in work mode- there is not escape and no change in environment.

  Covid-19 has brought to the forefront the need for change in Singapore, especially for breaking down the stigmas surrounding mental health. I think the one thing we must all remember is that it’s ok not to be ok. No one ever expected this pandemic to happen and last this long. If I were to look back to the start of 2019, I would never think that I would be stopped from seeing my family. I would never think that I would have to rely on technology so heavily (the thought of my parents only being able to see me get married via Zoom fills me with such despair). And, I wouldn’t have thought that job security in Singapore would be so touch and go. Not only that, travelling was a way for me to relax.

  We must remind ourselves that our problems are valid to us. I often feel incredibly guilty thinking about things back in England; I get stressed over the smallest thing here in Singapore, but in the UK, life right now is much more challenging. But, it’s ok for me to feel these things.

  Singapore is definitely moving forward when it comes to mental health awareness. The National Care Hotline, which was set up in April last year to provide psychological first aid and emotional support during Covid-19, was the first of its kind in Singapore, and just shows how far forward we’ve come in such a short space of time. The increase in avenues like webinars, shows that there is a need and a hunger for employers to learn more about their employees’ mental health. Insurance companies in Singapore are now including mental health diagnoses in their coverage.

  While we are definitely improving with mental health awareness here in Singapore, there is a lot of growth yet to be done. Let’s come together and support each other during this tough time. Be open to talking and hearing from each other, don’t be afraid to ask for help and remember that you are not alone.

Covid Vaccine Cover!

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