Moving From A 3-Room Flat To A Bungalow Overseas – 5 Things I Never Thought I Would Miss About HDB Life

31 December 2022 | BY

From a 3-room flat to a bungalow overseas? Here are some of the trade-offs living in Singapore versus overseas.

Moving From A 3-Room Flat To A Bungalow Overseas – 5 Things I Never Thought I Would Miss About HDB Life

Just 6 months ago, I donated 50% of the things I owned, packed up my life and left Singapore with my husband and children. Moving abroad was always something on my adventure bucket list, and when the opportunity presented itself post-pandemic, we jumped at the chance.

The destination: a quiet city on the Eastern gulf of Thailand, just a couple hours’ drive from Bangkok city. It seemed like the perfect upgrade. After all, home in Singapore was a meagre 700sqft flat that housed my family of four and our helper. With only two bedrooms in the house, both my husband and I acknowledged that our flat wasn’t an ideal forever home. 

At present, it barely housed our growing children and our helper comfortably, and buying a larger flat in this booming property market would only leave us knee-deep in loans we weren’t willing to take.

Work was taking us to a city where bungalows were within our financial reach, and we’d even be able to afford a car – a luxury we’d spent many nights pining over. It almost felt too good to be true. Sure, there were trade-offs being a more rural area with not as much connectivity and convenience at our fingertips, but we were 100% game for the country life – especially if it meant that we’d finally get a taste of landed living.

Moving into a landed house in Thailand

3-Room Flat To A Bungalow Overseas

After months of trawling through the deepest corners of property sites in Thailand, we found our dream house. A country-style house with a gorgeous gable roof within the compounds of a country club. We had manicured lawns in our neighbourhood, a little pond right behind our room and the view of the lush golf course with rolling mountains in the background. Consider it the equivalent of Sentosa Cove living.

3-Room Flat To A Bungalow Overseas
It was the “high-SES life” we’d never be able to attain in Singapore without striking 4D. Everything was perfect, and we were thoroughly counting all our blessings. Our 3-room HDB flat was all but a distant memory, shrinking even more with every passing day.

So this is what landed living feels like.

The first few weeks of living there were pretty blissful with us fawning over the view of the lake from our master bedroom every morning and getting a perfect panoramic view of the night sky at night with no towering skyscrapers to dim their glow.

3-Room Flat To A Bungalow OverseasA spare bedroom we converted into a play room.

The home is so expansive, I no longer have to fight to find a quiet sound-proof spot to have my WFH meetings, and everyone has their own space in the house. We also find ourselves spending a lot more time at home – something we never seemed to do much in our flat because it’d always feel claustrophobic with the kids bouncing off the walls.

And while we love our new home and the peace and tranquillity that comes with it, maintaining a home of that size is definitely no walk in the park.

The minimal cleaning & the waste disposal services

3-Room Flat To A Bungalow OverseasThe pretty minimal 3-room flat we lived in.

Living in a 3-room HDB, while small, had lots of perks. For one, it was a breeze to clean. My vacuum-and-mop routine would only take 5-10 minutes and I’d deep clean our only bathroom once a week. I’d only ever had to worry about the interior of the house, and HDB took care of the rest.

3-Room Flat To A Bungalow OverseasWith just one toilet and one bathroom in our flat, cleaning was a breeze.

At just under 5,000sqft, this house was approximately 7 times the size of our 3-room HDB flat. The 5 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms and 2 storerooms that I’d celebrated when we moved in soon became a pain point for me. Dust accumulates faster than we can clean, and we also always wake up to a bunch of dead insects littering the living room floor – presumably having died from heat stroke under our glass gable roof.

Cleaning our current house is easily an entire-day affair with my husband and I splitting the duties. We also have to contend with the house being less than spotless leading up to chore day because we just don’t have the energy to deal with all that cleaning daily. Mopping – easily a bi-monthly affair if I’m 100% honest, and that’s not something this clean freak is proud of.

3-Room Flat To A Bungalow OverseasNo, that’s not grass, just weeds that have since popped through the gravel.

Beyond the living spaces in the house, we also have a wraparound garden that I have found has a life of its own, sprouting all sorts of super weeds and vines that grow at the speed of light turning the yard into quite the jungle in a matter of weeks. Gardening and yard work in an HDB? We don’t know her.

Now let’s talk about trash. In our older resale flat, we had the luxury of a rubbish chute, a lovely portal that would send our nastiest of nasties down to disappear. Out of sight and smell forever. And then there’s the bulky refuse bin and the Town Council’s free removal of large furniture from your home at no cost at all!

In our landed house, we have to bag everything up real tight otherwise the neighbourhood rubbish collectors will leave in on your porch forever. That even extends to furniture. I’ve heard cases of neighbours going as far as to saw their old furniture down to fit plastic bags in order for them to get rid of them. 

Let’s just say that, I will never complain about paying my Services & Conservancy Charges ever again. And thank you HDB Town Council and the OneService app for being the hero hotline I never knew I needed. 

The efficient pest control

Image credit: Project Noah

Back when we lived in our flat, we struggled with cockroaches, house lizards and ants. And while that was horrible to deal with, there was HDB to rely on to do the dirty work on the common corridors and void decks. 

In Thailand, we have wasps, supersized flies, bumblebees, and dragonflies that love to kamikaze into every opening of your house. And these are just of the flying variety.

Of course, there are lizards as well, just 10 times the amount you’d find in a Singapore home – do they come from the forestation around us? Only God knows. On land, we deal with bull and tree frogs making themselves cosy in the shoes in our garage. Occasionally, we’d even have the unfortunate experience of stepping on all sorts of insect poop too.

Image for illustration only.
Image credit: Alexey Demidov

Then there are the creepier crawlies. And I’m talking scorpions, huntsman spiders, snakes and monitor lizards. While the monitor lizards we’ve encountered don’t pose that big of a threat to us, it’s always quite a shock to see one scuttling across your yard. 

Scorpions and huntsman spiders, on the other hand, are a major worry for us as a family with two toddlers – especially with one child not having fully grasped the concept of wearing shoes outdoors. There’s no town council to flock to for fumigation help here – you only have yourself and whatever animal and insect repellants they stock at the nearest Mega Home store.

Maintenance around the estate

If you’ve ever experienced a power outage in Singapore, you’ll know that it these are resolved pretty quickly so your life can go on without a hitch. On the flip side, since we’ve moved to the Thai countryside, we’ve experienced one estate-wide power outage that took all of five hours to be remedied. And let me just say it’s all the more unnerving to be in a pitch-black house and street surrounded by an orchestra of wild animal sounds.

The reasonable utility bills

If the standard of living in Singapore is so high, you’d expect to have to pay less for utilities elsewhere. In our little flat, we were proud of our slightly-below-average utility bill, with us only forking out between $60-$90 dollars each month for both electricity and water. P.S. even when sleeping with the air-conditioner on.

So you can just imagine our shock when our first month of living slapped us with a S$250 bill for electricity use only. This is after only using the air conditioner in one bedroom at night and proactively trying to conserve energy around the house. Till this day the reason why electricity is so expensive is a mystery to me. All I know is that I miss the reasonable pricing of utilities back in Singapore.

HDB things I miss now that I live overseas

Image credit: Unsplash

Don’t get me wrong, I count every single blessing that I have that has brought me on this path of adventure, and I don’t foresee myself returning to Singapore any time soon. My family is thoroughly loving the “home upgrade” but every situation has its pros and cons. 

Strangely enough, living in another country has made me realise the perks I didn’t even know I enjoyed living in an HDB – especially all those GST vouchers that the government keeps doling out. So if you’re an HDB dweller dissatisfied with your current home, just know that home-wise, you’re pretty well taken care of by HDB.

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