vrijdag 29 augustus 2014

Finally, a triathlon (sprint edition)

Triathlon take away #1: I RULE on a bicycle. Eat my dust, all you intimidating athletic looking females in your fancy triathlon suits.

Triathlon take away #2: I SUCK at transitioning (getting changed between sports). Do other people not mind if they get sand in their shoes? (EWW, gross, no, not going there.)

Triathlon take away #3: It's a fantastic feeling to run hand in hand with the entire family, the three year old beaming with pride in her Elsa T-shirt, man Tamtam carrying a jumping toddler J. on his back, but it didn't say much for my running speed.

Triathlon take away #4: A cycle speed of 28.7 km/hr is apparently not slow, and a running speed of slightly less than 10 km/hr apparently is. I got that backwards.

Triathlon take away #5: I don't know how to swim. But drafting certainly helps.

Triathlon take away #6: I am faster on subsequent laps. Diesel for life!

Triathlon take away #7: No, man Tamtam, it was not because you gave me such a good bike. But the years of indoctrination with cycling lore and training tips came in very handy. (Yes, I listened. I do that sometimes!)

Triathlon take away #8: I will do this again. But maybe a nice cycling race first. I like that zooming feeling.

Triathlon take away #9: Those tight triathlon suits work surprisingly well across a range of body types. (Yes, one intimidating athletic looking female in a fancy triathlon suit, right here, looking awesome.)

Overall: 34th out of 87 finishers.
Swimming (750m): 44
Cycling (18km): 13
Running (5km): 48
Transitioning: 42 and 51 (yes! You get marked for the speed with which you change your shoes!)

ps. Man Tamtam took all these amazing pictures - it's hard to capture a fast-moving target!

woensdag 27 augustus 2014

Singaporeans do things differently: Discounts

Never ever buy anything without a discount, my colleagues told me. Shoes, clothes, washing machines, houses. There is always room for negotiation. And Singaporeans are masters of the art.

Take for instance the property market. Right now is supposed to be a renters' market in Singapore. There's lots of units for rent, lots of landlords desperately looking for nice tenants, there are apparently even short term leases on offer!

But if you go on PropertyGuru, our local funda with all the properties listed for rent or for sale, you won't find any bargains. On the contrary, over the last few months we have steadily seen the advertised rents rise and rise again. 

Then a friend alerted me to this nifty little website, which has a listing of all the ACTUAL rental contracts for units in condo's and properties in Singapore. It's run by the URA, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, also responsible for the Singapore Masterplan of building (you can go and have a look at Singapore's future in the Singapore City Gallery near Chinatown).

By now, the prices listed for the units in our condo on propertyguru and the prices actually agreed upon in contracts are roughly a third different, i.e.: what you actually end up paying is two-thirds of what the agent is asking for publicly. 

So, when supply goes up, the price goes up - only to come down again after a discount. The tenant is happy, because they got a discount, the landlord is happy because the discount is less than it could have been. Everybody happy! 

This is in fact a classic negotiation tactic called 'anchoring'. The agent puts up a price, and all discussion from that point onwards will be starting from that anchorpoint. This means that if the original anchor/price on a unit it 5.500 SGD per month, I will feel I have gotten a good deal when the agent drops it to 5.000 SGD per month. Even though I know that similar units have gone for 4.500 SGD! 

Singapore is an expensive city to live in. There are many reasons for this, chief among them land scarcity and a lack of resources. But you shouldn't get your wallet out too soon! 

Being Dutch, we pride ourselves on being sensible with money - but that also means that if we do need something, and if it is good quality, we are prepared to pay the sticker price. We still have this icky feeling about spending too much time and effort on shopping, on something so materialistic, on pure consumerism.

But for Singaporeans, it is quite the opposite. Pure consumerism is the non-thinking way of buying. The Singaporean way of shopping is to go to great lengths to get as much value out of a dollar as possible. Shopping is performance art, and getting the right price an exact science. 

Paying the sticker price - that's for expats. 

maandag 25 augustus 2014

Plaatjespost & Picture Post: Reading habits of Toddler J.

There are certain things in life that J. loves. Balls. Music. Food. Running. His sister, usually. And yesterday I realised that his reading habits are a perfect mirror of his other fascinations.

In order of adoration:

"Les instruments du monde" (with sound effects)

"Op een grote paddenstoel" (illustrated children's songs)

("In de maneschijn")

"Puppies" (nearly autobiographical)

"Ollie" (wear and tear due to it being deeply pre-loved by E.)

"Disney's the little mermaid"

No points for guessing this last book. Or J.'s favourite page.

All of these books were gifts, with the exception of "Puppies" - but I only bought that, because J. wouldn't let go of it in the shop and I wanted to leave (incidentally, the same reason why E. has a small Ikea children's lounge chair in her room). So a big heartfelt thanks to Marion, Eva, Ilse, Jasleen and Wies: you clearly know your way around a little boy's mind.