The glorious tropical climate of Singapore is one of its most appealing features. The trick is working out how to handle the heat and humidity, while still enjoying the great outdoors.
You meet a lovely new mum at the park. She smiles an awkward smile and wipes a trickle of sweat from her eye, then another from her top lip. She’s pulling her shorts out of her crotch surreptitiously, hoping you won’t notice. When her kid asks her for a drink, she gives the teeny tiny drink bottle a silent shake, indicating it’s empty. It was empty five minutes after they arrived. You pull your five-litre flask out from under the pram and offer her a top-up. After an hour or so of very pleasant chatting about her recent arrival in Singapore, she finally asks the question: how do you handle the heat in Singapore? Is it always this hot?
Do you lie and say no, it’s unseasonably hot right now, or hit her with the frightening truth? Yes, it’s hot like this all year round. Of course you tell her the truth – it’s part of the expat mum code. Definitely give her the lowdown on how to handle the heat in Singapore…
How to handle the Singapore heat and keep cool like a pro
1. Choose your time of day wisely
This is a bit of a no-brainer but it needs to be said. Going to the park and outdoor activities are best suited to early mornings and later in the afternoon. Find playgrounds and parks that have good shade from trees and shade cloths and call it quits early. Only seasoned pros can handle the heat for hours on end without having an anxiety attack and/or meltdown.
2. Don’t expect to be able to walk everywhere
Perhaps in London, Perth, or Toronto, you prided yourself on being one of those mums who power-walked around the city all day with the kids happily perched in the pram. You’d spend your days outside, walking from home to the supermarket, to the playground, to the cafe, then home again. Not here. Spend your days walking in the heat and you end up sweaty, irritated and exhausted. Thankfully in Singapore we’re serviced by amazing public transport, so jump on a bus for a couple of stops to give yourself a zap of air conditioning, or opt to travel one way to the supermarket via MRT or taxi.
3. Embrace the indoor play centre
We’ll admit, it was a difficult transition to the indoor play centre. The cost, the sanitary requirements (how many times did it take before we remembered to bring everyone’s socks?), the sterility, the rules about ‘outside food’ (insert eye roll here). Just embrace it. Go with the idea that once every so often, an activity indoors at a play centre is a cool change. Find a play centre that suits your needs (and budget) and make it your happy place.
4. Get to know your staples: hat, enormous water bottle, sunscreen, mozzie spray, spare undies
In your constant battle to handle the heat in Singapore, you need to keep a stash of heat defence devices at the front door. We’re talking hats for all members of the family, a pump-pack of sunscreen and mosquito repellent. And of course, carry the biggest bottle of water you can manage. Singapore’s tap water is drinkable, so fill up water bottles whenever you can. We also love our water icy cold, so investing in an insulated bottle is a winning idea. Finally, the embarrassing bit. Pop a spare pair of knickers for you in your baby bag. Enough said about that.
5. Learn to love ‘the lunchtime shower’
If you’re doing the full-time mum thing and spending a lot of time outside, it’s not uncommon to have a lunchtime shower. Spending a sweaty morning at Jacob Ballas is even better when you can wash off the sand and sweat with a peaceful lunchtime shower. Bliss!
6. Avoid heaty bites and beverages
Let’s be honest! Parenting and coffee are a match made in heaven. But in hot and humid Singapore, it may not be the wisest choice, especially if you want to keep the heat at bay. We get that sulky face. But if you want a cool stage for a bearable stay on this island, green tea would be of better help to you any day. As for food, we say a sensible swap from spicy curries and chocolates to light sautes and hydrating fruits is a great way to go. Plus, our tiny tropical haven has an abundance of the juiciest fruits and fresh veggies you can dream of. Make good use of this bounty folks!
7. Cool off at a pool
The all-famous Singapore heat can get intolerable enough to drive you off the island to more bearable places. Fact! But, if you haven’t caught wind of it yet, this tiny dot has conjured a clever plan to beat the heat, and we know it won’t disappoint. We are talking about splash water parks, public pools and more for you to beat the heat in a fun and splashy way. So kit out the brood in those snazzy shades and swimsuits, slap on a dollop of sunscreen and hit these water havens with a vengeance! We like to cool it off in style!
8. Dehumidify your stay
The dehumidifier is a real blessing and a commonly purchased appliance amongst households in Singapore. You might not have found the need for it elsewhere, but trust us when we say it’s a game-changer for this part of the map! Unless you like to wear that humidified avatar? We are talking about sticky skin and frizzy hair. Yikes! It doesn’t get attractive at all! So take a leaf out of pro-islanders’ books and live it the way they do with this essential life-changer. Pronto!
9. Stand in the shade and don’t walk fast
Ever noticed how many people stand in the shade while they’re waiting for the green man at a pedestrian crossing? Or that they never walk particularly fast on the footpath? These locals and long-term residents are well trained in the art of ‘not breaking a sweat’. Seek out shade whenever you’re out and about.
10. Find clothes that don’t cling and stick (and you’ll need more bras!)
We’re pretty sure those women who go to the park here in jeans are some kind of genetic mutants. But for the rest of us, that spells textile insanity! Find fabrics that work in hot and humid climates, like linen, cotton, and rayon. When the shops are in summer mode, stock up on lightweight tops, floaty dresses and comfy shorts that let the air circulate. And you’ll need to get used to the fact that your clothes and bras will most likely need to be washed after every wear, which means you may need to replace them more frequently.
11. Invest in the best deodorant money can buy
What once was a ‘nice to have’ is now a daily necessity. Just like brushing your teeth, applying deodorant every morning is a must if you’re inclined towards smelly pits in these humid environs. When handling the heat in Singapore, we prefer natural deodorants rather than antiperspirants, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do!
12. Meet your soulmate: air conditioning
Air conditioning. Like a refreshing glass of sauv blanc… cool, crisp and fresh. Is there anything better than retreating indoors and being blasted by the icy wind of an air conditioner? Nope. Not when you’ve been at the playground all morning. But beware of the cost (and environmental impact) of having your aircon pumping all day. Our advice? If you haven’t got ceiling fans, get some installed to keep air circulating and use aircon only when absolutely necessary.
Yes, we’re meditating. If there’s anything that having kids has taught us, it’s the need to submit to things beyond our control. The heat is one of those things. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. The anxiety attack when trying to strap a bucking child into their car seat in a baking hot car. The desire to put your fist through a wall when putting shoes and socks on fidgety kids when you’re overheated. The claustrophobia overcomes you when trying to pull off your wet sports bra after a sweaty exercise session. After years of practice, we can happily report the easiest way to overcome this heat-induced angst is to STOP. BREATHE. SMILE. Then continue on your hot, sweaty Singapore journey.
Keep calm and stay cool, folks!