Saturday, December 26, 2009

Purchasing a vehicle (useful tips for foreign expat)

Buying a vehicle can be very tedious task for you and your family. It took three weeks (from researching to purchasing) before getting a car. Purchasing a vehicle is totally different culture for us here. As I said before, we are NOT allowed to bargain in the States. The car pricing is fixed by the dealers. Every shop dealer offers different car pricing. You have to call and get the quotations from all the dealers in your neighbourhood before finalising the model and dealer you want. Bear in mind, the car insurance package is not included in the car pricing. You need to search and purchase the car insurance from the insurance companies. Again, there are many insurance companies in the market hence you need to compare the quotations before making your final decision.

Purchasing a vehicle in the States is similarly buying your vegetable in the supermarket. The new and used vehicles are available in the showrooms. All you have to do is to search for your favourite car, make downpayment and pick up the car once all the payment have been finalized. If you are a new resident in California without the history of Credit Score, it would be difficult for you to apply for bank loan. Thus, you need to purchase the car with full payment in cash.

Apart from that, all the drivers must be insurred when they are driving on the roads. This is the main criteria ruling from California Department of Motoring. Thus, you need to include all of your family members (who have California driving licenses) in the car insurance. If the driver is being caught without being insurred while driving, the driver and the car owner will face heavy penality which is losing their privilege. Their driving licenses will be revoked.

Hope this will help you...

Spending my Christmas at Reed Street Dog Park

Yes, it is true. We had no where to go on Christmas Day since most of the shopping malls, supermarkets, restaurants and fast food chains were closed on the festive season. Thus, we decided to spend our Christmas with Baby and Max at the dog park. After spending much time searching on the internet, we managed to find the nearest dog park which took us about 15 minutes drive (about 7 miles from our home). It is known as Reed Street Dog Park.

This was our first time to the dog park so we brought along the basic necessity for the dogs such as a water bottle and some "poo poo" bags in case for the emergency purpose. When we reached there, we were surprised to see the cleanliness of the park which was fully equipped with water in the bowls and "poo poo" bags for the dogs. In order to keep the park, all the dog owners have to be responsible for their dogs. The owners have to pick up and throw the poo poo bags in the bins.

Never judge the book by its cover... This bulldog looks fierce but he is a very friendly dog. He came licking my face till I fall down ... lol

These dogs were friendly too.. They came to the entrance gate to greet us :)
Max (in an orange jacket) had a great fun after being chased by his friend.

This time, they were playing police and thief ... don't you think so?

Our pampered princess, Baby prefers to stay with mummy and daddy. As usual, she doesn't like socializing with dogs but prefers to play with cats, squirrels or insects.. Weird .

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Moving to permanent home (useful tips for foreign expat)

I was busy for the past few weeks due to home moving. We were moving to a small and decent apartment with one bedroom at the estimated size of 600sq. feet. Yes, the apartment is small but that's what we can afford to rent currently. The property in California is very expensive. The rental for one bedroom apartment starting at US$1,200 per month. We manage to rent at US$1,285 per month which is within our budget. It is partial furnished apartment which equipped with stove, microwave, cabinets and refrigerator in the kitchen. That's Great! It makes my life easier to cook.

There is a crucial learning to my life here. We are not allowed to bargain. All the rulings are fixed and same goes to the rental costs and deposits of the apartment which are fixed by the Management. The rates can be varied from weekly to seasons due to demand/supply market. Also, there is monthly rental charges for pets too. The rate ranges between US$35 to US$50 per pet per month while the deposit would be US$500 per pet apart from home deposit. If you are a new resident without the history of Credit Score, you would require to pay higher home deposits. On top of that, you also need to pay the utilities such as electricity, water, trash, gas and sewage.

As a new tenant, you need to be honest with the Management before signing the rental contract. Any contract breach will affect on your credibility and credit scores if you are renewing the contract or moving to a new place in the future. Bear in mind, the new Management may contact your previous Management to check on your history records before renting the premise to you.

Here are some tips if you are looking for an apartment.

1. Find out your affordable budget for renting. The more amenities you enquire, the higher rental cost it is.
2. Take your time to scout around the apartments. Finalise the top 2-3 apartments that you like and make comparisons before signing the rental contract. Also, find out some reviews/comments of the apartment from the previous and existing tenants. You do not want being regret renting an apartment due to poor management and poor security.
3. An apartment with one bedroom can be occupied by 2 adults with a child only. You may consider renting 2-3 bedrooms if there are more than 2 adults in the family. The Management requests for ID photos and particulars of all the family members which will be listed as the residents in the rental contract. Heavy penalities/rental charges will be incurred to the tenant for the non-listed occupants in the unit.
4. Most of the Managements prefer to lease the apartments for one year basis. Once you have signed the contract, you must fulfill the renting for 12-months otherwise, you need to pay the remaining rentals or looking for a new tenant to take over the unit, depending on your contract.
5. Most of the apartments are equipped with full kitchen set. The lighting are available at kitchen and toilet only. Microwave is an optional. Some apartments do and some don't. Thus, you still need to get some lighting for the living hall and bedrooms besides the basic furniture.
6. Home insurance is not included in the rental contract. As a tenant, you need to purchase the package and provide the necessary information of your home insurance to the Management before moving in. Besides that, you also need to set-up utilities, phone line and internet accounts by yourself before moving in too. (additional tips)

Hope this will help.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hello Kitty mobile phone

I used to have a Hello Kitty mobile phone in Singapore. It was very cute with many imbeded functions such as bluetooth, mp3 and camera besides making/answering phone calls and SMS. Seriously, this mobile phone really works. Don't you feel surprised to see a tiny mobile phone (which looks like a toy) to have many functions.... Moreover, the price is reasonable as you will get a Hello Kitty mobile phone, a bag, a pouch (to keep the mobile phone), Hello Kitty tag and earphone. All of these come in a package of Hello Kitty mobile phone.

However, I had to exchange Hello Kitty mobile phone to another mobile phone as it did not support triband :( Yes, I was very upset as I could not able to use in the States.

** Updated: You can view pictures of my trip to Hello Kitty Cafe in Seoul here** (click the word 'here')

Hello Kitty mobile phone
Hello Kitty mobile phone (back view)

Hello Kitty mobile phone (front view)

Hello Kitty mobile phone (inside)

Hello Kitty mobile phone with pouch

The set of Hello Kitty mobile phone

Newer Post:

Saturday, November 21, 2009

My dogs are "Sheriff"

It is a mandatory to apply dog license in the States. Every dog carries its unique serial no. on the tag so that the City Council is able to locate the owners when the missing dogs are found.

Yesterday, I registered my dogs at Sunnyvale Animal Control Unit and received their tags which was similar with Sheriff's badge ;)


Don't they look cute with the collar tags?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Here I come... San Francisco, California

It looks like a painted picture :)

I had not updated my blog for a month as I was extremely busy packing and clearing our stuff before moving out from the rented apartment in Singapore. Yes, I was trying my best to keep packing and removing the unnecessary stuff as we had to leave to San Francisco, California on 6 November 2009. It is a difficult task to pack clothing, toiletories etc. in a big luggage bag. Believe me, it was not easy as I thought as I was trying my best to keep the weight of the luggage bag to the minimal as I could.

This is my first time to the States. I knew nothing except I had the perception that Americans are rich as they could afford to stay in big houses and drive brand new cars, be fashionable, etc. that's the perception we had from the American t.v. series ;) Unfortunately, everything was different when I arrived at San Francisco. My first experience was dramatic as I bumped into a homeless man at the airport. Can you believe it? You don't normally meet the homeless people at airport because this will tarnish the country's image. I was waiting for William to pick up the car rental while the homeless guy was being friendly and came to me to ask about my dogs. After we had exchanged some conversation, he told me he hadn't eaten for days. He asked me if I could give him some $$$. I gave him $1 and he walked away.

After my 13 days spent in California, I began to see the true perspective. Majority of the residents are not as rich as what we had seen on the TV. Neither I see beautiful houses nor expensive cars. Most of vehicles are either compact cars or MPVs which are at least 5-10 years old on the road. So far, I haven't seen sports cars and new models of BMW or Mercedes at all. So sad :( Most of the houses are old and worn-off. The property is very expensive here. A rented small apartment with one bedroom at the size of 600sq ft. cost about $1,500 per month without even being fully furnished at all. Most of Americans do not have much savings as their take home pay (after average 38% Tax deduction) might be sufficient to pay their rent/home loan, installment plans and food expenses for the families. They do not have extra $$$ to travel to other states. Most of the home furniture are paid by installments. To my surprise, a queen sized mattress at the promotional cost of $300 can be settled by installment too. That's why many of them are unable to pay debts/installments once they lose their jobs.

Social Security and a Credit Score are the common terms that you would hear when you apply for loans, rent a property or open bank account. Being the new foreign residents, we do not have the history of a Credit Score thus, we need to pay higher deposit for home rental and utility account. In order to maintain a good Credit Score, the Americans have to pay their loans, credit cards (with minimum/full payment) and any kinds of installment on time each month. If they miss it once, their credit score would reflect as bad payment hence this would affect on loan applications in the future by incurring higher interest rates.

Tipping is a custom in the States. When you dine at a restaurant, you need to pay 15% tips. Besides that, you also need to pay tips to the bellboy, parking attendant, taxi driver, barber, hairstylist etc. except at the fast food chains.

GST Tax is also high if you reside in California. You have to pay 9.25% GST Tax for everything EXCEPT raw food from supermarkets. This is higher than what we paid for 7% GST in Singapore.


On my second day of my arrival, we went to San Francisco downtown which was about 1 hour drive on highway (without traffic jam) from Sunnyvale. It was a long journey but to the locals, it was considered "VERY NEAR."

I saw many homeless people on the street at San Francisco downtown. They begged for money and food. Some even with the placard around their necks stating they were jobless without food and money. They begged for help who accompanied by families and dogs.

We saw many cops on the streets at San Francisco downtown but we hardly see cops at Sunnyvale. It gave me the impression that the city was not safe at all. We could see some rows of shops at selected streets were installed with grills to prevent from high crime activities.

The Dragon Gate of Chinatown

Busy shopping for grocerries on Sunday

Union Square -leading brands such as LV, Coach, Burberry are situated

The famous Cheesecake Factory. You must try it!

Stefanie's Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake

Hibachi Steak

Herb Crusted Salmon and Shrimp Scambi

p/s: I passed my DMV written test today after reading 80 pages driving guide book and trying some sample questions. Now, I am holding a temporary driving license here. Next stage is driving test. Believe me, it is not easy getting a driving license compared to Malaysia's driving license.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

At last, it is confirmed. We will be leaving to San Francisco on 6 November 2009. I have to start doing some arrangement and packing our belongings as we will be moving out from the rented home a week earlier so that we can meet our families and friends in Malaysia.

It is a mixed feeling of happiness and worried for me. I am accompanied my hubby for his work in San Francisco. However, it would be tough for me. I will be there without a job at all. Many locals are unemployed as the economy in the States is not doing well. What should I do there? Will I stay at home as a full-time home maker or doing some part-time charitable work? It is kinda sad for me - unable to pamper myself with my hard earned money anymore :(

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Marina Barrage - Singapore's first reservoir

We went to Marina Barrage in order to learn about Singapore's first reservoir in the city. Its function is to provide water supply and serve as flood control in Singapore. Apart from being educated about recycling and the Government's effort to sustain the environmental awareness amongst the public, there are various recreational activities to enjoy such as water sports, playing with kites or organizing picnics on the green roof of Marina Barrage.

Marina Barrage is located nearby Marina Bay. The concept behind architecture represents "9" which means longevity.
Picture extracted from

(Note: Double click the collage in order to view images in the actual size.)
Next, there are two videos demonstrating how the barrage model works in two different scenarios when the rain falls heavily:
a) Scenario 1 - When the water level in reservoir is higher than the sea level, the caskets will be opened so that the water in reservoir will be released into the sea.

b) Scenario 2 - When the water level in the reservoir and sea level are high, the excess storm water will be stored temporaily in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Random photos with Canon 500D

We were busy for the past weeks as William's family and his friends were here for holidays. Singapore Flyer has become the new attraction for tourists to enjoy the breathtaking views of the city. As more of our friends are coming over for holidays, we decide to buy annual ticket passes for an unlimited ride on Singapore Flyer. It is cheaper to have the annual pass if you are going for more than 3 times ride. The normal ticket costs at S$29.50 per person but with the individual annual pass, a person has to fork out about S$69.00 only.

Here are some nice shots taken on the bright and sunny day. Hopefully, I will share the pictures of night scene soon.

Preparation for F1 circuit

Marina Barrage and the busy port area

F1 pit stop

The project development of Marina Bay

Parking lots nearby Singapore Flyer

Marina Bay Sands Resort & Casino is under construction

You can see Esplanade and The Float at Marina Bay on your right

Fine dining area at Level 1

Each capsule can accommodate up to 28 people.

The 3D model - Marina Bay project

At the East Coast Park (near Changi Airport)

Feeling breezy and relaxing here... you can jog, ride on a bicycle or having picnic near the beach for free.