My brother, my neighbour, siblings who choose to live near each other

Drinking buddies Maurice Loh (far left) and his brother Mervin at their Gerald Drive townhouse. They hang out up to five times a week.
Drinking buddies Maurice Loh (left) and his brother Mervin at their Gerald Drive townhouse. They hang out up to five times a week.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI
Ms Anita Ten (left) and her sister Laura are next-block neighbours in Lentor.
Ms Anita Ten (left) and her sister Laura are next-block neighbours in Lentor.PHOTO: RYAN TAY

Some brothers and sisters are so close that they choose to live near one another after moving out of their parents' home

Mr Maurice Loh and his younger brother, Mervin, share a love of drinking red wine and watching wrestling and soccer on television.

Even after they got married and had their own places, they continued to take turns to visit each other's flat at least once a week.

Mr Loh, 44, a regional logistics manager in an oil and gas company, says: "We would drink, chit-chat and watch some television till about 2 to 3am. It was a great way for us to unwind after a hard day's work."

Mr Loh was then living in a five-room HDB flat in Woodlands with his wife and two children aged 10 and 12, and Mervin, 43, an engineering manager, lived with his family in a five-room HDB flat in Punggol. He has three children, aged two, five and nine.

However, to avoid the hassle of having to travel to each other's place and risk of being caught by the police for drink-driving, the brothers decided to become neighbours.

In 2009, they each bought a unit in a townhouse in Yio Chu Kang, only a few seconds' walk away from each other.

The two Loh brothers' close relationship is something many parents would love to see in their adult children and is probably not all that common even in tiny Singapore.

But Life found other siblings here who are so close they chose to live near each other after they moved out of their parents' home.

Mr Tang Chay Wee, 44, and his brother Jake, 40, have enjoyed a rapport since young. After they each got married, they continued to live with their spouses and their parents in a five-room HDB flat in Bedok South, owned by the older Tang, managing director of a subsidiary of a multinational company.

It was only after they had their own children that they moved into separate apartments.

In 2011, they bought units in two adjacent condominiums in Siglap.

Says Mr Tang: "It's just so much more convenient for us to live next to each other. When we need anything, we could just walk or drive over. Also, my parents live with me, so it's easier for my brother to visit them."

The brothers also have an older sister, aged 47, who lives nearby, in Bedok South, with her family.

The three siblings and their parents meet at least once a week for dinner at Mr Tang's place with their spouses and children.

Says Mr Tang: "Both our parents worked. So, from a young age, we were taught to take care of one another. For instance, my sister and I had to bathe my brother and help him change his clothes."

His mother, Madam Tan Lee Hoon, 65, a retiree, says she is happy to see her children so "qin" (Chinese for close).

She says: "I have no siblings. So, I have always told them to treasure and be close to one another."

But Mr Tang admits he grew closer to Jake, a sales manager, after adolescence.

He says: "It's just more convenient to talk to another guy about topics such as members of the opposite sex."

The brothers share similar interests and have mutual friends with whom they go drinking and clubbing. They also play golf and watch soccer games together.

Mr Tang's wife, housewife Angela Tan, 37, says she was initially envious to see how important his brother was to him but, over time, has come to accept it as the norm.

"It's good because during family trips, I get help with the kids. We have three kids and his brother has one kid," she adds.

Ms Laura Ten, 42, a bank associate, agrees with Mr Tang's view that gender plays a role in siblings' relationship.

She and her five sisters became closer especially after marriage. She has two brothers.

With the sisters having their own families, Ms Ten says: "We have more topics in common."

The sisters take turns to host one another at each of their places for dinner every Saturday, with their spouses and children. Her two brothers and their families join the sisters only on special occasions such as during Chinese New Year.

Ms Ten and her sister Anita, 45, an administrative officer, are next-block neighbours at a condominium in the Lentor area, while the other three sisters live just five to 10 minutes' drive away in Ang Mo Kio, Serangoon and Newton.

Ms Ten says it is convenient to have her older sister living in the next block.

She says: "Our children are close in age - they're in their teens - and we can leave them at each other's home and be assured they are in good hands."

If she runs out of any food items, she would just send one of her children over and vice versa.

Madam Jane Leow, 55, a personal assistant, agrees that it is helpful to have siblings as neighbours.

Out of her eight sisters and one brother, five of them are in the same vicinity. Madam Leow, who is third in the family, and her No. 7 sister Trin, 47, a housewife, each live in a semi-detached property about 10 houses away on Philips Avenue in Yio Chu Kang. Her No. 4 sister, 53, and her youngest sister, 46, are just a five-minute drive away at two different blocks in Serangoon Avenue 3. Their brother, 49, is a 10-minute drive away in Rivervale.

They take turns to drop by to ensure that their mother, 77, who lives with Madam Leow, is never left alone with the helper.

While it is helpful to have siblings as neighbours, Madam Leow feels that ultimately, distance does not matter that much.

She says: "Even siblings who live farther away will drop by if they are needed, for instance, to watch over our mother."

Moreover, all the siblings - and their spouses and children - meet at Madam Leow's place at least once a week on a weekend.

Says Madam Leow: "It's something we have been doing ever since the first of us got married and left the family house.

"Some of our neighbours say we will probably stop gathering when our mother is not around, but we would like to prove them wrong."

She says the closeness was cultivated in their childhood, growing up in a kampung in Jalan Kayu and helping one another in household chores.

Says Madam Leow: "My mother, who was a housewife, used to tell us that no matter what happened, even if we fought, we had to remember that at the end of the day, we have the same blood flowing in us. Over time, this thinking has become ingrained in us."

In fact, Mr Maurice Loh and his younger brother Mervin also cultivated their close relationship from childhood.

Born a year apart, they have been playmates since they were young and both of them liked to collect stamps and listen to 1980s music.

Says Mervin: "Our parents left us pretty much alone. We became close probably because we share similar interests."

They are in less frequent contact with their older brother, 46, who lives in Bukit Timah, and a younger sister, 41, who is in Sembawang, although the siblings still meet once every few weeks for a meal with their parents. They also keep in touch via a WhatsApp group called "Siblinglicious".

The younger Mr Loh recalls: "My oldest brother was a bookworm. My younger sister used to play together with us till her teenage years when she had her own circle of friends."

Since moving next door to each other, Maurice and Mervin have been hanging out more often - sometimes up to five times a week. These days, a few neighbours also join them for their drinking sessions and when dinner is available, their wives and children turn up too.

Mervin's wife, product manager Veron Tan, 41, says she enjoys these gatherings and feels more at ease now that the brothers live closer to each other.

She says: "I used to have to wait up for Mervin to make sure he arrived home safely, but now I will sleep first because I know that even if he's too drunk, someone will help him make his way back here safely."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 06, 2015, with the headline 'Siblings who stick together'. Print Edition | Subscribe