I’ve always been an adventurous soul, just in uncommon ways.
Not for me the rollercoasters or flying fox, but when it comes to landing in a foreign country with only your nearest and dearest, I’ll lap it up. Nothing says adventure to me like travel, and the logical extension of travel, the expat life.
Today’s Moving Story and expat story comes from a kindred spirit, Janine, a freelance journalist now based in Singapore. Janine blogs at the very funny 21st Century Mummy and talks here about the amazing travel destinations within two hours from their home, dodgy Australian milk and their brilliant adventure.
1)Why did you move from England, originally?
We moved because my husband had a new job, although it was actually my idea to move abroad. I’ve always loved being abroad and as a freelance journalist I can be based anywhere. I’ve been backpacking, which was when I had my first brief introduction to Singapore, and I’ve also lived in Paris and Sydney. I get itchy feet if I stay anywhere too long so after being in London for 13 years I was going crazy. I had also become really anti the UK, because of the weather, the high crime rates and the fact that it’s become a pretty depressing place to live.
2) Can you remember and recall the time before you left and what your concerns about moving were? What did you think your biggest challenges would be?
I was 5 months pregnant and I knew we were taking on a lot. I remember one particular time we had a day to leave our home and I was sat in one of the bedrooms surrounded by boxes, completely overwhelmed and crying my eyes out. I was worried about things like whether my husband would enjoy his job, how easily my daughter would settle in to her new life and also having a baby in a foreign country.
3)What did you think you would miss most about your home country, apart from family?
I’m digging deep here because actually I didn’t think I’d miss a lot. My friends, my house and all our lovely things that we’d sold or had to leave behind.
4) Have you been surprised by what you really have missed about your home country?
Yes funnily enough I have. I miss simple things like parks with big grassy areas and swings, sleeping under a duvet, decent bread and milk (even though the milk is from Australia it doesn’t taste the same), and driving a car (we get taxis everywhere). I also miss how much cheaper many things are in the UK compared to here: a decent bottle of wine is £20 in the Supermarkets, baby formula and baby food is extortionate as well as things like cereal and other groceries. I miss online shopping as they are so behind here. Most of all I miss things like being able to go to friends’ weddings and seeing their new babies.
5) Do you see your old age in this country or in England, and was moving a ‘for life’ decision or ‘for a while’ decision?
I love living Singapore but not sure if I see myself growing old here, for one reason, it’s incredibly expensive. I don’t see myself heading back to London anytime soon (if ever), but I hope we can end up somewhere else. My sights are on the USA.
6) Aside from the weather, what positives about life in Singapore can you tell us about?
There are so many positives to living in Singapore. There’s no language barrier because everyone speaks English but I love the fact it is so multi-cultural – there are 15 nationalities in my daughter’s class. She is even learning mandarin. It’s an amazing place to bring up children because it’s so safe and child-friendly, and life is easy as most expats have the luxury of a live-in helper who cooks, cleans, does the washing, helps with the children and even babysits whenever you want. There’s a big expat community too. Singapore is so close to so many amazing destinations. Bali and Vietnam are 2 hours away, Thailand is just over 1 hour and you can drive to a tropical island in Malaysia in 3 hours. As someone who loves travelling, this is a huge positive. We are all having the most amazing experience and I feel very lucky.
7) Were the challenges the same as you envisaged or not?
I thought moving here would be easier here than it actually was. We didn’t get off to a good start. Our temporary accommodation was small and dirty, nothing like the fabulous serviced apartment I’d pictured in my mind. I remember sitting there, pregnant, tired and crying, asking myself what the hell we’d done. Luckily we were moved after a few days. Even once we were in our own place, our things didn’t turn up from the UK for over 3 months so we had to buy lots of duplicate things.It was lonely at the beginning too. I didn’t know my way around, hardly knew anyone and had a 3 year old to occupy whilst hunting for somewhere to live. My husband was often out until late with work leaving me home alone with no TV or internet connection so I was often bouncing off the walls. It also took a while to get used to the heat and humidity. One of the biggest challenges we faced was that we didn’t have maternity insurance and all I kept hearing about was medical bills being very high in Singapore, so we spent most of our time trying to sort it out, without much success.
8) What surprises have you had – good and bad – setting up your new home in Singapore, and what snippets of been-there-done-that advice would you give would-be expats?
I was amazing at how quickly things did fall into place, despite finding it hard initially. Everyone was so friendly and it’s been easy to meet people especially because we have children. We have a much better lifestyle than we did in London, and have great group of friends and a fantastic social life.
On the downside, the high cost of living here came as a big shock. I also didn’t expect long waiting lists at a lot of preschools and international schools or the astronomical school fees. I was also surprised that it took a while for my daughter to settle properly. I’m glad to say she is loving it now. My advice would be to manage your own expectations and don’t expect it be all plain sailing, get your children’s names down early for schools and say yes to every single social occasion you are invited to, at least for the first 6 months, as that’s the best way to meet people. I recently wrote a couple of posts on my tips for relocating and finding accommodation:
9) If you experienced conflict between you and your spouse about moving, or aspects of resettling, how easy did you find it to resolve them?
Moving home is stressful enough. They say that moving house is one of the most stressful experiences there is and when you are going to a different country you can multiply that ten times! Each of us had our own issues to deal with, so it wasn’t always easy, but we pulled together.
10) When you think of home, which country comes to mind now?
I don’t really feel any connection with the UK anymore. Singapore is home, for now anyway.
11)In what ways do you think your family life, and your relationship/marriage, has become stronger after undertaking this adventure?
This is our big adventure, and that in itself is something that has created a bond between all of us.
Does the adventure side of expat life inspire or terrify you?