We are more than 6 months into our expat journey in Singapore. It has definitely not been what we signed up for. That said, we are happy and still happy we moved here. We are sad that there is a huge world of travel at our doorstep that we are unable to access. We are also very sad that family and friends are not able to visit. We would love nothing more than to share a small piece of this experience with them. But like Sheryl Sandburg said after the death of her husband, we are making the best of our plan B. In some ways, it’s easier for us than for people who have lived here for awhile. Singapore is really very small. Most westerners who travel to Asia don’t have Singapore as their only destination. Let’s be truthful, for most people it’s a stopover. But it’s also rich in culture, food and history. I am grateful for the opportunity to slow down and really get to know this adopted nation of ours. Singapore is turning 55 in a few weeks and they have much to be proud of. I am proud to call it my home for this period of my life.
Let me try to answer a few questions about life here now that we are 6 months in.
What’s the best part of living in Singapore? This is really a tough one. Without Covid, the answer would have been travel. Easy. In Covid world… I think I would say it’s the opportunity to live in a big city again and have that city be safe enough that my children can travel in it independently. Both Ella and Liam are able to have a level of independence here that is unthinkable in the US. They can take Grabs (our Uber) and ride the MRT alone. Even having been locked down for 8 weeks, they still emerged more confident and independent. That alone is worth it. In second place would be the food here. It’s truly amazing and we have access to anything. Everyday there’s a new franchise I want to bring home to the US.
What’s the worst? The heat/humidity… This is also a tough one and also changed by covid. Being so far from home is very hard. When we moved here, the world felt small and easy to travel. All that has changed and it weighs heavily. The rest are generally little things. Like things here are both more and less efficient than in the US. It’s like living through the looking glass here. Things run by the government tend to be very efficient and organized while private things seem less so (let that one settle for a moment). Service here is not tip based so there’s no incentive for service people to go above and beyond. At a restaurant, it’s common for your food to come out at totally different times and trying to get your bill can be a time consuming affair. They also pay for things via bank transfer much more frequently than Americans do. Not every place accepts credit cards. Since our Singapore bank account is only in Ryan’s name, this is sometimes frustrating for me. I’ve just learned to always carry cash…
What do you miss from home? Easy one. Family, friends and Tia. That’s really it. During lockdown I missed having a yard and a car, but now that’s over, that feeling has dissipated. Our life here is simple. Our condo is new and uncluttered. Public transit and grab takes us everywhere we need to go. There really isn’t any food we can’t get here. We don’t use a VPN, so having Disney plus again when they roll out here will be nice…
What’s most surprising? That’s also an easy one. Asia is most surprising. In general, in the US we don’t really learn very much about Asia at all. I’ve been really enjoying learning everything I can while I’m over here. I’ve joined an Asian studies book club and can’t get enough of the museums and all the history. I hope we get to travel in person to all the places I’ve been learning about. History here is so long and complex. In Singapore, the “birthing process” of becoming an independent nation really impacted them deeply and formulated many of the beliefs they hold deeply and are reflected in the way they run the country. Colonization, Japanese occupation, religious clashes, poverty, drugs and pollution have all been deeply impactful in how Singapore created their institutions. They are a pragmatic people that because of their nations youth still realize the value in flexibility. This has all been of great benefit during covid.
Will you come home early? Ryan’s work assignment here has always been flexible. It could have been 12 months or as long as we want it to be. Covid has changed everything, but nothing really about his job. Right now we are leaning toward staying longer. The kids will be going to school full time and life here is pretty stable. We are hopeful that we will be able to travel again on the back half of our assignment. The kids all really like their school and despite everything are doing really well. Ella going to high school will still be a natural breaking point for us, but we’ll see where this new world takes us.
I’ll end with a few pics, because I know that’s really the best part of any entry 💕