Relocating to Singapore and precisely 8,434 miles away from my normal, predictable and mainly happy life was what I needed at the time. It’s a risk which when learned of, perfect strangers would comment that they wished they could do the same with a wistful look. When friends and family learned where I was moving, shock registered on their face. They worried for me and knew nothing of Singapore and knew I didn’t either, but I was beginning to feel as though the world I lived in didn’t inspire like it used to and moving abroad just seemed right. I also wanted to prove to myself and everyone else I could do it.
That being said, I didn’t move alone. I moved with my partner which meant I knew at least one person in Asia. It was a scary and humbling experience but electrifying. For the honeymoon period of the move which most say lasts about 6 months, it was impossible to feel boredom. There is just too much to see and do and eat. During this period, I ate everything and was travel-obsessed and visited Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia twice, Vietnam, and Cambodia. I was overwhelmed by different cultures and I couldn’t get enough. I learned how to say thank you and cheers for each new language of the country visited, tried street food, disastrously drank water from the tap in Vietnam, saw exotic wonders I never imagined I’d see, had my photo taken with strangers because of my dark-blonde hair and found the world to be so completely welcoming I often couldn’t keep a smile from my travel-worn face. It was everything I dreamed of and more.
About 3 months into my arrival to Singapore, I began work. Getting a job in Singapore as a foreigner is not easy unless you transfer with your company, but I was lucky as I was offered a role with a company I had worked for in San Francisco. It was perfect but it also became monotonous after the honeymoon period ended. Work is still work after all. The realities of normal life may have brought frustrations, but my silver-living was I negotiated more vacation time which enabled more travel than I would have otherwise. My first year abroad, I spent more time researching travel deals, locations and consulting Google Maps than anyone ever in the history of travel, or at least it felt that way. Despite work, I still managed to travel to the Philippines and Taiwan but only home once after only a couple of months of moving to Singapore.
As challenging as the distance can be, I found my adopted home to be welcoming and very livable. All the signage is in English and there were only a few language hurdles to overcome. I found culturally there are some unexpected differences, but when moving to another country, it’s best to take full responsibility to understand them since as a guest, we’re all tasked to follow them. We are in their home after all.
With regards to my work environment, I did find myself lucky and in an office with only Singaporeans surrounding me which I found later from other expats, is not the norm. I had the absolute best guides and wonderful people in my office who I grew to care about and in turn, they did their best to show me who they are. My favorite was and is my office counterpart and consummate guide to all things Singaporean, Alvin. He relished in showing me his favorite food and would take me to only the best stalls, but he also gave me a glimpse into the kindness of the Singaporean people and also the pride they have in their country. We still had a good deal of laughable miscommunications (the chocolate rice/sprinkle debacle being my favorite) but our genuine wanting to learn more about each other and camaraderie made it some of the most fun I’ve had since moving to Singapore. I will forever be grateful to the people here who have opened up their minds and hearts to this direct and opinionated American.
Sarah Turnbull wrote in her novel Almost French about her experiences moving to Paris, “It is a bitter-sweet thing, knowing two cultures. Once you leave your birthplace nothing is ever the same.” Her words capture what it is to live in an adopted country beautifully because once having lived abroad for any extended period, you are forever changed and neither you nor your home will be the same. Bitter-sweet describes my life in Singapore, but the sweet far offsets the bitter. It is only in the early mornings or when I think of my loved ones back home fleetingly, that a pining for home tightens in my chest and I wish myself back to them.
- Dispatches from Pluto – British journalist Richard Grant’s adventure buying an old house and moving deep into the heart of the Mississippi Delta
- Under the Tuscan Sun – Frances Mayes’ famous experience restoring an old villa in Tuscany
- The Caliph’s House – the story of Tahir Shah’s life-changing decision and highly entertaining experience bringing his family from the comforts of London to build a new life in Casablanca
- A Year in Provence – the story of an English couple’s first year living in the French countryside
- A Trip to the Beach – a Vermont couple’s decision to escape the rat race and move to open a restaurant on the island of Anguilla