The anniversary of the expat virgins

by admin on January 16, 2013

Two year’s ago this month we relocated from London to Singapore. I was over living in the UK. The constant grey and gloomy weather, the poor economy and the ever increasing crime rates all played their part in making it depressing place to be.

Desperate to escape, we decided to uproot and start a new chapter in our lives, a new life as expats in Singapore.

I’d passed through Singapore 13 years beforehand as a backpacker and it made a huge impression on me even back then, but Mr C had never even been to Asia. I had spent a long time persuading him a move to Singapore would be a good move (how could I possibly know after only 4 days there) and the crazy fool believed me. Expat virgins and wet behind the ears, we didn’t even do a recce, just took the plunge.

Before leaving the UK I remember picturing what I thought it would be like when we arrived. My head was full of romantic notions of what life would be like in Singapore (I’d spent too much time listening to the tales told by both my grandmothers and mother, who had all lived in Singapore in decades past). We’d have a huge house and spend endless days in the sun, drinking G&Ts as we chilled out by the pool watching Miss C splash around in the water (never mind she couldn’t swim), playing Mahjong, going to parties at the Ambassador’s residence or taking part in sailing regattas on the South China Sea.

Screech. Back to reality.

We arrived at our ‘serviced’ apartment, exhausted after our long flight from the UK. It was the tiniest little one-bed in Little India. Trying to ignore the loud drilling from the construction site next door, I scanned the space that was meant to be our hole home for the next month. Harsh strip lighting revealed a small living room/kitchenette with a hob but no saucepans or utensils, a thin mattress lay on the floor next to our bed for Miss C to sleep on and the sheets were grubby. It was a far cry from the luxury serviced apartment I’d pictured. I felt sick. I wanted to go back to our home in London. But, there was no turning back. I was five months pregnant and very emotional. I started to cry.

It rained solidly for the next 10 days. That was the nail in the coffin.

Over the next few months we faced a whirlwind of challenges, ups and downs and highs and lows. Our luggage took three months to turn up, we didn’t have maternity insurance and were facing hefty medical bills, and we soon realised our accommodation budget was barely enough for a potting shed. The heat and humidity were exhausting, Miss C was miserable, the cost of groceries was off the Richter scale and taxi drivers never knew where they were going, so we seemed to be lost all the time. These were just a few of the hurdles we had to face. It was indeed a steep learning curve and we made plenty of mistakes along the way.

Throughout all of this one thing was for sure, I still knew we’d done the right thing. The hard first few months soon faded into a dim and distant memory. We got over the blips and slowly found our feet. I’m sure many expats feel the same way whenever they embark on a new adventure, whether or not it’s their first. The difference is that now we’ve done it once, we’ll be more clued up when we do it again.

Two years on and we’re very settled. Singapore is an amazing city with a futuristic skyline (which I am still in awe of) and a fascinating history. People call it Asia for Dummies or Asia 101, and they’re probably right. It’s not like Bangkok or Shanghai or even Hong Kong, it’s Asia with a cherry on top, and probably as close to a Western city as you can get. Okay, so expat life in Singapore isn’t quite as glamourous as I pictured, but life is good.

What was it like the first time you moved abroad?

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Jamie Morris January 17, 2013 at 2:41 am

Challenges overcome, happiness found – always the best kind of expat story. Keep up the good work with the blog, Janine, your writing is excellent!

Cheers,

Jamie (Expat Focus)

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admin January 17, 2013 at 5:33 am

Thanks for the great comment, always nice to hear!

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Mummi g January 17, 2013 at 11:10 am

Oh my goodness! I felt like we had landed on another planet! Like yourselves we hadn’t carried out a recci either. Australia was very alien to us and what we hadn’t signed up for was 2 months of solid rain our first Christmas there! I spent Boxing Day looking for flights back to the UK. Luckily I didn’t book them because the sun began to shine again towards the end of January and its hardly stopped since :)
That was two years ago and pleased to say we’re still here!

Reply

admin January 23, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Hi, thanks for your comment. Some of our best friends moved over there from the UK just over a year ago. They’re staying! I lived over there for a year a while ago,
it’s such an amazing country.

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