Guest post: An expat’s past, present and work-life balance

by admin on June 5, 2013

This is a guest post from Jeff West, who, just like my mother, used to be an expat in Singapore in the sixties.

In the late 1960’s my family and I lived in Singapore. My father was an army engineer and along with my mother and two brothers, and we stayed for 3 years. Expat life was fun and Singapore was a great place to live then, as I believe it is now too. My parents tried to make sure we did things as a family, however my father often worked long hours so it was sometimes hard.

In 2007 I took my mother back for trip down memory lane, although we had to look carefully at the photos as so much had changed. The Alexandra Hospital was still there – and my memories of being admitted with a broken arm at the age of 4 still vivid. Another recollection is of my mother throwing me soft toys she had made from a window in that same hospital as I couldn’t visit her! Not my concern at that time, but on reflection now, how clearly important are expat health insurance plans. There’s plenty of new, ultra modern hospitals around Singapore now, but treatment comes at a high cost.

Tiger Balm Gardens

In our short time back in Singapore, my mother and I set about revisiting those places that we had only seen in photos for the past 30 or so years (my father was a keen photographer – so we were blessed with a comprehensive photo-journal well before this digital age).

After a visit to the library to examine some old maps we did find one of the homes we occupied, although now it was a gated community and despite the aforementioned photographic evidence that we used to live there – the gate guard would not let us enter.

We returned to the Tiger Balm Gardens (Haw Par Villa), which as a child were really quite frightening, with sculptures of tigers not playing nicely with those they came into contact with and other gruesome scenes (avoid if you’re prone to nightmares!).


Been There – Bought the T Shirts

The Night Safari

Not wishing to dwell entirely in the past – my new experience of the Singapore Night Safari proved a fantastic new memory. In every trip I make abroad, if there is any opportunity to “go to the zoo” I do it. I gave away in the introduction that I was around in the 60’s so that means quite a lot of zoos; also quite a lot of “no shows” from the inhabitants. Not so this experience – 100% of the animals showed their faces – or at least enough of them to prove they weren’t a rock or a branch! It almost feels like you could be in the Jurassic Park movie.


Real Animals Were Also Visible

Conclusion – What I’ve realised is that it’s often easy for the focus to be all work and to forget about the play, whether you’re an expat or not, so finding a good balance is essential. Getting out and about and experiencing things together as a family is one way to keep the balance healthy, and that’s what I strive to do with my family.

This post has been created in partnership with Aetna International.


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