It has been two and a half years since I moved to Singapore, and eight months since I wrote my first Singapore Survival Guide for Expat Wives (click here to read it) which make people either love or hate me.
The issues which I wrote in my first article still remain, but they haven’t been bothering me as much as they used to be in my first year. Not that I now approve of those behavior, but I have now surrounded myself with things that prevent me from seeing these day-to-day realities too often to a point where they anger me.
So if you recently moved to Singapore and wish a pleasant stay or an easier adjustment, feel free to follow my advice:
1. Find something to do. I enrolled in Mandarin class right after I arrived. About six months later, I got myself involved in the church. Then I started a blog which I update regularly (I now administer four blogs). I occasionally write articles for Indonesian magazines or newspapers – a good way to brush up my writing skills. Once my stepson moved in with us last year, I started volunteering in PTA activities and school events. When we have something to occupy our mind and time, the things around us that usually bug us won’t annoy us as much because we simply don’t have the time to linger on the issue that we can’t solve anyway 🙂
If you have a career previously, you might want to apply for a job. It’s easy to have your Dependent Pass to Employment Pass. It’s even possible for a DP holder to work on freelance / part time basis, as long as the company that hires you is willing to take care of the admin side of it (which is NOT difficult).
Don’t get hopes up too high though …. while Singapore is a regional hub for many businesses, I don’t find Singapore as a particularly appreciative place for an expat wife who wants a promising career unless you meet certain criteria. This is another article for another occasion 🙂
2. Go places where you can make friends as soon as you arrive! My first few friends in Singapore are former school friends whom I locate through Facebook. Then I signed up to learn Mandarin and made some more friends. Then I made friends through my PTA activities, church, my husband’s work mates, and my alumni association friends. I join a few mailing lists / yahoogroups on topics that interest me, and made yet another few friends through that. Once your social network in Singapore is established, again, you will become more contented and at ease, not to mention that these new friends will teach you everything about Singapore … from how to bring your own chosen maid from Indonesia without using an agent, where to buy discounted top quality meat (Zac Meat!), to where is the best holiday resort in Indonesia (Losari Coffee Plantation!) 🙂
Being married to an American, the usual suggestion that I hear is, “Why don’t you become a member of the American club?” I am not a big advocate of club membership (sorry guys…). If I become a gym member, at least I pay only for the things that I plan to use. When I become a club member, I pay a hefty amount of money in advance just to be “welcomed” within that circle, and then still need to pay for use of the facilities (other than the gym and pool) and the programs you choose to join. If others feel the need to do it to start a social network, be my guest, but it’s not one that I would recommend. There are so many expats and things to do in Singapore I simply don’t understand when people say, “It’s so hard to find like-minded people ….”
3. Start researching getaway places 🙂 Being in Singapore means traveling within the region is fast and cheap. So start looking for getaways in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, Australia etc. and plan to visit some places when your husband gets some time off work. In my last 30 months here, I have been to Johor, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Seoul (ski! ski!), Hong Kong, Perth, Gold Coast, Fraser Island, Bali, Bali, Bali, Yogya, Semarang, …. you name it! We flew budget airlines, visited during low season, and went to places that are some times off the beaten track. Plan your own itinerary rather than joining a big tour group that takes you to the generic, over-commercialized, landmarks. Planning these getaways bring me joy 🙂
4. Start a business. Starting a business is easy and straightforward. The main thing you need to have is the right qualifications (educationally) and expertise in the industry where you want to start a business. I’m about to get my business started as well. This is, again, another article for another occasion 🙂
5. Continue your study. A lot of reputable foreign universities open a campus in Singapore, or offer a joint program with a local university. Look it up on the net and you will see what’s available. If you didn’t finish your degree because of family commitment or want to do another study in a different field, this might be your opportunity 🙂
6. In extreme cases, just avoid things that make you upset. I now try to avoid driving during peak hours or visiting Orchard in weekends because the way people drive, hog the lane, or park make me upset. I now stop calling a service hotline number of any companies, I go directly to their office instead. Gone are the days of being put on hold for more than half hour … I could finish cooking dinner before someone answered my call, and even then their answer hardly ever solves the problem. We stop going to restaurants, however popular and recommended, which requires us to queue for more than 10 minutes and always say, “This menu don’t have … that item no more, finish already…”