Being an expat wife is a funny thing. Wives who follow their husbands and his jobs from country to country. No roots and a very transient society. We came to Singapore almost 13 years ago for a two year deal and apart from one year in Rome in between we came back and we’ve been here ever since. Our situation is unusual to say the least. Young families drop in, two, three years max and then move on to the next posting, Hong Kong, Middle East, Korea, Japan……. Expat children are used to having new kids in their class all the time and sadly having to say goodbye to classmates regularly. They are referred to regulary as "Third Culture Kids"
Singapore is a wonderful posting, very easy. Not a hardship posting by any means. However it doesn’t seem real. None of us expatriate families have emigrated and have settled in a neighborhood that will become our own. Making friends with neighbors, make deep rooted friendships that will last a lifetime and be part of a real community. We are living if you want in ‘no man’s land’.
For newcomers there are countless clubs, society’s organizations of all kinds to help families settle in. Society’s with members from home countries, so many International schools that you can shake a stick at, tennis classes, bridge, mahjong, international clubs…. I could go on and on. It’s unusual for expat wives to work. Law’s in Singapore are not that favorable toward the spouse of the ‘foreign worker’ working. These clubs are there to keep everybody entertained whilst husband flies to business meetings all over Asia for goodness knows how long.
For the first few years you are invited to endless coffee mornings, and introduced to “long timers” (who have probably been here a year or so) and newbies. The conversation goes like this…..
“How long have you been here?,
How long are you here for?,
Is this your first posting?,
How are you liking it?
What school do your kids go?”.
Very welcoming questions when you move first of all and are terrified and lonely. But after a few years, when you’re asking the questions and so many of those your have become acquainted with have moved on…. Let me tell you, selfishly it becomes a chore, hard work and you think is it worth making the effort when this person will be gone in no time. And come on let’s face it, there are only so many coffee mornings somebody can attend in their life!
Life at some point has to get back to normal, even if normal is impossible here.
I’ve reached a point where I don’t know where ‘home’ is. Those who flit in and out of the country travel ‘home’ most school holidays. I’ve been here so long that ‘home’ is becoming alien with so much change and yet Singapore is temporary.
Our situation is different. We came to Singapore out of choice, so we weren’t ‘posted’ so to speak. We’ve stayed particularly longer to make sure our eldest finishes her 12th grade in the summer. We’ve gotten lazy too. Moving countries and continents isn’t fun, its hard work, it’s stressful and tough. I couldn’t possibly go through the “How long have you been here….?” malarkey again, I think I would scream. So we just plod along with the handful of friends, (lovely friends) long termers, that are still here like us. Who feel just like is. We have met lots of wonderful people over the years and are still in touch via the internet, but of course it's not the same.
Big M is currently searching and applying for universities overseas. A fabulous opportunity I know, but again, teenagers when they reach that age and leave school, leave Singapore to study, they soon have no idea where to call ‘home’.
I’m painting such a negative picture – whilst it wasn’t my intention at all. I know I am a very lucky girl to be here. Singapore as I mentioned before is a very easy place. English is the first language, development and living conditions are top notch, with probably the cleanest and safest streets in the world. I think it’s just that I’ve reached a place where it’s time to put down our roots as a family, buy a house that’s ours, send my children to a school where they make lifelong friends, be part of a congregation in Church where people know each other well and can support each other through everything. I think that being so ill last year in such an unusual community was tough. Don’t get me wrong, my friends are lovely supportive people, but I needed people who I’ve known for years, people who know me inside out, people who I wouldn’t be embarrassed or scared with - people who don’t keep moving on….
The four of us as a family we have bonded so tight as a result.
“Us four” as we say, it’s who we rely on most.
(Whilst typing this I’ve already thought of my next post – The Reinvented Expat Wife! That’s a whole new post in itself – Stay tuned!)
Thank you for taking time to read my post