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Helen: Expat Explorers

In our InterNations Recommended Blog section we let you take the spotlight! Expat life in general is, of course, a perfect breeding ground for great, user-generated reads, and life in Singapore makes no exception. Take your time and browse the great blogs showcased in this article!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Singapore, etc.

I’m British: born in Wales, with a Welsh mother, English father, a Northern Irish husband and two daughters born in England. I’ve been an expat for five years. We moved from the UK to one of the coldest places on the planet (Chicago), then to one of the hottest places (Dubai) and now we live in one of the most humid places (Singapore), where we have been for nine months. I also spent part of my childhood in Kuwait. I love to travel, but you probably guessed that!

When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?

Expat Explorers started as a diary for my young daughters. My siblings complained that they couldn’t remember living abroad as children because they were so young. This was my solution for my children. I then put it online for family at home to follow, and strangers started following it. Our motto is “The world doesn’t revolve around us. We should revolve around the world,” so we now offer free travel and expat insights, ideas and inspiration to encourage others.

Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?

I write about places to go and things to do, as well as insights and observations. Here’s a selection of my Singapore stories.

I’m keen to understand how we live where we do, and why, and recently wrote an article about the annual expat exodus. Apart from seeing friends and family, do we return to our roots to remind ourselves of our identity or because we miss something we can’t get anywhere else?

Tell us about the ways your new life in Singapore differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?

Each country we’ve lived in has presented us with new challenges. In the US, we had to get used to the flat plains of the Mid-West, the fact that you drive everywhere in the suburbs, and the realization that it’s ok to ask for a doggy bag in a restaurant.

In the Middle East, I observed the position in society held by women, along with the cultural sensitivities of covering up, drinking alcohol, and learning that poppy seeds are illegal.

Singapore, so far, has been easier. There are rules, but this is a well-organized country and you just have to follow them. I’ve never been much of a rebel! Now where did I put that chewing gum?

Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Singapore? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?

I’m lucky that I’m pretty well-seasoned now. I’ve moved house eight times in ten years. Where you choose to live and the school your children go to are the biggest decisions and stresses for me. I’ve learnt that you can’t control everything and you just have to accept the decisions you make.

Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?

Language is sometimes a big barrier, but the art of communication draws people together. I learnt pretty quickly that if, in the US, I go to a supermarket (grocery store) and pick up a shopping trolley (shopping cart), and ask an assistant for aubergines (eggplant), courgettes (zucchini) and nappies (diapers), they will think I’ve landed from Mars. Speaking English doesn’t mean you speak the same language, and that goes for the dialects and regional oddities in Dubai and Singapore, too. OK-la?

Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Singapore?

  • Keep in touch with people at home. You are the one who has moved and you are the one who has to make the effort.
  • You never know when you’ll move. We originally planned just to go to Chicago, returning to the UK. We’re now circumnavigating the globe.
  • Be open-minded. There are different ways of doing the same thing.

How is the expat community in Singapore? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?

Although I like to explore and learn about local cultures, expats do tend to be attracted to each other like magnets. It’s probably the ease of conversation, the silently understood nuances, and even the way you bring up your child. Expats also know that new expats need a helping hand. We were all lost once.

How would you summarize your expat life in Singapore in a single, catchy sentence?

A bubbling cauldron of exciting sights and sounds, on the edge of a world of travel.

Donald Moore

"I moved to Singapore to build up my own business. In fact, it was easier than expected. With InterNations I quickly got in touch with the lively expat community here."

Barbara Sciera

"Settling as an expat woman in a different culture is always hard. But with InterNations I got to know many other expat spouses that helped me."

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