It is now eight months since we took the plunge and jetted off to the sunnier (sweatier) climes of Singapore and I'm no longer a miserable, homesick, reluctant housewife (see Independent Dependant: Confessions of A Modern Expat Wife for more on that). I'm still a housewife (and still not very good at it) but I'm not in a mental and emotional state of mourning for our UK life. Which is progress, right?
Don't get me wrong, there is much that I still miss and I find myself day-dreaming sometimes about the random collection of places and things I pine for. I mean, really, really bizarre things to miss such as the novelty of "Scan As You Shop" during supermarket trips (how Singapore can manage online delivery within an hour of placing an order, but not scan as you shop I don't know). Who misses late night supermarket runs for bog roll, booze and tampax where you don't even have to queue up to pay? Me. That's who. It's just that feeling of completely mundane normality that I crave now and again. We're not a fancy family, never have been, and in so many ways we are completely unsuited to this overseas life of domestic helpers, free-flow brunches and eye-watering wealth.
We're such a non-expat family I can't help but laugh at this situation we've found ourselves in- a situation that many families, fed up of their unacknowledged JAM status in the UK, doubtlessly find themselves in when offered a spell overseas. Back in the UK we drove a second hand car, were serial renters with a deposit growing less quickly than the deposit required for a starter home, we shopped the deals at supermarkets, and my entire salary would be spent on childcare. And so it was without any hesitation that we accepted the offer for my husband's promotion and relocation of our family to the island fondly called the Little Red Dot. The decision was far from difficult, and with more and more of our generation facing the same financial and familial dilemmas it's a no brainer that those of us who can are upping sticks and moving to countries offering us decent wages, lower taxes and the prospect of a better quality of life. It was something of a shock therefore, that when I started the researching, anally retentive list making and preparation for the move to Singapore there didn't seem to be a version of expat life that resonated with us. We were most definitely not of the tanned, travelling, baby in a backpack camp who island hopped and recorded it all via vlogs, blogs and Instagram. But we also wouldn't be the stereotypical expat family with a humdrum kept wife, international school educated children and a mega bucks earning husband who would describe himself deliberately vaguely as "working in investments". Singapore seemed to be especially full of the latter, unfortunately.
The internet is awash with wild tales of expat life, all the money and glamour and luxuries, but we were (and still are) entirely disinterested in becoming the stereotype. We just wanted to take a great opportunity, save a bit of cash (hopefully), and set our family up for a more secure future than the UK was able to offer us. Was that really so hard? But no one seemed to have been so plain and simple about it, publicly anyway. It seemed to be that expats only started to exist once they were settled, localised and confident. Where were all the new arrivals sobbing into their last cup of PG Tips? A cup they'd wash up themselves and not leave lying around for the helper to pick up. Where were the breadwinners, suddenly finding themselves being torn between demanding employers and families who missed them? Or the modern day expat wife who balked at her newfound dependent status and wasn't prepared to go and find comfort in a hot personal trainer, wine at 11am and shopping sprees on Orchard Road? Where were the parents who took their children's mental and emotional welfare as seriously as they took fulfilling the capacity of the (very expensive) container shipment?
Where were the people who called themselves expats (if you're still not sold on the term expat I wrote a blog post explaining why I use it), and who had no intention of swapping lifestyle as well as country? It's one thing to create a sense of normality when you move overseas, seemingly it's quite another to try and maintain it...
You can read more about our foray into expat life in Singapore via theexpatmama.com