Tuesday, 11 October 2011

WHY are you relocating?

after reading the previous post about "Where to live in Singapore" are you any the wiser as to where to live?

probably not!
But hopefully it will give you some thoughts to help you decide on an area that will be best suited to you and your family. No place will be perfect, but choose what is best for you at the time and you really can't go wrong!

If you have decided to move to Singapore, think about the WHY you are relocating.
Too many people think along the lines of  "holidays" and "Asia" and combining the two and coming up with "Asian Holiday"!

This is no holiday.

Relocating is hard work.

It can be stressful on yourself, you partner and the family too.
So think about the WHY you are relocating and discuss it with the family BEFORE making any final decision. Each person will have their own reason for the possible relocation and each person needs to be heard.  Be it two people in the family or five people in the family.  This relocating business is not just for ONE person.

Are you relocating to make money? 

Are you relocating to create a better life for yourself?

Are you relocating to gain global experience?

Are you relocating to learn about another culture?

Are you relocating to get away from the "in laws"?

there are many reasons people move from one place to another and its not always about the "company moving the bread winner" either.

Make sure you have a good understanding of the WHY with each family member, this will save much heartache further along. Each family member is IMPORTANT in the decision making.  

Start doing your homework..... LEARN about the country you are moving to. In this case we are discussing SINGAPORE. Don't just read about all the wonderful "tourist things" to do.... you are NOT A TOURIST and familiarise yourself with the phases of culture shock.

Learn about the festivals that are held, learn about the people, read a little about the history, you do not have to know everything .... but to have UNDERSTANDING is important. Learn that if you are shopping around the Arab Quarters then have your shoulders covered, learn that the Singaporean is 'very up front' and will probably ask questions of you that you would not expect. Read as much as you can via blogs, forums etc. Once you have understanding, your life here will be so much easier.

Too many people arrive in Singapore without ANY knowledge of what Singapore is about or its people and often don't even know where it is on the world map! This is going to be your HOME for the next two, three or four (or possibly longer) years. This is where your family will be and will be your HOME. Not the country you are from.

Relocating is excellent for children..... they learn to adapt so much quicker and easier than adults. They learn to compromise too. Children are 'colour blind' and do not see 'racial differences'. This is GOOD. This is teaching them to "live in harmony' and not to live with racial or cultural prejudices as they probably do 'at home'.

No matter what their age, to live in another country will be good for them.

But it will not be good for them if the parents are unhappy and squabbling.

The children do not need to hear:

"I never wanted to live here, this is a horrid place. You came here for your work, I didn't want to be dragged here"

this is a JOINT DECISION, this concerns the "family unit" so the above comment will never need be said.

So the decision has now been made.....

and you are moving to Singapore!

Wow ... such excitement!!

You now have lists, lists of what to do, lists of what to pack and what not to pack, what to store, who to say good bye to ..... oh, so many lists!

so much to do.

but always remember that you are in this TOGETHER.

Discuss what needs to be done and any possible plans, thoughts or idea's. 

Remember: a problem shared is a problem halved.

and before you know it, you are here.

Its so different.

Singapore is a great place to have your first OS posting to .... its an easy life and much easier than many other places you could have relocated to.

Make the best of it and ENJOY your time here.

You will make many long and lasting friendships too. Yes you will have many expat friends, but think about local friends too.... they are important. Very important.  If you wanted "just expat friends" you may as well have stayed home!
Local friends will show you what Singapore is all about, not just what the expats think it is!!

Be open to friendships from all walks of life.

Being part of a purely international community (expat community) may distort views towards the host country, slow down integration into the local culture and lead to the development of an ‘us versus them’ mindset. Be aware of this...... and we should extend our circle of friends to include other generations, do not discard what could potentially be a very joyous and meaningful relationship with another person, no matter what their age or nationality!

Shopping ..... ah, yes, shopping.

Supermarket shopping to start with.

Very different to what you were expecting eh?

Possibly smaller, probably more expensive too?

Remember - if you had done your homework - that Singapore imports nearly everything. So yes, you have to pay for that. A lot of items will be more expensive. Especially IF you are looking for the same product or brand name you are accustomed to. Look for the alternative. Why do you have to have the exact same things as "you did at home"? This is a great opportunity to learn different foods, different ways of doing things and trying different brands too!

You will also find that Singaporeans tend to do their shopping daily or perhaps every two days. You may be accustomed to "weekly shopping" and expect large supermarkets with wide open spaces ..... but remember, this is an island where space is at a premium. Supermarkets will most likely be smaller than 'back home', more crowded due to lack of space with more shoppers too.

The main reason Singaporeans shop more frequently is the 'lack of space' in their own homes. They do not have large storage area's for a weekly shop. Besides, excess food being stored is likely to 'spoil' due to the high humidity.

So please, before you start to complain about the small, overcrowded supermarkets or shopping areas. Stop and think WHY.
A fairly good idea of the COL (Cost of Living) here in Singapore can be gained from the NUMBEO site. Some foods vary depending on the availability of course!

"Cost of Living" is a common concern among expatriates relocating here. Singapore has a reputation for being expensive, perhaps rightly so when it comes to cars and property.

What is expensive to you though, may not be expensive to me. Its all relative.

But do consider the currency exchange too ....  for equal value, do you get a gym, a pool, children's playground, BBQ area etc. ?

as an example:

We pay $2400.00 SGD LESS per month for our 3 bedroom condo apartment here in Singapore than our tenants pay for a similar property in Australia. They don't even have a have a pool, a gym or a BBQ area like we have here!

I cannot - in all honesty - say that Singapore is more expensive than in Melbourne, for similar property, similar area!

So do be careful when comparing apples with oranges.

I had a friend that used to constantly complain about the cost of things. Yes, she was right in most cases, BUT ..... once we sat down and went through all the items she purchased one day and did the currency exchange, she was surprised. It was only about 10% more overall.

Her answer though was: "But its still dollars!"

She couldn't quite wrap her head around a dollar is a dollar yes, but there are currency differences too!

Also consider, not just the currency exchange ... but also the salary. Yes, expect to pay more IF the salary is more. Is the taxation less? Also take that into consideration. It does not matter where you come from .... weigh up everything.

IF you are on an expat 'package' and moving in from the USA, the chances are you are probably being paid in to your bank in the US and being paid in US dollars, so is a little different for you!

For us, its great to go to the US on holidays and being paid in SGD, the shopping IS cheaper!
As I mentioned earlier, Singaporeans can be 'very up front'. They do not consider them selves as being rude, they are inquisitive.  You may 'think' they are being rude if they ask how old you are, or how much you pay for something. That is 'your' way of thinking.... the way you were brought up. To ask a personal question is rude.

They were not brought up to think that way, it is not rude to them. So why are we putting our beliefs onto them?

If you don't like the question.... laugh it off and say something to change the subject.

Always be polite. Westerners (unfortunately) have the reputation for being loud, rude and aggressive. We do not need to add to that!

You may not like the way the Singaporeans push and shove to be first in line. Somehow, just let it ride over and ignore it as best as possible. Its not always 'nice', no one really likes this pushing to be first ... its very 'Kiasu'.
Kiasu is the term Singaporeans used to describe the unpleasant side of the culture and is a much talked-about topic in Singapore. Behaving in a kiasu manner means being greedy, unwilling to share and insensitive to others.

People all over the world have this culture too and way of survival. Singapore is a stressful and fast pace society. And being Kiasu is just one of the factor for survival in Singapore. Every nationality has its own social attitudes or Kiasu-types, but Singaporeans have coined a word and mascot for it.

Stop and think about some of the people that live in the areas you used to live too. Were they 'always' polite and well mannered.... according to your beliefs, your way of thinking?

Some things may appear wrong to you, if you stop and think WHY, then you will have the understanding that it maybe not wrong - just different!

..... and really, are you expecting everything to be the same as 'back home'?

If the answer is yes

..... then WHY did you relocate to another country?

There will be many things that may displease you. In a way you are a guest here, it is not up to you to change the way things are done here in Singapore. I would not walk into your home and expect you to listen to me if I said that I didn't like the way you decorated your home or cooked the meal etc.

There are many blogs written by expats that will be of great benefit to anyone not just thinking about relocating but actually when you are here. Watch out for them and 'follow' them .... the blogs here are very 'powerful tools' to help you get settled.
Leone's blog!
Places where to shop, where to get the best deals, where to purchase the freshest chicken without its head and feet are just the start.

But do remember, you are not 'living here as a tourist'..... this is now your HOME. You cannot be constantly thinking negative or "its better / bigger / brighter" back where you came from. If it is, then Singapore is not the place for you.

You should never have relocated here.

You are doing a disservice to your family, your partner and yourself.

I am not saying everything here is perfect...... but 'wherever home is" is not perfect either. You have to be as positive as you can and embrace the life and culture you have chosen to live in, with open arms. Then and only then, will you feel happy and become a more settled person for the time you are here.

If you need help with coping, seek help. It is nothing to be ashamed of. If you seek help before things get out of hand, then that is a positive thing to do.
Your friends around will always be a great support, but they may not always be the right person to seek the help, guidance and support you may need. Speak with your local doctor as a start.... he or she will guide you in the right direction. The medical care here in Singapore is excellent.
As we are aware, we need to work at any relationship. Marriage, family, friends .... these are all valuable people in our daily lives ..... and expat friends are in that category too.

Singapore is a great place to live.

Be it for 12 months, two years or 5 years.

But you have to feel open to all aspects of living here, accept the good, the bad and the ugly.

You will be able to read (usually on the many blogs) about the travel opportunities, the countries you can visit just for a weekend, the beaches to laze on while having a martini. But Singapore is not always about the good side, you have to be able to accept some of the 'not so good side' too.... being away from family and friends for one.

The hot humid weather for another. This is a tropical zone in the equator, do you remember reading that when you did your homework?
 Yes, we all melt!

You only make it hard on yourself if you are going to constantly 'complain' about the hot, sticky weather. Try to cope with it as best  you can and wearing tight jeans is not the answer!  Keep out of the sun as much as possible and keep an umbrella in your bag for both rain AND sun.

We found that we acclimatised to the hot weather quicker by NOT having the air conditioning on. This will go against what some may think, but I am only saying what worked for us. We do have the AC on at night in our bedroom for sleeping, but it is turned off by 6.00am. We use fans in all the rooms with windows and doors open every day. If the AC was on 24/7 and then we went outside, we would certainly feel the heat that much more.

Average temperature is between 25 - 31 °C and temperatures are almost the same day and night.

Average annual rainfall is about 2600 mm rainfall a year with more rainfall from November to January.

Do not have a car? It is not the end of the earth! 

Sometimes having a car can be more of a pain than a benefit, if you have to find parking spaces etc.   Most of us (if not all) have a car 'back home' and cannot imagine being without one here. But you can, certainly if you cannot afford a vehicle, then you learn to travel by public transport, it is quick, easy and efficient. Maybe not with a baby in a stroller .... but take a cab where possible. Maybe one of your friends will care for the baby once a week so you will have some 'me time'?

Your thinking needs to be flexible here ... to think outside the square!

"on average" for one month for a taxi or cab for us is  $150.00 SGD.

our cab usage would be:

To take Oscar to the vet once a month
Going out of an evening, we take the bus to and a cab back home in most cases.
Shopping, I go by bus to the mall, but a cab back home if I have too much to carry.
John takes a cab to meetings in the city area about three times a month.
We take a cab to and from the airport.

It's easy to catch the flu bug or to develop a heat rash in this tropical climate, where it's torrential rain one minute and burning sunshine the next. Be aware of all this ... not only for yourself, but your children. This will make them cranky, which in turn will be upsetting for the family.  

At weekends, when the family is together ... get out and about. Spend time in the Botanical Gardens, the Zoo, or even take the bumboat over to Pulau Ubin.   There are a lot of parks around Singapore where you can spend an entire afternoon for free.
There is much for you to do as a family, its not all about the night life along Clarke Quay!

What ever you do, enjoy the time you have here in Singapore. 

You are truly blessed to have this wonderful opportunity.

all of the above links in bold are links to other 'helpful' blog posts.


SnOOpy168 said...

Well said.

Laurel said...

Good post. As a family of five and our first overseas stint we had to walk a careful line between "home" and Singapore. All of us wanted to come for the cultural experiences and we have all made both local and expat friends. My kids go to American schools where there is plenty of multicultural backgrounds. We do NOT get that in the American schools back "home". We live in the heartland and not a huge expat area. It was a hard balance to find but we've done a good job of staying true to our homeland and soaking up all these wonderful cultures here in Singapore.
I had to laugh at all your AMerican references. Do we all really sound that bad and spoilt? Are AMericans the only ones that typically have an expat package? I ask because I'm not too familiar with it all.
You still have some of the most informative posts on living in another country. Wether SIngapore or Timbuktu, your advice is sound.

Leone Fabre said...

Thanks Laurel....

SORRY .... , didn't mean it to focus on the "American reference" ... its just that there are many American Expats that are paid in US dollars here. Not all of course, but many are and so have no need to be concerned with the Taxation etc.

There are expats from 'everywhere' that can be on an "Expat Package", not just from the US. Plenty here from the UK, Australia and Europe too. Though even "expat packages" are not as common (or as well packaged) as they once were!

I now see people coming in on a typical 'local contract' and heard recently that some are willing to come from Europe at a very low wage for two reasons, one it being Singapore and two, there is very little work in Europe. So yes, they are willing to come here at a much lower rate "just to be able to work here" .... this is very new though.

You have done super well though Laurel ... and yes, it is a fine line between 'home' and Singapore!

Unknown said...

Another great post!

I should have commissioned you to do these before we moved. Hopefully they are a great help to others planning a move over here.

I nodded my head to everything in this post. Singapore is so different to Australia, but that's what we love about it.

You are so very helpful, thank you!

Laura said...

Well said Leone and so very true. Singapore is my home and I'm very happy there. Like you said no where is perfect but we definitely have to make the most of the wonderful opportunity that has been presented to us.

Anonymous said...

This is an excellent post, Leone!

I think couples should only relocate if you're both committed to it (for whatever reason). It would be a hard thing to do if you didn't want it.

Laurel - we're on an expat package and we aren't American! My 2 closest friends here are American, I've yet to encounter a bad and spoilt American but did encounter an Irish couple who are your steroetypical Expat snobs. She rolled her eyes when I said we didn't have a maid and replied "Aussies, you all say that but you will change" and he told me Australia was "provincial and coarse". Blergh.

I try not to get caught up in the things that bug me about Singapore, I try to find the humour in them. This move has afforded us so many blessings, so the little 'niggles' are worth putting up with.

One thing I would add is to be prepared to make friends and then have them leave. My wonderful American neighbour who has done so much to help us settle here and who has two daughters exactly the same ages as mine is going 'home' in January. I have a lump in my throat just typing that, and yet I know that this is just the first of many, many goodbyes.

Chaithra and Naveen said...

This is like one mini singapore encyclopedia. There is so much information !!!

Chaithra and Naveen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leone Fabre said...

Thanks "K" for your comment.... re the "Aussies, you all say that but you will change" ... its their way of explaining WHY they do have a maid. Another niggle to ignore.

Its up to each family unit IF they have a maid or not. I used to think that if they didn't have one "at home" then why the need for one here?

But have changed that thought (a little bit) as with young children and the constant hot and humid weather, perhaps a maid is not such a bad thing for some people. I just don't like the way I see them treated by both Expats AND locals. The expats seem to 'show off' that they have one by having them tag along when shopping and the locals (usually) just treat them like slaves. But thats all another issue anyway!

Finding 'humour' in the things that 'bug you' is a great coping strategy. Well done!

... and lastly, but certainly not least. Friendships here are transient in a lot of cases. But if the friendship is strong, it can survive Post-Singapore. It is the hard part of being an expat ... lots of hello's but just as many goodbyes too.

In my five years here I have had my fair share of them too. But stop and think ...

you will have friends all over the world that you can visit - one day!

Leone Fabre said...

Thanks for dropping by Chaithra and Naveen .....

I try to add information to my blog wherever possible to help others.

They may not all agree with my comments or thoughts and idea's, but its my way of thinking and how I deal with things or how I have found it to be - for me!

Though did change (and add) a few things to this particular post this morning too. So there are always changes happening. :)