I originally posted this almost two years ago when I hit my ‘speed bump’ A lot has changed for me since then but I know many of you are just getting to ‘the speed bump.’ Honestly, you’ll get over it – it is only a bump in the road, I promise.
The other reason for re-posting is so that the next post I’m currently writing make slightly more sense… I hope!
Speed Bump Ahead!
So, you are now officially an expat. You are living in Singapore. This is your ‘home’.
You’ve made the huge move away from all you know and love. You’ve found somewhere to live, made friends, visited some amazing places and been blown away by the amount there is to do on this one tiny island. The kids (if you’ve got them) are settled, you may even have found yourself a job. You have even been tour guide to visiting friends and family. Things seem to be going swimmingly well.
Yeah, that’s what I thought too. And then… bleurgh!
Being a bit under the weather didn’t help, but after a couple of weeks of feeling a bit ‘out of sorts’ I started to wonder. What was wrong with me? I was physically ok’ish (well I’m no olympic athlete still) really. A friend noticed and asked if I was ok. Not really I admitted. I felt low, fed up, bored and each day seemed to be a non starter.
You see, I have all this time on my hands and find I am literally busy doing nothing. What do I do all day is a question I battle with constantly. And it is a battle. To answer! I tend to cough a bit when people ask and shrug nonchalantly. I might splutter out something like:
Well…I catch up on Facebook – which is a whole other story but mark my words, there will be a Facebook Anonymous group. I read and send emails, I do house admin. I might go to the shops if I need something, (but as you know, me and shopping malls do not get along so I only do that when absolutely necessary). Oh, on a Monday I do Yoga – yay! And yeah, I might meet someone for coffee (I hate coffee, but saying you’re meeting someone for tea doesn’t sound right does it?) every now and then.
All these plans I had for filling my time. Writing every day, getting on with trying to get my book published, getting uber fit, seeing the hidden gems of Singapore.
That’s what I couldn’t work out. Why I wasn’t spending my time in a way that was more fulfilling? I haven’t got the excuse of house work, or young kids at home, or anything really. After weeks of visitors you’d think I’d be glad to have my days back to myself and want to get stuck in. I did wonder if that was the problem. I had got used to having people here. But no, it’s not that.
Then, my friend told me. I’d come to the six month speed bump. Hit the wall.
Apparently it happens to many of us expat women.
We have spent the first six or so months running round like headless chickens setting up home, making sure the rest of the family are ok, learning where to buy meat, fruit, veg and toothpaste, got to know the neighbourhood and generally got ourselves used to this new life.
And then it starts to feel more normal. The satnav isn’t on the whole time – both in the car and in your head. You no longer feel like a visitor and you feel more at home.
But it’s not really quite home. There are still things that you haven’t worked out. Like why the milk is not quite right. Why everyday things cost SO much. There are still places you’re not sure of. Still new challenges to face each week. So you feel comfy, but not comfy enough.
For me it’s also the friendship thing. I’m lucky to have met some lovely people since being here and I’m sure some of them will be friends for a long time (God help us!)
But there are also those that I know I have nothing in common with aside from the fact we both live in Singapore. There is definitely a forced friendship thing going on in this kind of situation. I’m so used to having a solid group of friends who’s needs we mutually fulfil. I’m struggling to know what to do with these new friends I’m not really connecting with. Who should I call to come shopping when I need to find a dress for a special occasion? Who’s going to be a good person to ask for help with the kids? Who can I trust to listen and not judge when things are not going well? Who’s the one who can be relied on for a good night out? Who is more of a sit at home and watch a movie kind of friend?
These are all things we have to keep learning and this in itself takes up a lot of time. No wonder I’m not getting anything done eh?
From talking to others, another bump can be around the other half. Long working hours, constant travelling and work commitments take their toll quite quickly.
I’m know I’m not alone not being comfortable being regarded as ‘the trailing spouse’. Many women I’ve met have left behind good careers to come here. Getting a job here isn’t necessarily an easy option when here on a Dependent Pass. Also, the fact that their partner, who’s job has brought them here, is working so many hours and travelling so much that any kind of work commitment on the women’s part would tip the balance for the family.
Even the term ‘trailing spouse’ makes me feel so insignificant. Like I’m a damp mop being dragged around the place. Or, worst still, some kind of limpet.
Of course, we can’t complain because without their important job we wouldn’t have been given this amazing opportunity to live here on the dot. Right?
No one back home really gets it either. After all, in their eyes we’re here in our lovely big places, with help of some kind usually, money is possibly a bit easier, we have lots of exciting new things to see and do. Also, a big part for anyone from colder climes – it’s always sunny. 🙂
That seems to be the general opinion doesn’t it?
Yes we have a lovely house/apartment – but it’s not OURS. If we have help – although we do feel grateful for this every day, it brings a whole host of new things to learn. Yep tax benefits are brilliant, but Singers is not a cheap place to live. Yep, there’s loads to do, but do we want to schlep around on our own? And as for the weather. Wow it is warm.
But… hang on, you’re right. I can’t argue with that one, sitting outside every day for every meal is amazing.
So that’s when I check myself. I remind myself about the good stuff. The sound of the birds as we eat breakfast outside every morning. My daughter said recently “I like living here; it’s like being in a rainforest every day. Oh, we are aren’t we.”
The freedom to let the children be more independent. The fact that I can drive straight in to the city in 10 minutes (traffic allowing) and find every shop imaginable. That we can go for a night out in town and be home in 20 minutes tops.
The Substation wall in Armenian Street
I love the fact that I see amazing new things every day like the wall art next to the Peranakan museum, the temple opposite the park I walk the dog in or the beautifully colourful shop houses in Little India.
I am grateful to be here. I’m happy to be here. I am excited about what’s to come. It’s just a bit lonely at times.
Some of the colourful shophouses around Little India
But it’s good to know that these feelings are completely normal and will pass. They are just another part of this new life we’re making for ourselves.
It’s good to know that others hit these speed bumps too. Let me know if you have won’t you?