By Fulfilling Sng Shu Fen
I always viewed expats’ lives as all things beautiful. How exciting to be working overseas and living a life of plenty. Plenty of money, attractive remuneration packages, nice condos or beautiful black-and-white bungalows, big dogs, not one but two big cars, fine dining, hot parties, nice dresses … the list is never-ending.
I’ve always held a torch to the expat wives, too. They are beautiful, intelligent and courageous. They set up successful businesses and many ideas are born when they’re here! They seem to have everything and to be living the life of their dreams.
It was only when I sat down to chat with a friend, an expat wife herself, that I learnt how close she was to packing her bags to go home on several occasions. Things were so challenging, to the point of wanting to head for home without hubby. Little did I know of the many inner struggles. I didn’t know that behind some of those happy expat faces and smiles lies loneliness, or that they missed their home country, their friends, parents and relatives so much. I thought they had a happy life in Singapore – their Facebook photos said so. I was thinking my friend was managing well on this island. I felt I could have cared more by asking how was she coping, and supporting her through her struggles.
Another way I’ve come to realise that my perspective has been through rose-tinted glasses, and not the whole truth after all, has been through Expat Living magazine, which shines a light on the struggles of expats living in Singapore. I’ve learnt that some couples go through divorce while they’re here. No one could expect that something beautiful, a new life in another country, could take a nasty and unexpected turn on a relationship. Others experience loss of a family member and have to deal with the repatriation of the body back to their home country.
Amid the struggles of being an expat in Singapore, there is happiness too. I have fallen in love with the vibrant energy of the expat community. I love the coming together of their small businesses at the twice-yearly fairs at the F1 Pit Building. I’ve met many budding expat entrepreneurs and enjoyed our conversation so much. They have so much energy in them and their energy is so contagious that it makes me feel like one of them.
These fairs are very popular with the expat community; Singaporeans are a minority at them. When we go, our family often gets questions about where we’re from. Many are surprised when we reply “Singapore”.
I’ve realised that I love expats as much as I love my fellow Singaporeans. We may be different, yet, we are really one. Thank you for calling Singapore home for all these years and bringing much love and excitement to this little red dot. I love all of you so much!
This article first appeared in the January 2019 edition of ‘Parting Shot’, the back-page column of our magazine where our readers get to have their say.
For more opinions and features, visit our living in Singapore section.