Leaving Singapore BY MELANIE BROWN
Deciding to leave Singapore, a country you’ve called home for a decade is no easy thing. Add school-age children into the mix and it becomes even more complicated.
For our family, Singapore has offered us so many opportunities. The location allowed my husband and I to travel extensively for work, speaking at conferences, attending training and learning from an incredible mix of people. Singapore is home to the head offices of so many companies. The chance to meet and work with people from Singapore and all over the world makes work life here vibrant and dynamic. Until the last few years, leisure travel was second to none. Fancy a weekend away on an untouched tropical island? Book a boat trip or flight and be there, drink in hand, by sunset on Friday night.
But when those opportunities fade, other challenges come to the fore. As my children get older, they start to question their identity. Being Kozzies – half Kiwi, half Aussie – they’re not sure what country to call home. My youngest says he’s Singaporean. He was born here and lived his whole life here. This is home, end of story. This move is going to be tough on him, no question. He’s too young to understand complicated rules of citizenship.
Developing an identity is no simple thing for children. In our bedtime chats, my eldest tells me she wants an accent. She wants people to know she’s from somewhere. She’s tired of people peppering her with guesses about where she’s from, with her neutral international school kid accent giving nothing away.
So, when the costs of living far from home start to outweigh the benefits, it’s time to go. The years of seeing grandparents on a screen but not in real life starts to hurt the heart. Relationships are the fabric of life. The benefits of being closer to the people we love, of our children having a firm identity and friends who don’t leave every year, outweigh the wrench and pain of moving. Don’t get me started on the astronomical cost of shipping right now though! Think of a figure and double it. Then expect to pay more at the other end.
So we begin the process of uprooting ourselves from the life we’ve loved for a decade here in Singapore: sorting through years of precious artwork drawn by little hands, books and precious things collected from all over Southeast Asia; saying goodbye to long-term friends and colleagues. People we have shared so much with. People who have become family, when biological family is so far away.
But it is time for us to leave Singapore. Settling into a new life will take time. We will miss the heat, smells, rainstorms, food and culture of Singapore. We might gain autumn leaves, snow-capped mountains and weekends at the beach, but we’ll never forget our time here. It’s shaped our children, and Singapore has taken a permanent place in our hearts.
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This article first appeared in the December 2021 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy