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Jill of all Trades: ‘Being an expat wife in Singapore is a full-time career!’

By: Erin Reed

As one of them myself, I’ve heard my fair share of jokes about expat wives. Some think we took an early retirement, while others tease that one day they hope to be reincarnated as an expat wife. But being an expat wife isn’t as luxurious as some might envision. We don’t all sit around a mahjong table, sipping tea and planning our next resort getaway! (At least, not every day of the week.)

Fact is, I am far from retired. Actually, I feel like I’ve temporarily traded in one career for a handful of others.

Naturally, this is what multi-tasking looks like in our minds 

I’m an international importer. A family can only live without its favourite goodies for so long. Cue the importing: Fritos, Crest toothpaste, Snyder pretzels, J&J Q-tips, ChapStick… I’m just thankful they finally opened a Yankee Candle store in Singapore. Those things were really weighing down my suitcase.

I’m a professional packer. Who knew there was such a science behind packing? There remains not a single wasted square inch in my 20-kilogram bags. Ladies, don’t forget about the empty space in your shoes – perfect for smaller items!

I’m a drug store supplier. Our household is so stocked that we actually have a medicine closet; yes, a whole closet. It contains all of our familiar over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol. (Panadol just doesn’t seem to do the trick.)

I’m a travel agent. I’ve booked so many flights I could probably navigate any of the regional airline websites in Mandarin if need be. I’m also a free trip planner for any of my friends or family (or my uncle’s friend’s brother’s neighbours) who plan on travelling anywhere in the Eastern hemisphere.

I’m a tour guide. I have collected so many random facts about the tiger orchid, shophouses, Peranakan beadwork, Sir Stamford Raffles, bubble gum laws and the long-tailed macaque, that sometimes I think I should be wearing a name tag.

I’m an electrician. Adapters. Converters. Universal chargers. 110-120V versus 220-240V. I bet I could rewire our living room if I had to.

I’m a logistics coordinator. Phone Rep: “Okay Ma’am, we will have a serviceman out to your home between 12 and 2pm today.” Note to self: “Okay, that means I need to be home tomorrow at around 4 pm.” Juggling contractors, deliverymen, handymen and the air-con man is often a full-time job in itself.

I’m a professional shopper. I know where to go for who, what, when, where, why and even how. I know which grocery stores have the best prices; I know where to find my husband’s extra large, non-Asian-sized shoes, my daughter’s Graham crackers, Avery labels for my office, and even greeting cards under $12.

I’m a multicultural chef. No one said Michelin star, but I can make a mean Thai green curry, Indonesian gado gado, Malaysian chicken satay and even mango sago dessert.

I’m a superhero. Next time someone from home cracks a joke about being an expat wife, ask them if they’ve travelled 28 hours with an infant, toddler or family in tow.