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Life as an expat teenager in Singapore

Kirra Draper 

Moving to a new country is a challenge for anyone, but for teenagers it can be especially difficult. Here, Kirra Draper and three friends discuss the ups and downs of relocating to Singapore.

I was 14 when I came to Singapore and had no idea what I was in for. The minute I stepped off the plane, I felt as though I had entered another world. Everything was so alien and bizarre, but that seemed to make it all the more exciting.

I had six weeks to settle in before I started at my new school. The first three were spent living in a serviced apartment before my family moved into our condominium. It was like a holiday at first, until all of my belongings arrived and the reality hit me like a ton of bricks. I was here for good.

It wasn’t as though Singapore was a bad place; it was just so different from what I was used to. It’s like the old saying, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.”

The language barrier was a problem that left me confused and frustrated. Although English is the common language, Singlish is almost a dialect unto itself and spoken widely.

I was too scared to talk to anyone for the first few weeks, until one day I got tired of it and successfully ordered my first meal in McDonalds. Bigger feats such as giving cab drivers directions or haggling in Chinatown would come later.

Starting school in a new place has always been hard for me. Starting halfway through the school year in a new country was even harder, but I just had to grit my teeth and pull through it. Things fall into place and it eventually doesn’t seem that hard anymore.

I am happy to say that after more than two years of living in Singapore I now have a group of friends I get along with and enjoy being around. Things are looking pretty good for now.

My advice to teenagers coming to Singapore is to embrace this new world and keep an open mind, even if you don’t want to be here. If you spend all your time complaining and looking for the bad points, you will just make the experience worse for yourself.

It’s perfectly okay to miss your friends or feel homesick, but the “I hate Singapore and I’ll never like it here” attitude gets very old, very fast. It’ll do you no favours at your new school and won’t gain you any sympathy because we’ve all been there. Just think of it as an adventure and eventually this city will grow on you.

Miki Nagai (16), Japan

Miki Nagai

I have lived in Singapore for seven years. Saying goodbye to my friends and relatives was tough, and I still miss my hometown. Settling in was easy at first because I attended the Japanese school, but when I switched my education to the Australian school everything got a lot harder. I still miss a lot of things from Japan that Singapore doesn’t have, such as Japanese TV shows and the variety of shopping malls. But the good thing about Singapore is that it’s always safe, you can walk around the streets at midnight and know that you’re going to be alright. Singapore is very hot, so be ready to get sweaty!

Consuelo Cofre’ (15), Chile

Consuelo Cofre’

When I first came to Singapore four years ago I was shocked by how multicultural it was, I felt as though I was in the Twilight Zone. I miss my friends and family back home, but friends don’t seem to last long in Singapore when you attend an international school. People come and go and they rarely stay forever. In Chile you can’t go out on your own at our age without something bad happening. If you hang around the streets at midnight you’re likely to be the victim of assault. In Singapore, everything is safe. So, my advice to newcomers is to stay open-minded.

Shaneel Parikh (15), Australia

Shaneel Parikh 

I’ve been in Singapore for two years. The biggest difference between my home country and Singapore has to be the ease of public transport. Train stops are conveniently located around the island, and there are convenient bus routes. You can always get to where you want to go, no matter where you are. I dislike the weather in Singapore because it always spoils my cricket games and training. My advice is to stay strong, even if it is hard at the start. The locals and expats are very welcoming. Get involved with sports or hobbies, make lots of friends, and make sure you learn Singlish, lah!