Born and bred here, but living in England for the past 13 years, a returning expat shares with us how she’s settling back into life in Singapore, this time with husband, sons and a cat in tow!
LYDIA ELDER left our shores at the age of 19 to read English and Sociology at the University of Leeds. She returned this April when her husband was offered a job here.
An influencer and digital content creator for property, interiors and DIY, Lydia’s Instagram feed (@lydias_layton_life) is updated daily with photos of how she has put together her rental home in Singapore and her new build home in Kent in the UK. Her sons Teddy (6) and Arlo (4) often make appearances too! We chatted with Lydia about her story.
Tell us about life Singapore when you were here before.
My parents have lived in Singapore for 35 years – they still live in my childhood home, a black-and-white bungalow in Alexandra!
My best memories were around school – I went to Tanglin Trust School from nursery until Sixth Form. My mum still teaches Secondary English there and both my boys now go there too! It was surreal seeing them put on their uniforms for the first time.
I also have good memories of running around with my brother in what we called “The Valley”, which was a vast expanse of tropical parkland right outside my parent’s house. We would build dams in the drains, hunt lizards and take the dogs for walks. It’s amazing seeing my boys enjoy doing the exact same things today, with me watching over as the adult.
What did you miss most about life in Singapore when you were away?
Two things – the food and weather! In the UK, I would dream about wonton noodles, chicken rice and dim sum. (My favourite restaurants and hawkers are Crystal Jade, Sushi Tei, Samy’s Curry Restaurant and Food Republic @ VivoCity!)
I’m also definitely a tropical climate girl and my first winter in the UK was a real shock to the system.
We’re big fans of the Singapore Zoo, too – the first thing we did when we moved here was buy Friends of Wildlife passes.
I love that you can sunbathe by a pool, hike in the jungle, eat a Michelin-starred meal and have cocktails overlooking the ocean, all in one day! I love how genuinely friendly and considerate Singaporeans are and how family-friendly the city is.
The only thing I wish I could change is how expensive it is!
How did you become a property influencer?
I started my Instagram when we bought our new build family home in Kent. It was a “blank, white box” and I began to share the process of putting my stamp on it through affordable and imaginative DIY projects.
A lot of people came to me for advice on their home purchases, using government-backed homebuying schemes and asking about my experience with newbuild homes.
My Instagram has evolved into sharing all aspects of my life with my followers – from parenting to fitness and travel.
What are the pros and cons of being in the limelight?
I’ve been able to build a career that’s very flexible and allows me to spend almost all my time with my children. I feel very fortunate that I haven’t experienced any of the “trolling” that can sadly be a by-product of this line of work. I really enjoy the conversations I have with people who have been engaged with and inspired by my content.
However, it’s hard to have an “off” day as social media is set up to be 24/7. It can be exhausting meeting the expectation of constantly churning out innovative content daily! It’s important to stay grounded and not get too caught up in “likes”. I have breaks and days where I’m present and spending time with my family, rather than doing something “for the gram”!
While I’ve turned this into my business, much of what I do is incredibly personal and so it can be hard to separate that.
What tips can you give to new expats about living in Singapore?
Location is key when setting up a home and making new friends. There are definitely expat “pockets” around the island, and depending on your life stage, certain areas will suit you more than others.
If you have a young family, I recommend that you house-hunt around your kids’ school; that’s a great way to find a ready-made circle of friends for both your children and you. If you’re living in a house, then joining a club such as The British Club is a brilliant way to meet people and get into sports and activities. While a landed property gives space and privacy, there are loads of benefits to condo living; the communal areas such as the pool and gym are often very social spaces.
For furnishing your home, Facebook Marketplace is a great place to find real gems, as people are constantly moving and looking to sell their furniture, sometimes practically new! Singapore also boasts two IKEA stores for essentials, and there are some brilliant and reasonably priced online furniture shops, too, such as Cozymatic, Castlery, FortyTwo and HipVan.
What about tips or advice for anyone who wants to be an influencer on social media?
Find your area of expertise – what are you passionate about? You need to have something to share that is authentically you and gives people a reason to keep coming back for more.
Consistency and creativity are key, so post new content regularly and build up a story for your audience to follow.
The most important thing when starting off is engagement. Network with other accounts in a similar niche as you and interact with your followers – be approachable!
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!
For more home décor and furniture in Singapore – read this huge guide!