Continuing our series on long-term expats in Singapore, we chat with DEBRA HALVERSON, who has lived here for more than two decades with German husband Klaus Poppe (Singapore PR). They were married in Singapore and now have two children and a 19-year-old cat that they adopted from the Cat Welfare Society a couple of years after arriving and are owners of a property in Singapore.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What brought you to Singapore and when?
I’m originally from Canada, but I haven’t lived there in over 25 years. My first stint away was in South Korea, where I taught English. The idea was that it would only last a year, but here I am, still in Asia, still teaching English – and now embracing life in the tropics.
My husband (then boyfriend!) got a job offer here in 2000. We were living in Taiwan at the time. We jumped at the chance of becoming expats in Singapore; we’d been here as tourists and I in particular had fallen in love with the country – I loved the greenery and warm weather.
Did you have your children here?
Yes, both our children were born in Singapore – my son in 2004 and my daughter in 2007. They attend GESS and are in the German section as they’re half German. My son is a Singapore PR so he will be doing his National Service here in about two years. We have embraced this now, but it wasn’t always the case. After much thought and talking to other people who have sons who’ve done it, as well as other locals who have gone through it, I see it as a positive for him.
Do you think you’ll be expats in Singapore indefinitely?
I would personally love us to be a long-term expats in Singapore, but this doesn’t seem realistic – and my husband longs for Europe!
Are you a Singapore PR?
Klaus is Singapore PR; he applied way back in 2002 when we were unmarried. At the time, I saw no need of it as I was running a sole proprietorship tutoring English, and I was sponsoring myself. But rules change and I am in the process of applying to be a Singapore PR now.
Have you bought property in Singapore? If so, would you consider it a good decision?
In 2006, we bought a condo at Upper Bukit Timah. At the time, the area seemed so far away from everything and there wasn’t much going on. Fast forward to now and we have an MRT, plenty of Park Connectors, and the Green Corridor right outside our door. It was a very good decision to buy as we have avoided all of the rental issues that plague the property market in Singapore. We’ve always lived in the Bukit Timah area; I love it – it’s full of greenery, and it’s also convenient to get into the city when you want something more lively.
What are your favourite things to do in Singapore?
We love being outdoors – we often go walking in the jungle. In 2020, after the Circuit Breaker, my husband and I decided to join a dragon boating team. We joined the German Dragons and haven’t looked back. It has really enhanced our life here; not only is it a great way to get in shape, but you also meet new people who share a love of the sport. And your favourite thing about living in Singapore? The weather. I love the year-round warmth and sunshine – and I really don’t mind being sweaty!
What about some of the pros and cons of the expat experience?
I found Singapore very easy to settle into after living in Korea, Japan and Taiwan – those countries were challenging. I came here with the idea of possibly starting a family here as it was so liveable and hospitable.
One thing that has bothered me throughout the years is that businesses and restaurants can disappear from one day to the next. We find a great eatery and then it’s gone! And something that is even more disheartening as long-term expats in Singapore is when friends leave. We have met and developed some lovely friendships over the years that I would not change, but it’s so sad to say goodbye.
All that said, I still love it here and always look forward to seeing what else Singapore has to offer.
What one recommendation would you make for newbies?
Join a group and do something that you love with other people who share your passion.
Where do you think you’ll retire?
Probably somewhere in Europe… but let’s see; you never know where you will end up!
This article first appeared in the April 2022 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!
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