From the USA to Singapore: Some People Juggle Geese
Hi! I’m Lucy Day. My husband and I are American. We have been living in Singapore since 2008.
1. Why did you move abroad?
I did a three-month study-abroad program in Italy as an undergraduate, but I was hoping to live abroad somewhere for a longer period. Fortunately, my husband was offered a fellowship at the National University of Singapore.
2. How do you make a living?
I am currently working as a writer for a local education company. My husband teaches at National University of Singapore and Yale-NUS College.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
Believe it or not, I send snail mail! I also send email and talk to family on the phone. Timing the phone calls is tricky because they’re exactly twelve time zones away.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Singapore?
For me, it’s the language environment. I enjoy hearing how people speak in the local dialect of English, listening to Chinese broadcasts on the radio, seeing signs with words in Malay and Tamil, buying products with packaging in Thai, Arabic, or Japanese... When I was living in the US, in most environments I would hear and see English only, along with maybe some Spanish.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Singapore?
The climate. It’s always uncomfortably hot. I can’t stand to spend any amount of time outside, any time of day, any time of year. Furthermore, when seasons don’t change, time doesn’t seem to pass. I lose hold of memories because I can’t peg them to a particular season.
6. What do you miss most?
Family. To get back to where my family lives the US, I have to travel for more than an entire day, and then when I arrive, my body clock is completely back to front. I also miss autumn.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
My husband and I are not very social, but we spend time with work colleagues, both locals and expats. In addition, I’m involved in a couple of Meetup.com groups (for readers and writers).
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
Chinese New Year is the most important holiday of the year here. There’s at least as much retail activity during the CNY period as there is during the Christmas period. There are always two days that are official public holidays for CNY, and some businesses close down much longer. There’s a scramble to make travel plans so people can visit family in other places, or just escape for a holiday. People cook or buy and eat traditional foods; they buy and wear new clothes; there are CNY themed movies in the theatres and CNY music on the radio stations. It all feels strange since I did not grow up with CNY traditions.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
I think a lot of misunderstanding about Singapore is basic stuff. People often assume it’s part of China, Malaysia or some other larger country rather than an independent nation. People often assume that Singaporeans don’t speak English, but actually English is the primary language of Singapore and the most common language spoken by Singaporeans. It is true that there is no chewing gum for sale here, just lots of breath mints, but it’s not a big deal.
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
Real estate prices (and thus rent) are very high in part because Singapore is urban and dense, so single-family detached homes are rare and so expensive that they’re out of reach for just about everybody. The cost of owning a car is high too, but that’s okay because there are cheap taxis as well as safe, clean, cheap, and convenient public buses and trains.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
- Eat! There is every kind of food at every price point here. All the food is safe. Most of it is delicious.
- Travel! It’s hard to visit other countries from America. It’s easy to visit other countries from Singapore. The top site in the region is Cambodia's Angkor Wat. It's impossible to go there too many times or stay too long. Bangkok has a lot to offer too, but beware of traffic.
- Unless you’re a family with kids or you’ve got a company car allowance, plan on using the excellent buses, trains, and taxis to get around.
- Choose a central place to live so that it’s easy to see interesting places, even if you don’t work in town.
- Find a group of people who like to do whatever it is that you like to do. If a group doesn’t exist, create one!
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I post about books, movies, and international trips, but also about funny signs and language-related observations; Singapore is a great place to observe language! The blog is how I record and share my experiences with friends and family. Enjoy!
Lucy's blog, Some People Juggle Geese - This Is What I Do Instead
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