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Expat, Life, Singapore

On Being an Expat

The expat life can be fleeting, just like how I’ve been with this blog. You guys, I missed my 2 year blogging anniversary. Oops.  I can’t believe I’ve managed to keep this blog running for 2 years, even if I have been falling a bit behind lately. Life happens. Expat life happens.

I’ve been seeing this whole concept of expat life/living far from home around blogland lately and couldn’t not participate!  Thank you, Carolann from Finding Ithaka for the inspiration. Though I know that Jen and Mili Wifey have also piped in on the fun. Beloi Beach Hotel

Where were you born, where did you grow up, and where do you currently live?

I was born in Brasilia, DF, Brazil and I grew up moving around every 2 years. I lived in Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro, DC, San Francisco, New York  State, New Hampshire and Brussels up until I was 18. Come 18, I moved to NYC to attend NYU. Since then, I moved myself to London and now I have been calling Singapore home for the past 5 years. I just celebrated my 5 year anniversary here! Another milestone I failed to blog about. HA 😉

What made you leave your home country?

I didn’t have a choice! My dad’s job had him being transferred from one city/country to another. And I guess that nomadic lifestyle became ingrained in my veins as I’ve carried on moving from one country to another as an adult. My brother, on the other hand, has decided to stay put and make NYC home. I don’t blame him! Picking up and moving to another place is hard!!

What type of reactions do you get when you meet new people and tell them where you’re from?

Since I’ve been living in Singapore, most people assume I’m Singaporean because hey, all Asians look alike, right? But then they realize I don’t sound Singaporean at all and then they think I’m American. No one really ever thinks I’m Brazilian. I mean, why the F not??? I look very Brazilian, can’t you tell? 😉 There are some who flat out refuse to believe I’m Brazilian. “But you look Asian!” is what I get. <insert eye roll emoji>

But then there are the others who don’t bat an eye because they were raised as a TCK themselves. TCK stands for “Third Culture Kid”in case you aren’t familiar with that acronym. 😉Happy 51st Birthday SingaporeWhat was the hardest/easiest part about adjusting to your new country?

I have to say, it was pretty easy peasy adapting to Singapore. Despite being in Southeast Asia, Singapore is quite Western in some regards. We call Singapore, Asia Lite. It’s a good gateway into easing into Asian life/culture if you’re not from these neck of the woods. There are of course a lot of quirks that come with life here, but I had a much easier time adjusting then when I moved to London.

What drives me crazy about Singapore are the taxis. And how taxis don’t want to pick you up because they’re waiting for someone to book. Or they don’t want to go anywhere near you’re going. Or how they’ve got the green light indicating they’re available but as soon as they see you, they flip on the red lights. Grrrr.

Moving to London was tough! I thought it would be easy because English is spoken and it’s a Western society, but oh no. I struggled for the first 2 years in London. But that’s a whole other post for another day!

Images, words or sounds that sum up the expat experience you’ve had so far.

Can? Caaaannnnnn

Can, can? Can, can, can!

Cannot lah! Aiyo!It’s amazing how a full conversation can be had with “can”.

A common sight in Singapore is queues. People will queue for anything, even more so if it’s free. A lot of companies try to bring awareness to their new product by offering a free ice cream, for ex. Dude, that line is snaking out to Malaysia. It’s kind of insane! And for a popular food stall/restaurant? You better forget about it as queuing is like a national sport.

Your favorite food or drink item in your new country?

Curry chicken! Yum, yum.

Coconut puddings from Soi Coco are dabomb.com!

And oh, I’ve discovered yuzu juices/sodas here, though yuzu is actually from Japan. It’s a type of lemon. So.damn.good.

What’s the one thing you said “YES” to in your new country that you wouldn’t have said yes to back home?

Umm, nothing? I pretty much always say yes to everything. Unless it requires eating snails because just no. And maybe eating insects, even if it is nutritious.

But as an expat, you really have to get out of your comfort zone and get out there. You need to go and explore your new surroundings; meet new people in order to make friends. It is exhausting, but unless you want to live holed up in your flat the whole time, then… Say YES! You never know what amazing opportunity you’ll have missed if you don’t!

Are there any cultural norms/phrases in your new country that you cannot stand?

Truth be told, I am not a fan of the super thick Singaporean accent. Maybe it’s because I don’t understand it. But really, it doesn’t sound super refined.

On that note, I have definitely picked up some phrases and have adopted into my vocabulary. In fact, my English is a hodge podge of American, English,  Aussie (I’ve had too many friend from Oz) and Singapore slang. HA

What do you enjoy doing most in your new country?

Singapore’s location makes it super easy to travel around Southeast Asia, so… I try to go away one weekend a month, though it’s been a little hard lately to do that. Though I was just in Bintan with Leroy and I’ve been able to jaunt over to places like Bali, Phuket, Siem Reap etc for the weekends. Not too shabby! 😉Phuket, ThailandI am also loving the tropical weather.  After 5.5 years living in the gray and drizzle of London, I’m loving the sun. Maybe not the humidity. I love rolling out of bed on the weekends and into my pool for a quick dip before starting the day. It’s pretty lush. I’ll never have that kind of set-up if I moved back to NYC, so I’m making the most of it now while I can!

Plus, Singapore living is pretty easy. It’s convenient and it’s safe. Living in Singapore is akin to living in Disneyland, everything is great! But I do completely realize that my reality/life here is not really like the real world.

Do you think you’ll ever move home for good?

Ummmmm, gawd. That is a hard question. First of all, where is home?!?! My parents are still moving around as well.

I think the better way for me to answer this question is, yes, one day I will put down more permanent roots somewhere. I think. Well, I like the idea of that now that I’m older… Maybe my days of traipsing around the world will end soon??

And after my last post, there is still no news on Leroy’s end. Sigh. We’re hoping to get an answer this week, fingers crossed!

Anyway, how have you been?

 

 

 

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  • I love this!! And I totally think you should blog on your experience moving to London.

  • Oh, those phrases. Haha. Reminds me of my SG days.
    Hope you get to adjust and adapt well enough.

    • Sing is great, I have been here for 5 years now so Í’ve adapted well, i think!! I’m probably staying for another year or I’m on my way out… Where are you now?

  • I loved reading this! Also I can’t believe “can” is used for so many things! That must be super confusing at first haha

    • The English language is truly unique in that sense and how each region uses it differently!

  • I seriously don’t think that I knew how much you had moved around growing up! That’s so crazy that you got live and experience that many countries and cultures! Life in Singapore sounds amazing, and I love that it gives you access to explore so many amazing places so quickly!

    • In hindsight, moving around all the time like that is strange! But it was so normal for me, especially when I was in the American/International Schools bc everyone was leaving/going as well. On the plus side, I literally have friends all around the world! 😉 Girl, I hope you put Singapore on your bucket list..! Sing is amazing!!

  • I loved reading more about you! I’m so glad you answered these questions. One day I do think I will want to settle down somewhere for good, although I still don’t know where that will be. I’m glad you are making the most of living in Singapore and traveling around! I have a goal of hitting up all of the main Hawaiian islands. Including the one I live on, I’ve been to 3 so far!

    • I’m not even sure I know how many Hawaiian islands there are! But I do hope you get to hit them all before your next PCS! I haven’t been to Hawaii in 3 years? Would love to go back!!

  • I love reading about your lifestyle. It’s so interesting to me! I’ve moved quite a bit, but it’s just been around the US, so the international experience is so interesting to me! I use to live in Hawaii so I am with you, love that heat. I live in Seattle now, which is a lot like London weather wise and it’s sooooo hard when it’s gloomy out. I really struggle with that.

    • Despite having lived in the States for half my life, I’ve never made it to Seattle. I’m itching to go and also hit up Oregon. Argh, I really struggled with London weather…

  • Jen

    I absolutely loved reading this!!! I think it’s amazing that you grew up moving every 2 years. You have certainly been lucky enough to see some great places.

    • It’s definitely an unique way of growing up, but Emmy will have the same experience!! 🙂 I wouldn’t have changed the way I grew up for the world, its made me a much more open, tolerant person! And of course I have been blessed to have seen so much of the world at an early age!

  • I’m so glad that you commented on my expat post and brought me here (and that you found my post through Carolann’s post – love her blog!). Look at our little expat/traveler internet community haha. You have certainly been around the block in terms of expat life. Singapore must be a wonderful difference from London… and this is the second time I’ve heard it referred to as “Asia Lite” this week, ahah. Now to peruse your other posts!

    • Likewise!! So glad to have found more expat blogs and not pure travel blogs! I’m definitely forever an expat, I think! Maybe one day I’ll go back to Brasil, but even then I’ll feel like a foreigner… Ahh. Sing is great! If you’re ever down here, let me know!!

  • I loved this!! I found it fascinating to learn more about the expat life!!

  • I really enjoyed reading this post. Even though I didn’t grew up a TCK, I’ve been a serial expat since my early 20s. Nobody believes me, when I say that I’m Danish, but Denmark will always be home for me, but it’s not like I have any plans of moving back or anything, because it’s just too cold and rainy:) I hope everything works out for you, the cat and the BF:)

    • You are kind of a TCK.. 😉 I have a few Danish friends here so it’s funny how I now know it’s Danish when out and about… And I go up to people and say, oh, you’re Danish! And they’re like how did you know? hHA A

      • That’s impressive! Danish is usually mistaken for Dutch, or *sigh* German:)

  • I definitely get the “Where is home?” aspect, particularly with growing up as a TCK. I was born in Michigan, and lived there during and after college, so I have a strong connection to it…but it still isn’t exactly what I’d call “Home”. My husband is of Mexican ethnicity, and people here in Malaysia are always trying to guess where he’s from–he’s occasionally assumed to be local, but most of the time people think he’s from the Middle East, which isn’t a bad guess, because there are so many tourists from there where we live.

    • In some ways, I’m jealous of those who grew up in one place their whole lives and can identity that as “home” but then… Home to me is this world. Corny, but.. I think people just feel better when they can place someone in a “box”. Its how we understand things… I mean, people just get so confused when I say I’m Brazilian. HAHA They can’t wrap their minds around it, but there are so many Asian Americans and they are ok with that… HAHA

  • TCK Goes Home

    Hi Julie, I absolutely enjoyed reading this because there were so many parts (well, let’s say like 95%) I could relate to! You seem to be loving your new “home” in Singapore (I say that with “” because we all know home is very transient haha) As to the last part, let’s say you have to move back to Brazil, how do you think you’ll deal with that?

    • I secretly want to move back to Brazil, but definitely will be a massive reverse culture shock to me. The bureaucracy is impossible to deal with and I know that not having my “freedom” will be quite difficult to deal with. I did almost move back instead of Singapore, when things were still better there. I genuinely do hope to have the chance to live in Brazil again at some point, so let’s see!! 🙂