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Delia Olmedo, Singapore

Who are you?

My name is Delia Olmedo, I am originally from Paraguay. I am a 34-year-old and crazy about challenges. My first one was at 16-years-old when I decided to become a foreign exchange student in the USA. After that I just could not stop traveling, went to University in Brazil from where I hold a bachelor degree in Pharmacy and Biochemistry and a master degree in Pharmacology. After graduation I had the opportunity to work in a few cities around Brazil, also always traveling around South America for work which was a great experience.

Right now I am working as freelancer translator, language and art/craft teacher. I started doing handicraft in University just as a hobbie, it was love at first sight, I am still doing it and also manage my little online store. Here I am having the opportunity to teach art/craft which I have never done before and so far it is being a fulfilling experience.Where, when and why did you move abroad?

After spending a holiday travelling around SE Asia for about 40 days between April and June of 2012, I felt totally in love for incredible SE Asia and went back home already ready to move. It was very easy since I was not really happy anymore doing what I was doing at work so I decided to quit my job, started to look for jobs in Singapore, and faced a whole new experience of moving again, looking for places to live, new friends, new life, it was very exciting.

I arrived in Singapore on September 15th, and thanks to friends I already had a place to live (sharing with them), but I did not have a job yet, although I did have a lot of hope of finding a good job soon.

What challenges did you face during the move?

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My English was not that good, and trying to understand “Singlish” was hard, now after 4 months I am feeling very comfortable with English and also with what they call “English” in Singapore.

I come from a very warm place, where everybody even if they do not know you says hi at the lift, hi to the guard at buildings and you even know their names, here I used to do the same I felt a few people looking at me thinking “do I know you?”… well I still say “hi” … It is funny now to see their reactions but at the beginning I thought this was mean. I share the apartment with a friend and with 3 other roommates, sometimes I am at the kitchen and they just appear and obviously do not say hi. This was a very tough aspect to deal with. And until today I kept myself wondering how do they do it.

Here is the worst part: I could not find a permanent job yet, even though I was considering myself qualified. The Government is really tying up positions for foreigners here and it is not looking any better since I arrived here.

Another challenge was cost, Singapore is one of the most expensive places to live in SE Asia, my income was very limited, but I was keen to move so I did it anyway and did not regret it and I do not think I will.

How did you find somewhere to live?

I was very lucky because while I was on vacation I met several expats from all over the world and when I already decided to move, one of these new friends was also looking for somewhere to live and someone to share the apartment with. So right now we share an apartment with 3 other roommates.

We live in a quiet area of southeast Singapore, in between the city and the airport. I chose to live here because of the excellent location and also because it is very close to East Coast Park which is an amazing park to go to anytime of the day or the week.

Are there many other expats in your area?

Singapore is a expat’s paradise for what I have known so far. Everywhere you go there is an expat, you look around and you see there are lots of communities, centers, associations from expats, the problem is just choosing one. All these expats are so keen to help and give you advices on pretty much anything due to the same experience I guess.

I am very talkative, so when I hear someone speaking Spanish or Portuguese anywhere, it can be shopping centers, the bus, on the street, I just say hi, I ended up making lots of good friends this way.

What is your relationship like with the locals?

Actually is really hard to find someone from Singapore here (yes it is true!) and as I mentioned before the expat community is very big, I wish I could have had more contact with them, I still have time. Every country where I have lived before that was one of my priorities – get in touch with natives – this is how you really find out about the place you are living, about their history, their culture and it is the easiest way to learn a new language.

I will call Singlish a barrier because sometimes it is very hard to understand, but this is what it is all about living in a foreign country and it can be such a good challenge learn their dialects.

What do you like about life where you are?

Amazing weather, I love the sun, love summer, love wearing light clothes, here it is just perfect and it was one of the main reasons for moving.

Safety, this is another and probably one of the most important things in life for me and here you are not only safe but you feel safe, you can walk on the street, take a bus late at night and you will not be afraid. You do not need to worry about your purse, your wallet, your watch, nothing at all. Can you imagine living in a country where you open the newspaper everyday and you cannot find any titles about murder, homicide, robbers, nothing – this is real, and it does exist, well done Singapore!

Public transport is so easy to use and very clean. The whole city is extremely clean and most of all it is green everywhere you look with lots of flowers and trees.

If you like to travel, this country is located in a strategic point in the map, and you can find flight tickets for less than 100 SD$ and the hard part comes in deciding where to go first, since every place is so unique.

Food, if you like to eat as I do…come here!

What do you dislike about your expat life?

Most of the job offers are for Singaporeans or for Permanent residents (PR) only. Most of the job offers for which I call “B” jobs, I mean: construction, waitressing, housekeeping, are open to foreigners, with a very low salary range for a full day of work.

After 4 months here I am finding it a bit hard not to think that locals do not like foreigners anymore because we are taking their places, I wish time will prove that I am wrong.
Singapore is expensive and after a while and after visiting others border countries you realize that and also that the difference is big.

Singapore’s beaches. Yes, you have the beach but right there, about 30 or 40 meters in front of you, you do not have a clean sky, you have an ocean full of big ships with lots of huge containers in it. Remember Singapore’s harbor is one of the busiest of SE Asia.

Even though Singapore’s harbor is very busy, you cannot do lots of on line shopping because most of the companies do not deliver in Singapore (I still do not understand this).

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

Get a job before coming or at least do serious job hunting to get to know what are they offering, salaries, etc. Attend interviews, if it is possible call, etc. I did not do it, I just let myself think that it would be very easy because by looking at jobs on specialized websites, the list of offers was huge and is still huge.

If you are a Pharmacist take a close look at the Singaporean Pharmacy Council and check if you will be allowed to work here as a pharmacist, or if will have to take a few more years of classes and practice until you get to be qualified to register here. Most of the Pharmacist positions requires a registration at this council.

Take a look at expat forums, they are so helpful about practically anything. Get already in touch with a few expats before coming, this will be very helpful for building a social life.

What are your plans for the future?

I am planning to stay until end of this year in Singapore, then make a move again to other country which I do not know yet. Let’s see where my heart will take me.

Never stop travelling, always getting to know a new culture, a new language, facing new challenges, making new friends, finding new professions, reaching new goals, and so on. That will keep me alive as it always has done.

Here I found what my profession was not giving me anymore, which is joy, passion and satisfaction and I try to always be look for these things no matter what.