Who are you?
Janine Clements, freelance writer, expat mum and travel junkie from the UK. I also write the blog 21st Century Mummy, which is all about the life, loves and lessons of a british expat mum living in Singapore.
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
I moved to Singapore 2 years ago from London as my husband found a new job. I was desperate to leave the UK and managed to persuade him to consider moving abroad. I was fed up with the weather, the state of the economy and the high crime rate. Every time I turned on the news, there was a shooting or stabbing being reported. It was depressing.What challenges did you face during the move?
The first few months were pretty challenging. The first place we stayed in was horrendous and we lasted 5 days before my husband’s company found us somewhere else (marginally better) to stay at for the first month. Our container didn’t arrive from the UK for 3 months so we had to buy a lot of new things. It took a while to get used to the heat and humidity too. I was 5 months pregnant when we arrived so I quickly had to find a good consultant and hospital and we couldn’t get insurance to cover the high maternity/delivery costs, which caused a lot of stress. It was also hard finding somewhere permanent to live and a preschool for my daughter. I felt quite lonely at first until we moved into our apartment and I started meeting people.
How did you find somewhere to live?
We used a couple of agents and I dragged my 3 year old daughter from condo to condo. We saw around 25-30 properties (that was exhausting in itself). We wrote out a list of the areas we would consider living in and our essential requirements. At one point I felt like giving up as it seemed as though we would never find what we were looking for. Thankfully we did, however we did have to compromise on certain things.
Are there many other expats in your area?
River Valley Road and the surrounding area is very popular with expats. It can feel a bit like you’re living in an expat bubble and it’s sometimes easy to forget we are even in Asia.
What do you like about life where you are?
I love life in Singapore. It’s very easy and a lot of fun. We live in a condo that is full of expat families and we have made some great friends. We have a live-in maid which makes life much easier, especially as we don’t have the help of our families. We have a lot more freedom to go out and there is a fantastic social scene. It is a great place to bring up children as it is very safe. The crime rate is very low. One of things I really love is the location as there are so many amazing holiday destinations right on our door step.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
The fact that everything from rental prices to buying a car (we get taxis everywhere) to supermarket shopping is so expensive.
How does shopping differ compared to back home?
It is much more expensive here, which is surprising as we were came from London. You can expect to pay at least 30% more for almost everything. A box of Shreddies is $12, baby formula is over $40 a tin. There’s also not as much choice as there is in the UK. We used to buy a lot of organic food, but the choice here is limited.
What do you think of the food in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?
You can get any kind of food you want here. There are so many restaurants to choose from and you can eat very cheaply at Hawker’ centres and the food is good, although there are a lot of unusual local specialities like pig organ porridge or the Durian, a fruit that smells a bit like rotting flesh. I’ve yet to try either. I don’t like that they seem to add MSG to everything from stock cubes to crisps or that they overload supermarket food (things like bread) with sugar.
What are your plans for the future?
We will probably be in Singapore for a few more years and then perhaps go to the US. I don’t plan to go back to the UK (but don’t tell my family ;)).