Singapore Salvation is the second book in a series by Jennifer Burge, describing her experience of life as an expat in various countries.
Having moved away from the Netherlands where she met her partner, in Singapore Salvation Burge arrives in Asia and sets about beginning a new life in Singapore.With no secure position and no obvious job opportunities forthcoming, much of the book – and particularly the first few chapters – is devoted to the frustrations that arise from not knowing what you’re going to be doing with your time. This is undoubtedly a feeling to which many expats will be able to relate, and Burge discusses it in enough depth that the reader is really given an insight into her mindset and way of thinking.
If you’ve recently moved abroad and you’re struggling to work out what you should be doing with your time, Singapore Salvation will certainly make you feel less alone.
With her trademark directness, Burge describes the desperation and despondency of being stuck in a new country with few friends and very little to do; again, something many will find relatable. After a while, some friends are made, and partly as a result of this, there are various travels to new places. The travel section of the book is very interesting, both from an expat point of view and just because travelling itself comes with its own questions and challenges. Once again Burge is open and honest in her opinions, not only concerning the countries she visits, but also about the people who accompany her, and it frequently feels like reading someone’s personal diary.
Will it make you want to move to Singapore, though? Almost certainly not. If you’re planning a move there, and especially if the arrangements have already been made, it might not be the best thing for you to read. There is a tendency throughout the book to focus on the less positive elements of living in Singapore, which may increase levels of trepidation in an already nervous expat-to-be.
But if you’ve been living there for a while and want something that backs up how jaded you’re feeling, or if you’re considering a few potential destinations and want a brutally honest rundown of the pros and cons of moving to Singapore, this is the kind of book for you.
There is something to be said for this level of honesty, certainly. In many ways, I found it refreshing to read a book that didn’t try to be too simperingly complimentary about its subject matter. It is good to understand the potential difficulties of moving abroad, particularly if you have never been an expat before. And there is something about the very straightforward writing style that draws you in as a reader, making you feel quite emotionally involved with the story.
By about halfway through the book I was desperate for the author to be happy. To find a way to love Singapore, or if not, to find a new home that would provide fodder for a book that might focus less on the difficulties of life abroad and more on the interesting, fun and beautiful parts of the transition.
This isn’t that book. By the end, Burge is unhappy enough in Singapore to be moving abroad yet again – which will hopefully give us a third book in the series! – to Australia this time.
My favourite parts of Singapore Salvation were, perhaps ironically, the parts that were not set in Singapore itself. Feeling unanchored and somewhat lost, Burge sets out on a series of travel adventures in which she tries everything from forest retreats to hotel breaks in an attempt to find her place on this new continent.
Does she find it? To an extent, yes. There are certainly a lot of positive lessons that come through from the travel section specifically, and some intriguing moments alternating between confusion and clarity, especially in the Taiwanese Buddhist pilgrim lodge.
Overall, this is a great book to read if you’re into very honest, straight-talking authors who leave very little to the imagination. Likewise, if you’re currently dissatisfied with your job, your time abroad or your friendships, you’ll find a kindred spirit in the author, whose travels have seen her go through a lot and come out the other end more determined than ever to make a go of the expat experience.
Perhaps not one for the sensitive or the faint of heart, though.
What are your favourite books about being an expat? Let us know in the comments!