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Worried about returning to Singapore..

(39 Posts)
suzxie Wed 09-Mar-11 04:26:40

Hi all

My very first post and I am looking for some views as I am going slightly mental thinking about my situation 24/7 in my little noggin ..

I'm a Singaporean mum of 3 (4 yrs, 2yrs and 4 months)- I've lived in UK for 15 years (currently based in Surrey) - I'm in Singapore on maternity leave and am contemplating moving back here for good.

Pros - I guess the main reason for the move would be the route-learning but still excellent education system, the opportunity for my kids to learn Mandarin (useful with the current rise of China) and safety.

The other benefits would be the kids being able to get to know their grandparents, cousins etc, e weather and the kids being able to play outside (and not stuck indoors with colds), swimming, etc.

Also, being in Singapore for the last 4 months has been pretty different to UK - the vibe in Singapore is much more positive and future-facing (admittedly a lot of it is linked in to making money etc) but the atmosphere in UK is currently rather downbeat, probably because of the austerity measures.

Cons -
Mainly my difficulty with finding a job in the UK again if DH or kids are unable to cope with the local life. This is because i currently work as an in-house solicitor and a recruitment agent has told me that UK companies do not rate prior Singapore experience in finding a job in UK and not having recent UK experience would place me at a very big disadvantage in the UK job market. So this feels scary as the move to Spore is likely to be permanent..

I will also be leaving a good job with an excellent work-life balance (I work from home 2 afternoons a week) and subjecting DH, myself and the kids to the pressures of a S'pore lifestyle (long days working/studying, high standards...)

and a number of other pros/cons but I've run out of time at the mo...

Do you think I should make the move? Any comments welcomed!

Skifit Wed 09-Mar-11 10:10:40

All your points seem very valid. I think mainly if your heart is telling you to return to Singapore then you should listen to it.
I lived in Spore as a child and loved it. We didnt want to move back here, but my dad was in the Army.
I imagine Spore is a great place to grow up ...
You are from there and so you children are half from there.
Uk weather is awful
Job situation is too
Education in Singapore good i imagine
Whynot ?

DelGirl Wed 09-Mar-11 13:03:21

what does your dh think of the idea?

ZZZenAgain Wed 09-Mar-11 13:10:06

what would the job situation be like for you and for dh in Singapore? Will it be easy for you to get the work you both want?

Will you have the space you want - house/garden or is that not a big feel good factor for your family?

We are due to move to Singapore next. I will be very very sad to leave our current home, have been extremely happy here in every respect, such a nice country, lovely people etc - but happy to go to Singapore too. What I have gathered is that it can b e difficult to get school places there. Would this be the case for you too or are you looking at sending your dc to the regular local schools (presumably then you get a place no problem?)?

Lollypolly Wed 09-Mar-11 14:04:45

I'm British living in Singapore - third posting here and this time around for 3 years so far. Loving it and no intention of living in the UK again. My only downside is that we are so far from grandparents, aunties, cousins etc. However I can appreciate your work dilemma (having previously worked here and been in the office until 10pm on many occasions). The work culture is pretty difficult. You don't say whether you love your job or not - would you consider retraining while here for a more 'portable' career that you could undertake in the UK and Singapore?

suzxie Thu 10-Mar-11 06:17:55

hi everyone!

thanks so much for your replies.. much appreciated

Skifit - thanks for your comment about listening to my heart.. wise words. i guess i'm 80% convinced that i should move back to SG at the moment.

Delgirl - DH feels pretty positive about making the move back to SG, mainly because of the kids education, and he likes the thought of living in Asia as he thinks it's a big adventure. However, I do worry if he put up being in Singapore for an extended period or whether he might go stir crazy..

ZZZen - It should be relatively easy for me to get a job, less so for DH as his industry (aeronautics) is pretty specialised. We're both looking around for job opportunities the moment and hopefully something might come up. If we come back, we will probably live with my parents for a while, who have a house+garden but yes, brings problems of its own. I think local mission schools are the way to go for us as the cost of private education (international schools) is much the same as England and will be financially crippling with 3 kids! Where are you moving from and when will you be coming to Singapore?

Lollypolly - glad you like it in Singapore! On the work culture front - yes I agree about the late nights! I'm comfortable with my job but I am currently doing an MBA (hopefully to be completed this year).. so yes that may lead to a more portable career down the line...

slim22 Thu 10-Mar-11 06:33:58

Lived in singapore for the last 4 years and found the work life balance much better than in the UK even with long hours.

Living help and minimum commuting makes it so worthwhile.

In HK now and it is more difficult as it is a big city. Still much better than the UK where it all seems to be doom and gloom. There is definitely a vibe to this part of the world and if you do have decent prospects, I think its a good move in the long run. I do not know a single expat that plans to go back to the old world anytime soon!

We are not asian but obviously kids are learning Mandarin ( and they have made huge progress in 3 months compared to the last 3 years in singapore where for a reason that fails me Singaporeans prefer to talk (bad) english to their kids rather than giving them a strong grounding in mandarin.

We are very much planning to go back to Singapore but atm we appreciate the buzz of being back in a big city.

You would be at an advantage. I have spoken to a friend who is head hunter and big business is definitely favoring local expertise (homegrown or returning) over new expats in executive appointments. "guanxi" is becoming more and more important and your husband would also benefit from you being established in the local community. We poor gweilo expats will always be lagging behind in that respect and have to work much harder these days to break the social code.

suzxie Fri 11-Mar-11 04:58:31

hi slim22,

thanks for your post - it was very reassuring! I do appreciate everyone's time and advice, and I hope you make it back to Singapore soon.

What's it like working in HK? I just went to HK for the first time last week and was surprised at how scenic and beautiful it was - surrounded by mountains and the sea.

slim22 Fri 11-Mar-11 08:57:09

Well Good luck with everything and enjoy being home with your family and little baby. Most singaporean families I know are so close knit, it made my heart sink during weekends.
I wish my kids could have those dotting grandparents so I could escape for a few hours to share the joy!

HK IS very more scenic indeed! We live southside, its all mountains and sea and peaceful.
Great for outdoors activities and we are absolutely ecstatic about the crisp wind!
The kids do feel like Sg is home though and we soooooooo miss our hawker food its become ridiculous.

Did we talk about the food? that alone should be on top of the pros!!!!! grin
My 3 year old DD had me look up the address of a "toast box" after seeing an add in the paper! I mean boiled eggs and Milo??? can do at home........nooooooooo mama not the same and want kaya toast!
DS craves a proper fishball noodle soup from adam road, I curry mee and butter/chili crab from Macpherson estate and DH the Kwai teow from a little place in queenstown grin
I can make a mean chicken rice though!

empirestateofmind Sun 13-Mar-11 15:26:29

I love living in Singapore. We have been here for five years and have no plans to return to the UK. We both have good jobs, a good package, our DDs love the freedom they can have, I like having help and the country is so upbeat and lovely to be in.

There are two big downsides as I see it- the humidity and the very high cost of housing. It all depends on whether you can find a nice place to live. You might be happy living with your parents- which is something lots of families do here. Or you might want more space and privacy, which is very expensive.

suzxie Mon 14-Mar-11 11:45:21

thanks slim22 and empire for your comments!

slim22 - you sound like a proper Singaporean! Ooooo.. the food here has been simply astounding in its variety and flavour... we stay near Jalan Kayu, home of the famous roti prata and my favourite Selegie soya bean curd amongst others. Food is a religion here isn't it the same in HK and when are you planning on returning to SG?

empire - I like having help too! Like slim observes, Singaporean families are really close knit which means that (living with my parents), there is always a spare hand or 2 to help you to look after a little one. I will probably get spoilt here having help but will probably lose some control and influence over how the kids are brought up... How do you find the pressure-cooker lifestyle and do you get cabin fever?

for me, it has been a hectic weekend as usual, with the kids having plenty to do.. church, mandarin classes, swimming, hanging out with their friends and cousins. James (2.5years) was so tired by 6.30pm that he fell asleep eating his dinner.. bless. Life in England seems pretty sedate by comparison.

i've also just suffered a set back in my plans.. i looked at the classified ads on sat and worked out what we have to pay for a house and car.. and shockshockshock eeeeeeks

i think a 2nd hand car would set us back SGD$50k (£25k) and a 20% deposit on a $2m (£1m) house near my parents would cost $400k (£200k).. so we are looking at raising £225k in cash .. i need some fortification wineto face the possibility that we might be moving from a house+garden+2 cars in the UK to a flat +no cars in SG if we were to live by ourselves...

I guess a possible alternative is staying in england and paying for private education (back of a fag packet calc.. 3 kids @£10k/child/year = £300k for 10 years)... or am I missing something here?

so i guess i was still reeling from the financial shock of how much things will actually cost and questioning whether moving for the kids education + all the attendant hassle really worth it..

the jury's still out...

beautyspot Tue 15-Mar-11 05:50:36

We were in Singapore before coming to Australia. We hated it with a passion.

There's absolutely no soul in Singapore, no freedom (too humid to do anything outdoors), too dangerous (the standard of driving here is dreadful), too expensive, etc etc etc.

We paid more for a two bedroomed unit in Singapore than we did for a two bedroomed flat in Kensington. The flat in Kensington HAD hot water in the kitchen!

The service is dreadful/non existent in Singapore and locals here can only think in black and white ie they can't think because the government controls everything.

We had a big network of expat friends in Singapore and all of them were counting the days before they left.

I could go on but I think you get my drift.

Lollypolly Tue 15-Mar-11 05:58:10

Wow, I think I must be in a different Singapore grin.

We walk a lot on the beaches and coastal parks and the kids ride their bikes most evenings after dinner, I have plenty of hot water in my kitchen (although thanks to DH's company, we don't pay for the house), I think the service here is brilliant and most of my local friends can think outside the box better than lots of Brits I know. Never heard of an expat counting down the days until they left.

Mind you, I'd rather live on mars than the UK so each to their own..

beautyspot Tue 15-Mar-11 06:09:46

Beaches ??? There are no beaches in Singapore, just oil slicked strips of sand.

My OH's company also paid for accommodation (although I don't see what that's got to do with it): The prices are extortionate.

Service good - hah. I know service in the UK is bad but Singapore takes the biscuit. I suppose I felt that way because of the price of things ie if it had cost 1/3 of the UK then I would have accepted it but to cost MORE than the UK and the service to be WORSE.

I remember being in taxis (which were clean..that was a postive point) and the taxi driver racing against another driver on the highway because he couldn't be seen to lose face. I've actually lost count of the times that I've been terrified in traffic in Singapore.

beautyspot Tue 15-Mar-11 06:14:56

And I do think this "good food" thing is a complete fallacy.

We ate out two to three times a week for the first 3 or 4 months until we admitted to ourselves that we couldn't find a restaurant that was worthy of going back to. Between MSG, fat, bad service, bad food...That included from top restaurants to hawker stalls. Probably our best meals were at a small pizza place on Sentosa Island (and that's says it all).

Lollypolly Tue 15-Mar-11 06:16:21

What about Tanjong beach? Changi beach? Must be missing the oil slicks when we build sandcastles on Sunday mornings.

And you didn't pay more in Singapore than in London as your OH's company was paying.

Not going to get into a debate about this - we've obviously got different things out of living here - but I do enjoy walking through the city at midnight not worrying about getting my phone stolen or being knifed like I used to in the UK.

beautyspot Tue 15-Mar-11 06:34:17

Tanjong...Changi...are you having a laugh? Nice if you like watching giant cargo ships passing by (and the oil leaks that accompany them). I would never, ever, have dreamt of swimming there (but, hey, we're all different).

I'm amazed that you think just because my OH's company was paying for our accommodation that it's okay to be ripped off. This just increases levels for people that are not so fortunate as us - AND IS A RIP OFF. I know we paid a lot in London but we had culture, history, good food, etc etc (I'm not English so it was a new country for me)

My neighbour had her handbag stolen from within a cafe at Holland Village within the first 2 months of her arriving here. Her husband caught Dengue fever the same week. Safe ???

Lollypolly Tue 15-Mar-11 06:39:01


beautyspot Tue 15-Mar-11 06:49:55

Sorry, what does the frisbee mean?

flimflammery Tue 15-Mar-11 08:21:42

Wow! I'm somewhere between Lolly and beautyspot in my feeling about Singapore. Have lived here almost two years, am British.

Pros: local people are mostly friendly, it's generally safe, clean, I don't miss the cold and dark British winters, I love the mix of different nationalities (40 in my son's school), you can do short trips to fantastic destinations like Thailand, Bali, etc. There is a huge range of food/restaurants, some excellent. It's easy to make friends as an expat as other expats are in the same position. Affordable 'help'. IB schools, pretty good quality, friendly, open-minded.

Cons: the unrelenting, exhausting heat and humidity (except when it's raining bucketfulls); it's hard work with very young children as you can't be outside, especially not in the sun, between about 11am and 4pm. Most life revolving around air-con'd shopping malls, basements without natural light. The phenomenally high cost of accommodation (and DH's company don't pay for ours). The high cost of international schools. The phenomenally high cost of buying and taxing a car (we can't afford one). The phenomenally high cost of western food in supermarkets. DD picking up Singlish before she learns 'proper' English. The lack of countryside and open space / nature (a park is not the same). I miss the changing seasons. I miss seeing the first daffodils and picking blackberries. Some restaurant food is good, but it's hard to avoid lots of fried food, MSG, sugar. The oppressive regime together with the newness and fakeness of a lot of it (like Disneyland with executions), the never getting a straight answer, the disapproval of any public expression of emotion, the slavelike conditions of many domestic workers, the lack of a free press, the pressure to conform. And finally... mosquitos!

Phew, sorry I didn't mean to write an essay, obviously have been bottling it up for too long.

OP, you're in a different situation as you're Singaporean, you know Singapore and have family here, that changes things a lot. But maybe you're seeing it through rose-tinted spectacles while you're on maternity leave and seeing family. I wouldn't dream of subjecting a child of mine to the local education system, there is such huge pressure on the students at a young age, such fear of failure. E.g. my friend's colleague who gives her child homework every evening of the school holidays. I don't know about mission schools, though, so I hope that might work for you, if you can get over the financial obstacles.

beautyspot Tue 15-Mar-11 08:31:53

Flim - a much better written post than I came up with, and I empathise completely with you.

slim22 Tue 15-Mar-11 10:26:18

Well thats certainly another perspective! You seem to forget that the op is singaporean and wil probably have a much better ability to accept and embrace the opportunity if a culture shock than from your narrow minded expertise beauty....

beautyspot Tue 15-Mar-11 10:52:38

Narrow minded - me? Realistic perhaps. I've spent the last 15 years living all over the world and have experienced the highs and the lows. I rest my case.

empirestateofmind Tue 15-Mar-11 13:46:25

My perspective is a bit different as my children are teenagers. They love the freedom to be able to travel around by themselves on buses and the MRT. They could not do this where we live in the UK as we live in the middle of nowhere.

They enjoy the malls, cinemas, bookshops, coffeeshops, Sentosa, botanic gardens and canal walks. They take part in very traditional CCAs and have nice friends. Everyone works hard at school. I am not convinced they would have such a nice time in the UK.

The driving does take some getting used to, but you do get used to it.

I agree with quite a bit that flim says though. The caning and executions don't bear thinking about. The obsession with branded handbags and fancy cars (well the obsession with money in general) is extremely unappealing.

slim22 Tue 15-Mar-11 14:58:32

I certainly do agree that that there is a lot of shallowness but the OP is a working mother and I was replying to her as such.

What she is weighing in is work/life balance between UK and singapore, not Singapore's merits per se.
So I just feel all the digression just seems superfluous considering she IS singaporean and knows all this.

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