Living Abroad

Updated on December 07, 2012
J.G. asks from Chicago, IL
16 answers

Since my husband is Irish, I've contemplated living in England or Ireland or something like that, but hubby came home from work yesterday and asked me how I felt about Singapore! My first reaction was gut wrenching horror! I'm 27 weeks pregnant, you want to take me and three kids to a Singapore! when I don't deal well with change! You want me to be alone every day while you work long hours! I will get depressed! It will be awful!

Needless to say, hubby wasn't pleased. I quickly apologized and told him I would seriously consider it. Of course my first thought was money: what is the cost of living difference, would they pay a living allowance and a salary? If they gave us enough money, I could hire a nanny or something to help me out, so I'm not so alone (My parents live 12 minutes from us, and they help me all the time. Just yesterday my dad was over to fix the kitchen faucet).

For those of you that have lived abroad, tell me about your experience? Were your kids little, what? I'm petrified of being in a foreign country with a newborn, 3 and 5 year old!

But hubby seems to really want this. He likes traveling, and it would be a great position, and if they paid the right amount, we'd be set financially. Since I'm homeschooling, this would be a terrific experience for the kids! We could do some terrific weekend getaways, and they could really live social science and language arts learning....

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So What Happened?

I should add that I am a dual citizen of the EU (via Irish CItizenship). My oldest has an Irish Passport, but we've never gotten one for my son.

I home birth, so there is no way I'm having a baby in Singapore! I would insist we didn't leave until after baby comes. They aren't deciding on it till after the holidays, so it should give us some time.

Thanks for all the great advice!

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answers from Anchorage on

When we first moved to Okinawa Japan for my husbands job I was terrified and alone, I almost left him and moved back to the states, but I gave it time. I got a job, got out into the community, made some friends, and ended up loving it so much it was hard to leave. We then moved from Japan to the UK where I had my children. We lived there for 4 years and again I loved it once I got adjusted. The key is to not sit at home alone, you have to get out, take walks, find out what there is to do and how people live, try new foods, and experience all that you can. Now that I am back in the states I miss living overseas, but the life experience I gained helped me grow so much as a person and I think everyone should get the chance! If it was me, I would jump at it.

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answers from Albuquerque on

One of my closest friends moved to Singapore with her husband 10 years ago and they love it so much they'll probably never move back. Their quality of life is so high that I'm jealous whenever I talk to her. They have three children who attend a prestigious international school, take vacations to Malaysia all the time, have a full time live in cook/cleaner and when the kids were younger they had a full time nanny too. The cost of hiring help is really really low. My friend's husband works full time, but not really any more hours than he did in the US. And my friend doesn't work - just not worth it since his company has a very generous living allowance. I don't think they've ever had a car; public transport and taxis are really good there. For 9 years they lived in gorgeous high rise apartments and this year bought (or maybe it's just a long term rental, I'm not sure) a house a bit further from the built up area.

If I were in your shoes I'd jump at the chance!!

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answers from Philadelphia on

I was raised in Japan. It was, quite frankly, awesome.

I've known several people who've lived in Singapore. My brother, who still lives in Japan, travels to Singapore for business quite often. They all love the place! If it wasn't for my son's special needs and the great school system we're in here in the US, I'd move to Singapore in a second. You'd be part of the ex-pat community and would probably have tons of American friends. Or if you wanted to go another route and immerse yourself in the culture, you could do that to. I've known literally hundreds of people who've lived parts of their lives abroad and the vast majority of them REALLY enjoyed it and would do it again.

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answers from Casper on

I'm in China right now, previously we were in Cape Town, South Africa. These moves have been a great adventure! My kids (8 & 10) have made friends with kids from all over the world. This Thanksgiving, we were able to host a family from Guatemala (with Italian passports) and a bunch of Finnish kids. It was the first time the kids had eaten turkey.

Help is readily available and expected in Singapore and most (that I know) are live- in. The money situation, of course, varies from company to company. That would be something to seriously consider before relocating.

Just because you live in another country doesn't mean you give up your American citizenship, nor does it give you dual citizenship. From our experience, an American passport is golden, unless you are moving/working in China or Cuba (or other non- democratic nations).

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answers from Cincinnati on

I have been in Japan for quite a number of years now. My husband is Japanese. Our son was born here and has spent his whole life here. Since you are currently 27 weeks pregnant, your pregnancy would be my biggest concern. I have no idea how things are done in Singapore, but Japan is very different than the States. I had an ultrasound done for every doctor visit. That is just the norm here. As for pain killers during labor, you should expect to receive nothing unless you need to have a c-section. No epidural, nothing... It is natural birth all the way... I had no pain killers and ten hours of labour, 6 of which were pushing. Now many of my friends in the States were in shock over the no painkillers information. Of course if you need a c-section, I believe you will get the epidural. That is how it is done here in Japan. The plus side to that was getting a full week of pampered time in the hospital with my son after he was born. No shoeing you out in two days or less. I would definitely do some research on how pregnancy is handled in Singapore. Language shouldn't be as big of a problem for you since it will be Singapore.

You will experience cultural shock. As you get used to living abroad those experiences get fewer, more spread out, and in some cases easier to shrug off. There are usually other foreigners around to become friends with if you choose that route. I would try to find some sort of support group, whether it be a church, or foreigners club... When I had my son, I felt very isolated as a new mom. I was bombarded by conflicting information on how to care for my new baby. Caring for a baby is completely different in Japan.

You will also find that how children are raised can be very different as well. For example: Baby food you can buy in the supermarkets here all contained egg. Yep, I don't get this one either. Eggs are a known allergen. Some of my Japanese friends kids are allergic to eggs. So, I had to make all my son's baby food. Babies are also given a bath every day from the day they are born in this country. Babies also sleep under very thick comforters every night. Every Japanese friend that visited me was horrified that I put my son in a crib with not even a blanket to sleep at night. (He hated being swaddled, so he got the footed sleepers instead.) There are of course different vaccinations required in different countries. Japan requires all kids that will stay here long term to get a BCG vaccination. That's right, the vaccine for tuberculosis. It is a nasty 9 pronged shot they get as a baby that literally oozes for months afterwards, which is completely normal. It leaves a scar too. I hated that my son was required to get that, but the chances to get tuberculosis are considered higher here. I think many Asian countries require that one. Schools in Japan have a huge say in how kids are raised here in Japan. For example, kids under a certain grade are not allowed to own a bike if they go to a certain school. Granted that example isn't from every school, but those school rules can totally go against your person views at times. Some schools have strict policies on not allowing students to play at a friends house on a school day and sometimes not at all. You will need a thick skin for raising kids in a way not considered normal by the majority of the people around you.

However for every difficult to adjust to custom you find, I promise you will find something that will be a wonderful experience. I am amazed at how much I have come to understand and love Japan after living here. I have some great Japanese friends. Friends are usually pretty loyal to one another here.

You will also learn to see the States and Americans in a different way. You will become a sort of ambassador for your country. Sometimes a very difficult task to undertake. It isn't a lifestyle for just anyone, but it is a very rewarding experience to live abroad and experience another culture firsthand. I would do your research thoroughly before jumping into moving abroad while pregnant.

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answers from Miami on

ETA: Just to let you know, they DO do epidurals in Singapore. Dawnette is very correct about Japan - however, the Japanese and Singaporeans are very different people in the way they act and think. With the Japanese, pain is something to be born and that's why they don't do epidurals. Singaporeans aren't like that at all. You'll get great medical care.

The company should pay for the passport (costs about $150). Once he signs his offer letter, all of those kinds of expenses should be covered. Hopefully you'll have some time to get your ducks in a row before going.

Singapore is great. It's exotic, it's different. It's also HOT. The medical system is wonderful. You would definitely want to and need to hire a nanny, especially if you are homeschooling.

You need at least $10,000 a month towards your living expenses. They should pay your rent for you. My numbers may be old, but I believe that you have to pay $25,000 in order to have a car. That does NOT include the cost of the car. This "surcharge" is because not everyone can have a car in Singapore. It's a small island and they need to keep cars off the road. His business should pay this for him. There are also several clubs, including an American club that are available. They cost a LOT of money to join, but perhaps that's a perk your husband would have.

There is a train system, but it is close to downtown and you can't really use it outside. (Another reason why your husband needs to negotiate getting a car out of his company.)

The expat life is wonderful - I heartily recommend it. However, I just want to say that you must accept that as an American, you are different from everyone else, and you and your kids will stick out like a sore thumb in many ways. Teaching your children to learn how to act like the Singaporeans, which includes behaving well in public, will be really important. You may need your husband's company to inquire about the laws about homeschooling. Don't accept the job without knowing absolutely 100% sure that homeschooling is not against the law. You don't want to get caught flat-footed there and have to put them in the local schools. (The local schools are very hard and put a tremendous amount of emphasis on memorization, and test the kids all the time on this. It's VERY competitive.)

Make sure your husband does his research on what they will pay and what they won't. A good expat package is very important. Hopefully he isn't the first expat his company has sent over, so he won't have to work so hard to get a good one.

Good luck in your decision.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

Hard? yes with three small kids. Lonely. Not any more lonely than moving across the states with no one there you know.

I do say that the pro's will out weight the cons. You will be lonely for a short time. Living abroad in most places is really fun! It is a great way to learn other cultures and experience. What an enriching experience for your children. Singapore is not a backwards country. Very modern, with all modern amenities. Health care is great there. Crowded slightly but never dull.
My husband is from India, and we do plan to move back sometime in the future. I have been there often and with kids. I have traveled and lived abroad before marriage as well. North Africa, and Europe. All very different and very rewarding experience.

It takes time to adjust but you do, and you make friends quickly in other countries.

Getting a passport for a kid, is just like getting one for yourself. Even easier for a baby. All three of my kids have passports, and dual citizen and PIO cards.

Almost every country teaches and speaks some form of English in the school systems, and most of the larger, more developed countries have Private English Immersion schools.

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answers from Amarillo on

thanks to the internet I lost my response.

Time to get things in order, order the passports and go! This is a new position of responsibility for your husband and an opportunity for the rest of the family to live abroad. Look at it as an adventure of a lifetime as so many people would love to live somewhere other than here. You will get to see first hand what people think of America (the good/bad of it all) and you will be able to change their perception.

Know that there is culture shock in the way that things are done. You will find your way and fit it. Get to know the other wives from work and meet the locals. Sometimes the locals are the best friends you will ever have in life. Always be receptive and flexible in your experiences with people and learn from them. Know that the laws of the country also govern you so you will need to know and abide by them -- no Ugly American antics.

Get a notebook and journal your travel time and experiences. Take your camera or photo and make memories. This is a chapter in your life and it is for x amount of years and make the best of the expereince.

I have lived in Canada (Quebec) and Germany. The languages are very different but you adapt.

Congrats on your upcoming baby, your move and your experiences of living outside of America.

The other S.

PS It will be what you make it good or bad -- go for the good. Your children will enjoy exploring all of the history and cultural of the area and so will you.

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answers from Salt Lake City on

GO! Yes, adjusting to a radically different climate and country will be challenging. But your children (and you) will learn SO much! As for managing logistics with 3 kids and a hubby who is gone long hours - I've only visited there, but have had several friends who have lived in Singapore, and here's what I know:

1. Housing is expensive. Depending on how much housing $$ comes with the job, you might be in an apartment. But apartment living is the norm in Singapore, and can be very comfortable. And since nearly everyone does it, apartment buildings tend to be much more family-friendly than they are in the U.S.

2. Domestic help is (or at least, was 10 years ago) dirt cheap. My friends who have lived there on middle class $$ have managed to hire both housecleaning and childcare help.

3. Private vehicles are expensive. Public transportation is plentiful, efficient, and reasonable.

4. There is an extensive international community there. There are lots of Western expats. A key to not feeling isolated is to tap into that community as quickly as possible. Join a community rec center or church, since you are homeschooling and won't have school connections. Perhaps there is an expat homeschooling group? The permanent population is an interesting mix of ethnic Chinese, Malay, Indian, and some Europeans. English and Chinese are the dominant languages.

5. As a homeschooling mom, what a treasure trove you will have at your fingertips! History, natural sciences, geography, language, culture, art... you will be living in one of the richest cultural crossroads on the planet. Also, if you leave the city part of Singapore, there are tropical forest nature preserves and beaches to explore. If you drive across to the Asian mainland, there are gorgeous beaches and world-class scuba sites. Don't do that alone with your kids, though - Singapore is quite safe. Malaysia, not quite so much for an obviously foreign woman.

I've lived abroad (Japan, Korea) and loved it. My first child was born in Korea, so I've been abroad with a newborn, in a much less Westerner-friendly culture than Singapore. One thing I've noticed about Asian cultures in general is that children are cherished and generally looked out for in that part of the world. I've had people who wouldn't have given me the time of day hold doors for me and give up seats for the baby. Kids in Korea cross streets without fear - cars would stop for them. They wouldn't stop for me.

In fact, the friendliness toward kids may take a little getting used to - adults will talk to your kids all the time, and might offer them candy or small toys. You'll need to think ahead about how you'll deal with that. I elected to be friendly back, and if my kids were the same ages as yours, I think I'd coach them ahead on how to be polite and that accepting gifts from strangers is only okay if you're with a parent, and that once the giver has moved on the gift goes into mama's hands. (Koreans liked to give my baby hard candy - well-meant but misguided.) Older ladies may ask to hold your baby. I allowed it (I figured if I needed to, I could take out a rogue grandma).

It is worth a long conversation with your husband about salary, living allowances, housing allowances, and possibly school $$$ - now that I think about it, I do not know what the homeschooling rules are in Singapore, or how much leeway expats are allowed. I do know that 10 years ago the international school there had an excellent reputation. (I hope that you are able to homeschool, though - who would want to be stuck in a classroom with all that adventure waiting outside the door?) It is also worth seeing if you can talk to someone from the company who is living over there right now or has returned recently, preferably someone with kids. That way you can get a better feel for what the reality on the ground is.

Would you be giving birth in the U.S. or in Singapore? Don't let the idea of giving birth abroad be a deal-breaker. Yes, it is different, but that doesn't necessarily make it worse. Natural childbirth is the norm in much of Asia, but then again, so is having midwives on staff at hospitals. Research birthing practices in Singapore if you're worried. Personally, I had a better birthing experience in Korea than I did here, and the entire birth - prenatal care, hospital, doctor, midwife - cost me $2000 before insurance, in a hospital that has received UN recognition for its work with women and children. The facilities were basic and institutional, and I did pay extra for a private room. (Most Koreans give birth in a communal birthing room. I wasn't ready to go THAT local.) The people and their skills were top-notch. If necessary, you could always remain behind with your parents and give birth in the U.S. before heading over. Your husband could handle finding a place to live and moving in on his own.

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answers from Boise on

I grew up overseas in an Army family, it was a great experience! We lived near Tokyo, Japan and in Seoul, South Korea. We lived on military bases though so it is different; we had access to the DODDS schools and American foods at the commissary. However, it is certainly possible to raise healthy, happy kids in another country! I have heard great things about Singapore, one of my friends in high school was from there and she said it was like THE perfect city, there are strict laws that keep it that way, but the atmosphere is very nice. The caveat is that the cost of living there is very high. Expect to pay way more for housing and even food. If your husband will make a good salary or be paid a cost of living adjustment of some kind then I think that you will be very happy there. Singapore has a large community of ex-pats from all over the world (it is very cosmopolitan) so you will not suffer for company. You will have plenty of opportunities to meet people who are from many different places including the US. Singapore has good healthcare and good schools, but you will probably want to pay for a private, International school that uses the English language. This expense needs to be a part of your calculations when you figure out if you can afford to live there. Also, it may be easier to have your baby in the US and then join your husband in Singapore, then you will not have to bother with the birth certificate laws and applications for birth, etc. that you would need to deal with in Singapore. I found this website which may be helpful to you: Best of luck to you and I hope that you can make the right decision for your family!

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answers from Dallas on

My husband was in Singapore for business for about 2 weeks and LOVED it. The food, the people, etc. I've never been myself, but I like to travel a lot. I would see if his company can give info about where you would be, support, etc. Contact the Singapore embassy in the US and ask them questions, they might have tons of info. Find out what the e-mail is for the US embassy in Singapore and see what resources they have. They may have interesting child care options, etc. The newborn won't care about anything - just find a baby carrier or sling you love (I LOVED the Ergo - very easy) and you're good to go, and if you're breastfeeding, you won't have to worry about food for a while. If you are renting or being put up by the company while you are there, someone else will be responsible for the home maintenance stuff.

I lived in England as an exchange student when I was 17 - LOVED IT. I made some great friends, and it was a fantastic experience. The best thing to do is JUMP IN - find ways to connect with the locals - local moms, etc. Be respectful of their culture and customs (you can get guidebooks about it.) Learn a few phrases in the native language - please, thank you, hello, etc. make a big impact because people see that you are trying. That is the key - respecting their culture, and reaching out a little usually goes a long way in a new country.

Even in Hawaii, my husband and I learned how to say thank you (ma-ha-low) - and the natives were pleasantly surprised because most tourists don't bother. Use google (LIving in singapore with small children) and you'll find stuff :)

Have a wonderful time!

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answers from Boca Raton on

Singapore is the new "hot" place to go . . . should be exciting!

Do you have a pet? That's something to consider - I would start researching how to take your pet with you (not always easy).

I would also research the laws re: homeschooling and how that works for expats in Singapore. Other countries are not always homeschooling friendly.

Otherwise I would be excited!

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answers from Chicago on

Living abroad is excellent, for me. I have now been living in Sweden for 7 years and actually have a tough time imagining to move back to the US. In this country, I have had one baby and am pregnant with my second. I have full faith in this medical system. I pay high taxes but I have paid maternity leave and everyone has basic healthcare which I feel is very good. I also have never been more well off financially because the tax system provides so many benefits.
I have friends who have moved to Singapore and they absolutely love it. Singapore has a big ex-pat community, it is very organized, and clean. Yes, you will be far from family and that will be tough but on the other side there will be lots of other ex-pats that are in your situation and you find celebrating things like Thanksgiving is a bit more exciting with new friends. Schools are good and more than likely your kids will be in an upscale international school. I understand it sounds scary and I had my reservations about moving away from the US, but to this day, it is the best decision I have ever made for myself.

For my friends living in Singapore, they have said that it is a great place to live and are very happy living and working there. Go for it, and enjoy the experience.

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answers from Austin on

Write down all of your questions about logistics.. Pay, living expenses, transportation,travel, home, schools..whatever you can think of.

Then list your concerns.. Giving birth in another country, language, lonliness, hs work hours, schools....,

I have a very good friend and they are moving to Singapore fr 2 years. They leave at the first of the year. This s huge promotion for her husband. She will work through the Internet and her boys will attend an international school.

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answers from Chicago on

My sister lived in Singapore for ten years with your husband and two kids and absolutely loved it. Great lifestyle, lots to do, lots of expats, and, as someone else wrote, a wonderful place to homeschool your kids. I understand that they also have a very good medical system over there. You should go now while your kids are still young!! What an adventure! BTW, a couple of different friends' adult children have lived there, and loved it.

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answers from Chicago on

J., we moved to Kuala Lumpur a year ago from Park Ridge. I have two daughters, currently 4y9m and 2y4m. PM me if you would like to talk about moving to and living in this region.


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