Four Years in Singapore: The Expat Life

This month marks my 4 years in Singapore. FOUR YEARS!!

Four years since I packed my life in a suitcase and ventured into a life of independence. Four years since that feeling of excitement in living and working in a totally different place. Four years since I have occasionally explored this bustling city and tried to learn its deepest secrets. Four years, where have the days gone?

When Singapore opened its door to me, I accepted the opportunity without much second thought. It was a resolution made out of a broken heart and the lack of progress in my career then. I wanted these areas of my life to change and I know that it will only happen if I actually make the change. I decided it was time.

life doesn't get better by chance, it gets better by change


Flashback to 2012: Life gave me a reality check.

My first day at work started with a simple greeting from two out of the five bosses I need to report to. They left me 50 gigabytes of project files to read and that’s it! No on-boarding. No knowledge transition. I don’t expect a welcome party but someone’s got to brief me about the project, right?

On my second day, I was in the office for almost 22 hours straight. When I nicely explained about the clause of my contract regarding work hours and overtime, I was threatened to lose my job… yes, on my second day.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but the life of an OFW is not as glamorous as most people think. You must be willing to start again from the bottom and forget about your shiny job title or qualifications. In Singapore, you’re expected to hustle, work independently and be all around – including running occasional errands to get meeting room keys, taking care of a printer paper jam, or buying coffee.

Long hours, weekend, holiday and late-night work eventually became natural. I put my game face on and paddled forward, albeit clueless, until I learned the ropes of the Singapore workforce, get past the culture shock and master living abroad for the first time.

It is not by luck that Singapore is successful and one of the most progressive countries in the world. It worked hard to earn this status. It never slept. It isn’t for the faint of heart. People here work 10 times more, 24/7. That’s how it is even for cities like Hong Kong, Tokyo or New York.

it feels good to be lost in the right direction


Fast Forward Today: Living abroad has humbled me.

The days are better now, though not easier. I always try to look at life with a glass half full. It had to be a conscious choice; otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to “survive” this long.

Here, it doesn’t matter what school you came from, if you’re on top of the class or scholar in the past. No one would care whether you’re highly regarded in your previous job. You’re just one among other talented multi-nationals from around the world trying to keep their place and get up the corporate ladder. The competition is real and you’re on your own.

Then, you go home, cook your own meal, do your own laundry, and clean your own little abode. Without families or closest friends to fall back on.

it won't be easy, but it'll be worth it


Nothing Worth Having Comes Easy

There were times when I’d feel less confident about myself, think small and doubt my dreams… time when I even question if this is all worth it. But the answer I find within me is always a resounding YES. The life of an expat comes with its own challenges but it’s true when they say that the things you fight for and struggle with have the greatest worth.

  • I got used to different accents, use new words and express myself in a way other nationalities would understand (even if it meant speaking broken English).
  • I learned to agree to disagree and be understanding with how locals deal with foreigners like us; and respect the different ways our own culture influences our behavior.
  • I grew as a person not by reading self-help books, but by getting lost, being lost, and having the courage to find my way.
  • I realized that being brave is not only about stepping outside my comfort zone, but also recognizing my weaknesses… and improving them.
  • It may not be grand, but what I do always matter.
  • I had the opportunity to travel farther and widely than I ever thought possible.
  • I’ve been through depression, tears and  sleepless nights but it is in those darkest moments that I found the light of Jesus. His grace is sufficient.

My life in Singapore may not have turned out how I imagined it but I am beyond grateful for all the memories and relationships I’ve made here. The decision to say ‘yes’ to the opportunity to work abroad and take risks is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I am just as excited of what the future holds.

After all, there’d always be times when our dreams may seem meaningless or impossible even, but don’t you think those are the ones best pursuing?

Trust that things will fall into place… and have faith that slowly, naturally… you’ll fall into your own in this world.

I know everything looks better with an Instagram filter but my life is far from perfect!
Follow along on Instagram if you haven’t already! I’m @melaidoodles!