Home away from home: overseas Singaporeans

Let’s face it: at some point or another in our lives we’ve all dreamt of living abroad, away from the dreadful humidity, enjoying large, wide open spaces, ponds, woods, greenery and ancient towns. We all want to savour the history, the art, the freedom of being unknown, unseen and hidden from attention.

Travel and living abroad recollects romance as written by Paulo Coelho, Bill Bryson, and Anthony Bourdain. New foods, new smells and senses thrilled by the unfamiliar every single day.

But what is life really like living away from home?

We spoke to four Singaporeans living abroad to find out how they cope with being away from their loved ones:

Livia Gho, 24, musician living in Canada

Why are you living abroad?

Being in Canada provides me with greater learning and performing opportunities as the scene is so saturated with good choral music. I was initially here for my Bachelors in Music but decided to stay longer to study under great conducting teachers. The most important thing is that everybody here understands and shows appreciation for the arts. It’s in their blood! It is such a conducive environment for growth.

How often do you come home to Singapore?

Out of my 5 1/2 years away from home, I have only been back twice!

What do you miss about Singapore when you’re overseas?

The 3Fs – Food, Family and Friends!

What do you love seeing/feeling/doing when you’re back in Singapore?

Eating at ALL the hawker centres in town! Actually, I think what tops the list is really spending quality time with my loved ones.

How do you keep in touch with your “Singaporean roots”?

I was actively involved in the Singapore Clubs as well as helped organised a Singapore Film festival here in Vancouver. I think my Singaporean roots will always be in me and nothing can really change that.

Any plans to come home?

Yes, but only after I am done with Graduate school and beyond!

Betty Ong*, 52, events planner living in the USA

Why are you living abroad?

My husband’s job requires me and my family to relocate rather frequently, so I would say family commitments.

How often do you come home to Singapore?

Around twice every one to two years, depends on where we are. The US is too far away from Singapore to go back any more often than we do!

What do you miss about Singapore when you’re overseas?

Definitely the food and my friends and family.

What do you love seeing/feeling/doing when you’re back in Singapore?

I feel happy to catch up with my friends and family every time I’m back. Also, nothing feels better than being able to switch to Singlish with people actually understanding it. And of course, the food!

How do you keep in touch with your “Singaporean roots”?

A lot of ways actually! I enjoy cooking Singapore food at home, and am always on the lookout for Singaporeans living overseas. In fact, I have a good friend who lives in Houston, about 3 hours from where I am and I make it a point to go up and see her.

I also listen to MediaCorp radio on the internet, speak Singlish at home, and catch up on XinMSN etc.

Any plans to come home?

Well, yes and no I guess. Yes because I have plans to go home for four years to stay with my aging parents, maybe when my son has gone to college. But ultimately, my home is where my son is and I want to be a grandparent. Prasad (my son) will not return to Singapore; he was born in Australia, raised in Canada, New Zealand and Denmark but he loves the US. So if the US is where he plans to stay, it is where I will be.

Fiona Seow, late 30s, homemaker living in the UK

Why are you living abroad?

For me it’s family commitments. My husband is now based in the UK in his new role – we actually just moved here from Singapore and before that we were in Hong Kong.

How often do you come home to Singapore?

About once every one to two years.

What do you miss about Singapore when you’re overseas?

I miss my friends, family and food.

What do you love seeing/feeling/doing when you’re back in Singapore?

Definitely eating local food and meeting up with friends and family!

How do you keep in touch with your family who are back home in Singapore?

Phone, the Internet and meeting face to face when they come around to visit!

How do you keep in touch with your “Singaporean roots”?

Singlish lor… my husband is French but we’ve stayed in Singapore for a couple of years so he knows how to get with the lingo. We also try to cook Singapore dishes, although sometimes sourcing for ingredients and seasoning can be quite tricky (and expensive).

Any plans to come home?

Nope, my husband moves around a lot due to his job so I move along with him. Besides my parents are also with us, so in that sense I don’t have that much keeping me grounded in Singapore.

Lee Hao Ming, 24, undergraduate and business owner living in Australia

Why are you living abroad?

Mainly studies as I’m pursuing my undergraduate degree in Melbourne. I also just started my own business so I’m probably going to stay for work purposes as well.

How often do you come home to Singapore?

I come home once a year, normally at the end of the year during my long summer (Australia) break.

What do you miss about Singapore when you’re overseas?

FOOD. Also, my family and friends. There is this sense of familiarity – the places I used to hang out and people I grew up with. But definitely not the humidity!!!

What do you love seeing/feeling/doing when you’re back in Singapore?

EAT and hang out with family and friends. Spending time with my loved ones during the holiday season, which really just means a lot of eating!

How do you keep in touch with your “Singaporean roots”?

Besides joining the Singapore Club in my school, I also enjoy cooking Singapore dishes using the pre-packed mix from Prima Taste. I’m lucky that I have a close group of Singaporean friends here in Melbourne, and of course we Singlish together la!

Aside from that, I keep myself dated with Singapore news via Internet and stay in touch with friends from home.

Any plans to come home?

Yes, eventually! There are no fixed plans yet but home will always be home (even though it’s so damn humid!).

As of now, my intention is to stay on in Melbourne for a few years to work and see how things go from there. But I definitely will make it a point to come home every year though!

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AlvinLee

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