By Kia Holm Reimer | 31 Oct 2022
Moving as an Expat Spouse
As a spouse you are immediately and constantly exposed to everything new. For those who have never been expatriated, this may sound odd; but it is draining to not know where to go just to get minor things done, at the same time as struggling to find your way around the city/country you have moved to.
There are certainly days where I thought to myself “Why did I think one more relocation was a brilliant idea?” Spouses also lack structure in our day as we are not attending school nor work, at least in the initial period. Integrating a family though, to a new environment and culture represents a full-time job for up to one year. A job that is unpaid and offers no pension, and one that requires a multi skilled effort.
Having relocated 4 times I will personally vouch for the work as a spouse to be considered a vital support-function and one that is beyond full-time. Add to it, that it can be a very lonely job too results in the fact that spouses must seek their own source of energy and purpose to keep themselves thriving.
Too much hanging around on your own makes it harder and harder to get out and meet new people and may result in depleted self-worth and a sense of feeling overwhelmed.
Energy, purpose, and inspiration are to be found in networks and it is crucial for a spouse to identify them and start showing up and getting involved. Here’s how I did just that in Singapore on an accelerated timeline.
Leading up to the move
Having completed 5 moves in close to 9 years as an expat spouse, I knew what awaited us when we decided to relocate from France to Singapore. As a family, we have been travelling the world since 2014 when we first left Denmark to live in Abu Dhabi, so my experience in transition is significant.
That said, we had been in and out of lockdown while living in France, and it was not until summer 2021 that restrictions were lifted, and I was able to establish that homey connection to France. Establishing this connection is crucial to prep the ground for a successful integration; I had made amazing friends, the ones you as an expat call your extended family, I had also finished my e-book and website www.expatadvising.com, and was doing great on my running.
Moving is copy/paste – and then not
When we heard that restrictions were loosened in both Singapore and France, we were relieved.
The relaxing of measures meant we had to bring forward our dates for leaving France –before we felt ready to go. Feelings of relief and lightness were trumped by stress and an overwhelming sense of frustration with not being able to enjoy the last piece of France and say a proper goodbye to everyone.
Regardless, we rolled up our sleeves and went to work.
Despite many things being a ‘copy-paste’ when you move a family from one country to another, there are always differences. These differences are what I normally get a sense of when we do our one-week pre-move roundtrip.
Under normal circumstances, the one-week roundtrip is spent looking at schools, looking at accommodations, understanding the infrastructure, browsing for network opportunities, and getting a feel for the culture, communication style, daily rhythm, and country values.
This time, the roundtrip was different though as the pandemic had put a stop to many of the normal activities. A bit puzzled with how to solve this, we were happily surprised by the kindness and willingness of Singaporeans in helping us and finding solutions for us to make the most of everything.
From employees in the airport being beyond kind to the children when they were reluctant to do yet another Covid-19 test, over housing agents leaving the door open for us to have a look just on our own, to staff at schools going out of their way to give the children a feel the type of school we were looking at.
In every restaurant, mall and museum we managed to visit during this trip, we were meet with smiles and clear information on how to make the most of it.
Settling & setting up a business in Singapore
Singapore is a welcoming country, and I am head over heels amazed at how there seems to be harmony and peacefulness wherever I go. Singapore is home to many different cultures, religions, and communication styles. We must come together and co-exist harmoniously – and we do. There is room for all of us and I love that.
2 months of being in Singapore, we had settled down in a home, completed most of the admin, and the kids were back in school. After taking a breather for myself, I was ready plan my own future and explore the options available as a holder of Dependent’s Pass (DP) in Singapore.
Having previously set up a small business in both Dubai and France, I was honestly not looking forward to that process again. When you are a one-woman business, everything falls to you. You must be on top of understanding – and abiding to – local procedures and laws. It requires a surplus of energy — something I did not have at the time.
The energy reserve came back though, when I was introduced to Singapore Global Network (SGN). With a quick scan of the platform, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel.
SGN helped me catch all the balls that were up in the air when looking at setting up a business. On top of the practical advice that I received, SGN also presented me with suggestions for networking events, guides and personal and relatable stories from likeminded people – particularly cathartic when you’re already overloaded with integration tasks.
On top, it is free to join the Singapore Global Network Community – check it out here.
I certainly also love how it is possible to get help and assistance without having to be on hold for hours on end, when having to set up Singpass (a digital D) and ID documents, as well as other necessities as water, electricity, internet, and the works.
Integrating into Singapore
Having done this many times, I have a playbook for accelerating my integration into a new community.
I quickly tapped into a running team, mingled with the neighbors, gave a shoutout in the Danish community on FB, and here in Singapore I also put myself up for election as a board member in the organization Danish Business Associates in Singapore (DABS).
To get connected with local communities quickly, I have used FB groups (Danes in Dubai, Danes in France, etc.), the organization Internations and DAGBO (Danes Abroad Business Group Online). I find that Facebook groups are especially responsive, and people are very helpful and inclusive. I have gotten help to find anything from insights on laws, over locating running teams, to plumber services and school recommendations in said groups.
Having expedited my integration – almost completing my business set up and having tapped into the portfolio of offerings from SGN – I now feel confident and equipped to make future years here in Singapore a success.
Building my business networks
I am beyond happy to be here and amazed at how many offerings I can tap into, to get my foot into the business environment.
Aside from chambers of commerce, local business networks and google searching, I have spent 2 days at the Singapore Business Show, joining thousands of entrepreneurs, business leaders, and business decision makers in making connections and pursuing partnerships.
Attending the event grew my network tremendously and sitting in on some of the free seminars taught me a great deal about various industries and how to approach and manage business and marketing in Singapore.
I have also since completed a course in leadership at the Singapore marketing institute and registered with APSS (Asia Professional Speakers Singapore) and the Speakers Institute Singapore.
It may sound like a lot in a short span of time, and truthfully it is. I would like to highlight that this is far from expected from anyone during year one of an expatriation. However, my normal pace is high, and that fact in combination with the speed of response from any touchpoint I have been in contact with, in Singapore, has made it all come together. Fast.
So. Here I am. 9 months into my Singaporean adventure. Kids thriving, network growing, company www.expatadvising.com set up and close to having figured out the amount of water, salt, electrolytes, and minerals it required to complete (and win) a run in this climate. That last part surely took me on some dizzy tours 😊 but winning the Masters and an overall no. 2 in a recent trail run has left me confident.
Like in any run, you must find your own cruising speed, and the right people to follow. I feel like I have reached my cruising speed here in Singapore, have meet the right people to follow, and I am looking forward to how the route will look further down the road.
If this has been helpful, you may also wish to download my free e-book, “9 things to do and consider before expatriating” from my website.
Kia is an entrepreneur, speaker, Neuro-Linguistic Programming business practitioner and certified running coach based in Singapore. She is also a board member of the Danish Business Associates in Singapore (DABS) and obtained her MBA at PWC Academy Dubai.
She is passionate about facilitating successful expatriations and repatriations, speaking, advising companies and hosting workshops for HR, boards, and spouses alike.