I have been living and working in Singapore for almost 1 year now. Wow, how time flies! I have experienced migrating in a different country before, when I was 14 years old. My family and I moved to Saudi Arabia where I finished my high school. It made me learn that you need traits to survive or ease your way into a new country. This month, my husband is joining me here in Singapore much to my glee. Life is much much better with loved-ones nearby. Observing my husband, I am proud to say he has in-born traits that allows him to comfortably adapt to the change of lifestyle and culture very different from the lifestyle he is used to back home.
My experiences and my observations from my husband’s & other peoples’ ways of adapting to a new country made me come up of 5 traits you need in living in another country:
This is very important. Don’t expect that you will still be living the life you are used to in your hometown. Be Flexible. Don’t complain that these things doesn’t happen or never happens back home. Remind yourself that you are living in a different country so this is not your turf. In Saudi Arabia, our days starts on Saturday and weekends are on Thursday and Friday. In Singapore, I have to learn to use goggle map to navigate the city and walk a lot rather than grab a taxi because I don’t want to pay expensive cab charges. Also don’t be clannish. Try to make friends outside your circle of comfort. Be friends with the beautiful friendly locals. Get to know them. They are just like you, same problems, some needs & wants. Don’t be intimidated. Flash that pearly whites and learn more about them & their country. I have gained lovely friends here in Singapore who gone out of their way to show me around the city and gave me tips on the great food places their city has to offer. The foodie in me is screaming with so much gratefulness and happiness.
2. SENSE OF ADVENTURE
You must look at living in another country as an adventure and adventure means keeping peel of the unexpected. Never think of something new as an inconvenience or discard it as unacceptable. Life is an adventure and living in another country is a way to court that adventure into your life. I hunt down good restaurants and some vegetarian fastfood shops ( to encourage my flexitarian diet) using my google map in places in Singapore that I am not very familiar with. Of course the possibility of getting lost is there but I know I can still make it back to my place one way or another. I try cuisines that I have never tried before like frog legs casserole or the carrot cake that is not really made of carrots. In Saudi Arabia, I had my JS prom gown made by talking to a (man) dressmaker in a small square window while I measure myself out on the street.
It is important that you respect the country that welcomes you to stay. They have allowed you to stay in their country give them the due respect by following their laws and protocols. Every country, different rules. Don’t be a bad ass or you will end up in jail, seriously. Remember that much-publicized 1994 news of Michael P. Fay, a 18-year old American who was sentenced to canning in Singapore for theft and vandalism. So learn from that, follow the rules. Like, even how much I want to eat during the long MRT ride here in the Lion City and I know it is prohibited to eat inside the train, I temper my gluttonous tongue to behave. Living in Saudi Arabia, we learned of the Muslim prayer times called ‘Salah’ that is done five times scattered through the day. So when we are out for shopping and it is time for ‘Salah’, shoppers in a boutiques are ushered out. The storekeepers pray and we wait outside until they finish. We obediently go out without complains and respect their prayertime.
Being a citizen of a third-world country, it is easy to get intimidated by the first-world country and gaining humility can be easy for us. But hmmm, maybe keeping that humility is the problem. In the back of our head, we also know our capacities & strengths which has the potential to grow like an obnoxious, hard, big trunk Mahogany tree as years go by. So this specifically applies to people who has been living in the new adopted country for years. Stay humble. Just because you have easily sipped into the first-world country’s lifestyle that doesn’t mean you are better than your countrymen back home or better than the citizens of the country you are currently living in. You might just be passing through in this current country due to work opportunity or you may have gotten permanent residency or became a citizen but never forget where you came from. Never lose that humble spirit that you have when you just got here, that naive spirit that keeps getting lost, deciphering locals slangs and saying incorrect use of words like ‘elevator instead of lift’, ‘CR instead of toilet’ or ‘transfer instead of shift’. For newbies, be humble enough to ask questions, be humble enough to apologize for mistakes that a neophyte tends to make and be humble enough to be corrected.
Don’t live in a new country and believe that it will be a bed of roses and an answer to all your prayers. Changing locations, much more a country can be hard. So you need to have a big bottle of resilience to keep you going. Yes, there will be challenges. Yes, there will be roadblocks and a few detours to your original plans as you settled in your new home. But resilience will keep you grounded and focused to arrive at whatever goal and purpose you’ve set. Then again, we are Filipinos and Filipinos are known for its resilient and stubborn spirit. I am sure we all can get through whatever obstacles thrown our way.
To my fellow Ilonggos who helped me when I started working here in Singapore and to my Singaporean friends, thank you for your kindness, hospitality and friendship . For the new ones that are starting on their journey to a different country, welcome and good luck!