As a Family Medicine Physician, I have always been interested in wellness as a lifestyle and I have been advocating wellness in my patients, family and friends. But what exactly is Wellness?
The World Health Organization define Wellness as “…a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Wellness encompasses a holistic approach to life leading to a higher quality of living. I would often associate wellness with stress-management, positive relationships and mindfulness.
I am even more particular with pursuing wellness as a foreigner living in a new country that I wasn’t born in and a young family raising kids all below the age of four. I am aware that it would subject us to some challenges and issues in adapting as we settled in a foreign country.
It made me think of how wellness play a part in our lives here in Singapore as expatriates living in a new land that we are not born in. It made me think of different aspects of what wellness is composed of and allowed me to retrospectively reflect on our wellness as a family here in Singapore.
PHYSICAL HEALTH & EXERCISE
Singapore is an urban country with sophisticated infrastructure and an amazing & organised public transportation system. It is also an expensive country to afford a personal car so most people would opt to take advantage of the public transportation available. I have noted and even my friends who would come to visit that the city is designed to make you walk a lot which would get you to exercise without you realising it. There are no pedicabs, trishaws or tricycles unlike some Asian countries or back home in the Philippines to indulge lazy walkers from going the extra mile by foot.
Singapore also is abundant with availability of different types of specialised gyms, exercise classes and even parks have exercise equipments designed to encouraged improvement of physical health among the people living in Singapore. Sadly, however, these facilities are often not even used due to lack of time and spending more time at work.
DIET & FOOD
Singapore is a haven for foodies like me with its variety of food for every palate considering the intermingling of influences from the different races in the country. Eating out wouldn’t be a problem because there is something for everyone. Also its versatility of food includes health conscious choices as well for vegetarian & vegan options. For expats who do not cook and prefer buying cheaper option of food in Hawker Centres, the local food would provide a tasty but often greasy and most often than not, not so healthy option.
QUALITY OF LIFE
Singapore is a beautiful country to live in. It is a city with clean streets, aesthetically-pleasing infrastructure with a well-balanced old & new influence in its design. The cost of living is definitely high. Singapore has been known to be an expensive country to live in. To keep up with the success of this little country, it is inevitable that the work & life balance may be a little skewed with work being an integral part of its lifestyle. And expats are extremely exposed to this unbalance having to relocate to the country mainly for work. Most hours are spent at work. The availability of helpers can assist in unloading some domestic burden that may be neglected due to work commitment but this also comes at a hefty price.
My kids are still very young. I have one kid in nursery but I am fully aware of the approach in Singapore education to children. Singapore education tends to push students very hard academically which can be stress-inducing. They do have very high standards to maintain the improvement of this bustling city. I may have some apprehension to subject my kids to such academic stress though I do not doubt that their results of their graduates are indeed exemplary.
Healthcare in Singapore can be expensive. Expats must make sure to clarify with their company the health benefits they would receive from the company as well as their family’s health care benefits too. Being a foreigner without any subsidy, it can really be expensive so opting to see private doctors would be the option instead of going to government medical centres where no subsidy is provided. But healthcare in Singapore is definitely advanced and evidence-based. It is also advantageous that most doctors speak fluent English to give a clearly understood consultation with English-speaking expat patients.
Expats in Singapore often get insurance due to the awareness of healthcare cost in the country. My family have yet to get health insurance but we are aware that we need to get one as soon as possible to protect ourselves from unforeseen circumstances.
Along with physical healthcare, mental healthcare should also be considered. Urbanized and progressive city in a highly competitive industry, stress is a likely enemy. It is good to note that living in a different culture can be challenging and often invite mental & emotional battles with our complacent self. So de-stressing techniques and concepts promoting positive interactions, mindfulness and meditation are highly encouraged.
One of the great things of living in Singapore is the security and safety. The country is vigilant in keeping their streets safe and secure with low crime rates. It gives me the peace of mind in raising my family in a safe place.
Singapore climate is very much like the climate in the Philippines due to the proximity of both countries and being in the tropics. It is often hot and humid with occasional rain and drizzle. But in Singapore, hurricanes, floods and typhoons are often not experienced.
Living as an expat can expose us to several hurdles to our overall wellness but it is even more important for us to overcome these challenges to strive and contribute effectively in the new country we are starting a new adventure. Being an expat allows us to test our resilience of spirit as we test our overall capacity to be a self-actualised individual enjoying exploring the surprises and adventure of what expat living may bring.
To read more about the study of how expats’ take on wellness all across the globe, read more here: Expat Family Health and Wellness Survey 2018