6 years ago to the day, I landed in Singapore with a trolley full of my most precious possessions and a food keeper full of instant noodles and canned goods, AKA food I eat whenever I move to a new city and don’t have a job yet so I need to be thrifty. There was even one pack of instant spaghetti in there, saved for a special moment that needs celebration, like finally landing a job.
Wow. 6 years. Let me take a moment to let that sink in.
Moving abroad has changed my life in ways that I did not expect. The woman I am now is a far cry from that naive little lady who jumped on that plane without even doing any research except to ask her friends who had also just moved to Singapore about the cost of living so she would know how much money to bring. I hadn’t even ever been to Singapore before I decided to come. I just knew that I needed to leave the Philippines and this was the most viable option at that time so… boom.
Looking back, I realize that I came at the best possible moment, because it was right before the recession. If I had dilly-dallied a bit more I would never have had the guts to come at all.
So if you’re that girl I once was, and you’re thinking of moving abroad, just trust your gut and do what it tells you to do. As the saying goes, “you can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket.” It pays to take risks. But please do make sure to have a plan B for when it doesn’t work out, though, just in case.
Also, do some research. Consider the following list as part of that.
(1) Even when speaking in English, you’ll have a hard time communicating with locals because of your different accents, and you will have hilarious lost-in-translation moments. But don’t worry, you’ll eventually get used to them (the accent, not the misunderstandings).
(2) You’ll get confused about defining “home.” Is it your home country, where you spent most of your life, yes, but which you now only get to be in less than 20 days out of 365 in a year?
Or is it this new country where you do reside and spent most of your days now, but don’t quite feel like you belong completely because when someone asks you, “Where are you from?” you can’t quite bring yourself to answer that it’s this place?
Bottom line: you will never quite feel like you truly belong anywhere anymore.
(3) You’ll realize that it’s a lot easier to make friends with people of your same nationality.
When I was back in the Philippines last year, a friend of mine asked me why most of my friends here in Singapore are Filipino. I didn’t even realize that until she pointed it out, actually. Silly me.
To answer that question, it’s just a lot easier to communicate in your own native tongue, for starters.
Also, it’s easier to talk to people who has the same background as you. You know how you have inside jokes with certain groups of friends and when one of you says something you all just laugh while an outsider looks at you strangely and you have to explain and he still doesn’t get it?
|Ben on why everyone in Pawnee loves Little Sebastian
It’s like that, only all the time, with all the conversations. It’s why in our office, when you walk into the pantry during lunch time, you’ll notice that most of the people are grouped by race. They can’t help it. It’s human nature.
As I said in an old post:
While it’s certainly a lot of fun learning a new culture and making new friends, there are moments when you’re just happy to be the old you, speak in your native tongue, and not have to keep on being all “When in Rome, do what Romans do” or explaining yourself to people, especially when it’s really hard to explain and translate. Your people, they get you, even without you having to explain yourself. So when you find people from back home in your new home, it’s an instant connection, an instant friendship, an instant family.
(4) You’ll be surprised to find out that your favorite cuisine is food from your home country. Okay, maybe it won’t come as a surprise to everyone, but it sure did to me. Back in the Philippines, I always said that my favorite cuisine was Italian, but when I moved here, I realized that I was wrong. I would always prefer to eat Filipino food over anything else, and even willingly pay a premium for it.
(5) You see things in a different, broader way, now, through the eyes of not just someone from your country but all the other nationalities you’ve encountered. You’ll realize how limited you were before, how narrow-minded.
You’ll see your home country and your new country with a special set of eyes, see their pros and cons magnified.
(6) You adjust the way you speak and walk and dress and spend, just to fit into this new home of yours.
So you become an amalgam of sorts, this person who is mostly Filipino yet slightly Singaporean, a person who can speak both Tagalog and Singlish and walks as fast as the average Singaporean (who are the fastest walkers on the planet) and doesn’t bat an eyelash when paying for a S$4 pack of mints and wants her adobo to be full-flavoured but now thinks that Goldilocks cakes are too sweet.
But even though it can be confusing at times and I sometimes feel pangs of nostalgia whenever I see throwback Thursday-esque pictures from beyond 6 years ago, I have no regrets about coming here. Sure, I did have bad experiences too, like when I lost my job or we got kicked out of our flat or a foul-mouthed colleague yelled at me, but at the end of the day, my gut was right, and I am glad I followed it six years ago.