Great Expatations: Expectations versus reality

It’s official. We have 90 days left in Singapore. When we arrived here in Singapore 7 months ago, we arrived with great expectations or ‘expat’ations. However, given our previous experience in Qatar, we also knew we had to be practical.  At the end of last year we spent a lot of time deliberating on our future here in Singapore. And with much dismay we realised we needed to call time. While I’ve known this for at least three months, having one way tickets booked with an end of date marked on the calendar has made it that much more real. We have 90 days left! And so our great expatations have been served with a slice of reality.

Our great expectations

There are many reasons people choose to become expats. For most it was a job opportunity. Career progression, better pay. A better lifestyle they could afford. Warmer weather, more travel opportunities. The list is long but mainly positive. No one in their right mind would leave everything they know and love otherwise. Well our expectations were in line with that long list of positives. We wanted it all! And I would say for the most we achieved a lot on our list. We have been on some amazing (and frequent) trips through Asia. We have lived in a beautiful tropical climate. I haven’t worn socks or a cardigan in 7 months! We lived in a (small) place with a pool at our daily disposal! A small price to pay. Or was it? Because for us that was where the list stopped. And unfortunately in the real world there is more to life than travel opportunities, poolside weekends and not wearing a cardigan all year (she says with tearfilled eyes).

Reality bites

Reality does bite. And all the important parts on that list of great expectations were missing from our expat experience.  Job opportunities were severely lacking for my husband, for one. We had rationalised the time away with online professional development but that wasn’t exactly a plan. Career progression was lacking for myself, amongst other things and salaries for both of us just plain weren’t worth it. Singapore is one of the most expensive countries in the world to live in. Something I didn’t believe coming from London, a city also deemed an expensive city by outsiders. However in comparison,  Singapore certainly takes the ticket on an expensive city. And counting the pennies, weighing up if we really needed item x at the supermarket or did we really have to go for a beer this weekend wasn’t how we wanted to live our lives. It wasn’t how we expected to live our lives in our mid 30s. And so, at one point or another both of us had come to realisation that Singapore wasn’t our forever place. And we realised it fairly quickly.

Exit this way

photo credit: timsnell this is not an exit via photopin (license)

Leaving is an inevitable part of expat life. For most expats the choice is out of their hands. Left to the decisions of employment mainly, or circumstance. And although our expectations were high, the reality was hard to overlook. We are both gutted to be leaving. Singapore is after all the expat utopia.  But for the sake of some stability and the possibility to grow both professionally and personally towards our goals we have had to cut our loses. Trying to process this in mind has taken some time and a lot of (over)thinking. There are feelings of failure and a sense of loss almost akin to grief. In a way I guess it is similar to a loss. I’m losing this life- this lifestyle and I know I won’t ever get it back. And so for that reason, I am choosing to approach my expat exit as I would anything I know is going to end. Live every day to the fullest.


A purposeful departure

We left Qatar in such a hurry I don’t feel like I fully processed that departure. I didn’t really have a chance to ‘say goodbye’.This time around I have the opportunity to prepare for our departure. So I am taking the time to say goodbye to Singapore and South East Asia. I had so many plans to travel this part of the world extensively. To learn and soak in all the beauty and revel in the cultural differences. And perhaps more importantly for a sun-seeking beach lover, to indulge in tropical island hopping! But with time cut short (for now) I’ve had to put a short list of must dos together. I refuse to leave with FoMo. Because where ever I’m going, South East Asia will be a long haul flight away.

Stay tuned for more posts on our last few months in Singapore and where we are heading next. As the adventure continues to find home.

photo via pixabay

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    • Thanks for reading. I can’t wait to read your post. Oh the trials and tribulations of being an expat!

  1. Awesome, how honest is your writing, thank you for sharing! I was playing with the idea of an expat for myself, but found some interesting articles on how expats really live in Asia in particularly. So for now I have decided to take a little bit different way, but who knows maybe one day I will move for good.

    • Thank you @sliva_app. I promised myself I would be more honest with my writing this year! I’d be curious (if you don’t mind sharing) what the articles said about how expats do live in Asia. I’d also love to know more about the different path you’ve taken! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment 🙂

  2. Interestingly I met a full-time worker in Singapore during my trip in Thailand and she is moving to the USA this summer because she said almost the same, and she does not like the bar culture there also. I have never lived in Singapore,but being an long-term expat in North America, I feel your pain of moving out and bid farewell to the familiarity. It is not that you are losing something or a failure, it is just the system does not work in your favor, or expats favor. Wish you enjoy your last stints in SE Asia and best of luck on your new journey in Toronto (You will like the city I promise).

    • Thanks Julie. Glad I’m not the only one with this perspective. I have loved living here and definitely don’t think the year was enough but there’s a time and a place. And right now it’s not the time for this place. I’m excited and nervous to head to Toronto. I need to make friends with it as an adult now :). Looking forward to meeting when I arrive 🙂

      • Maybe in the future you will find the right time for this place, or move to new places. I will be off to South America for a while. I guess we can meet in winter when I return to Toronto. Look forward to our meeting up as well.


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