Moving abroad often marks the start of an exciting adventure, but it doesn’t come without its challenges. We recently caught up with Devon-born blogger and founder of ExpatMama.com, Emily Abbey, to find out how she’s adjusted to life away from the UK.
1. We love your blog here at British Corner Shop HQ – please would you share with us what inspired you to start Expat Mama…
When my husband and I made the move from Devon to Singapore with our two young kiddies (thanks to a great career opportunity for my husband), I initially felt really lonely as I didn’t know anyone in the city. I was bored as I didn’t have a job and was extremely homesick, so one day I just decided to channel all that frustration into something positive and The Expat Mama – a blog about the highs and lows of expat life with a young family in tow – was the outcome
2. How has life as an Expat Mama abroad been for you since you moved away?
It’s been weird, I can’t lie. In many ways it’s still a little strange. At home in the UK I was just a normal Mum doing normal Mum things with my kids – here I feel a bit like a fish out of water. We don’t have a “helper” (a live-in domestic worker) so I’m often a bit of a curiosity at the playground, being one of very few western women there. In the UK you’re encouraged to take your kids to activities and toddler groups to make connections with other Mums, so it was quite a shock when I was just surrounded by helpers who clearly didn’t want to interact with me. Those first few months were tough going, luckily I’ve found myself some great friends now but it wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped. I also home school my kids as they’re still very young and it’s simply not financially viable for me to pay $30k+ per child per year for international schooling. I never had any desire to home school my children, so it’s been an adjustment! That being said, life in Singapore is incredibly easy and the culture is very family focused so my complaints about being a parent here are truly few and far between.
3. How did your children cope with the move?
It’s been a mix of emotions for them and is still very much an ongoing journey. My son was 4 1/2 when we moved and he was definitely more emotionally aware in the run up – lots of talks about having a worried tummy, if there would be no food he liked, would his toys get lost on the boat, where would he sleep? My daughter on the other hand had only just turned 3, so she didn’t seem fazed at the time. Now, my son is very settled here and clearly regards Singapore as home – my daughter however is going through a bit of emotional turmoil at the moment. As with all things parenting, there is no rulebook and we just take each day with them as it comes, Skype makes everything a lot easier though.
4. What is your favourite thing about living in Singapore?
The weather without a doubt! It’s summer here all year long and whilst I did miss autumn in the UK last year (we arrived here in August), it was so lovely to come back to sunshine after Christmas. We went to my parent’s house in the UK for three weeks over Christmas, and were very much ready to come back to the sunshine in January. It was also very exciting for my January born son to have a pool party and barbecue for his birthday – definitely not something that would’ve been possible if we were at home in the UK!
5. What are the kids’ favourite activities to get involved in at the weekend?
We are fortunate enough to live in an apartment building where there are lots of other families with kids of similar ages, and for the most part the kids all get on brilliantly! The sunny weekends tend to be spent around the pool with an assortment of inflatables, foodie treats and a bottle of wine (for the adults). Otherwise we spend days off just like any other family at home – running errands, going to kiddie birthday parties and catching up with friends we don’t see during the week.
6. Have you found any weird, yet wonderful Baby & Toddler products whilst you’ve lived in Singapore?
My kids have some really cute little Bento boxes and starter chopsticks which they take with them to the food courts here – it’s not unusual to see Western kids dining like local kids but it’s still quite entertaining to watch. I’ve also found a stroller that collapses into a tote bag (I know) – our strollers in the UK seem so bulky in comparison. I don’t think I’d describe any of our other discoveries as weird, but copying what the locals do/buy means we’ve acquired some brilliant kiddie related items. There are definitely some ‘alternative’ sweets and food items that we’ve bought on a whim at the market – but you have to try these things once, right?
7. Which top three British products do you miss the most?
It’s extremely difficult to narrow it down to three, but my choices would have to be; Bisto Gravy Granules, McVities Hobnobs and clotted cream. Although most foods are available here, they’re either eye wateringly expensive or don’t taste the same after being chilled/frozen during the import process. A total first world problem I know, but one that is shared by many.
8. How do you find the blog helps you stay connected with other Expat Mums abroad?
People are always very quick to lament the rise of social media and the blog-generation, but I’m one of many women who has managed to salvage a little of my sanity and self thanks to other women who I’ve been introduced to online. There are some Instagrammers and bloggers who I’ve formed great friendships with, albeit not in real life, but their constant presence, understanding and support have been a lifeline during the worst of the homesickness or culture clash. I moved to Singapore knowing one or two people, and yet thanks to the blog and the connections I’ve made as a result of it, I not only know a great deal of amazing women here but I have a network of brilliant expat women across the world now. How cool is that, really.
9. Lastly, which Baby & Toddler products will you be adding to your next British Corner Shop order?
I’ll definitely be stocking up on the children’s favourite dry snacks and fruit sachets. What were once my go-to snacks for the car journey after nursery are now my go-to for flights as they’re fairly clean and have some nutritional value too (which is always a bonus!). If my kids had their own way, I’d be packing their bags full of Kiddylicious Gingerbread Buddies and Heinz Biscotti, instead there’ll be a healthier selection of Ella’s Kitchen yoghurt and fruit pouches. EK Peaches Peaches Peaches is also a favourite of mine, especially when squirted into a glass of cheap airline sparkling white wine for a bit of an economy cocktail.
If you’d like to share your Expat stories with us, then please comment using the box below.