This expat mama moved to Singapore sight unseen with an 8-week-old baby! She shares her tips on how to hit the ground running
I moved to Singapore for my husband’s work in November 2017 from the UK when my son James was just eight weeks old. It was a daunting prospect leaving family and our home with such a small baby. We had never lived abroad or even visited Singapore! Now, 10 months on, I feel like Singapore is home and that I have a good network of friends.
My initial impressions were a wall of heat that hit you whenever you left air-conditioning; the amazing amount of greenery and trees everywhere; the height of the skyscrapers; and the industrial docks. These quickly turned into concerns: Can I live somewhere with a baby and a high balcony? How will James cope in the heat? Are there lots of mosquitos? I definitely was a first-time mum!
Here are the things I did in the first few weeks to help us settle in:
Plan a really fun first weekend
We visited the super trees at Gardens by the Bay, went to Satay Street at Lau Pa Sat, and soaked up the Singapore atmosphere. We also planned our first trip abroad 6 weeks after arriving to Nikoi Island, Indonesia. It made the start of the move feel like an exciting adventure.
Start out with a serviced apartment
We found a serviced apartment near my husband’s work in downtown Singapore, so he could be home in 10 minutes. This meant I felt I had somebody nearby in those first few weeks when you don’t know anyone and have a very young baby at home or just want to see somebody for lunch!
Network through social media
Before I left the UK, I told lots of people about the move and updated my social media. I was amazed at how many people reached out to me with friends or contacts in Singapore. This helped me to plan the first two weeks with lots of coffees and lunch meet-ups with people who gave me loads of tips, as well as the beginning of friendships. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming – from local Singaporeans to expats who really understood how it felt to be new here. I said yes to every meeting and opportunity and tried to have an open mind in all situations.
Join lots of groups
I joined New Mothers’ Support Group (NMSG), which has weekly meet ups around the Island; the Mums and Tots group at St George’s Church in Dempsey; Facebook communities such as Expat Women, a Sassy Mama due date group, and others. I also used the app Meetup and went to relevant classes like coffee mornings, baby yoga etc. The app sends an email every week with a list of what’s going on.
Find a family doctor
I had James weighed in my second week at the CHI Health Well Baby Clinic, with a group weigh-in and Q&A session with a nurse. The main reason this was great, aside from asking the nurse some questions about James and the health system in Singapore, was I met another mum at this group.
She added me to two WhatsApp groups, one focused on ‘power-walking with prams’ in the Botanic Gardens and the other a group for mums with babies the same age as James who would meet up for weekly visits to local infant-friendly attractions such as the ArtScience Museum and S.E.A. Aquarium. This turned out to be where most of my friends have come from, so I feel very lucky but it also shows how easy it is to find groups of people in similar positions to you.
Figure out where you want to live
I equally spent quite a bit of time on my own during the first six weeks working out where we might like to live and just being at home getting used to life with a small baby. I really tried to prepare myself for this and scheduled quite a few afternoon FaceTime calls with family and friends in the UK (as they were on their way in to work in the morning), to help break up the day.
Plan for visitors
The other thing that really helped me was knowing friends and family were coming to visit. I was very lucky; I had my parents come after one month, my best friend after two months, and my in-laws three months after moving. This gave me well-known faces and things to look forward to. Whilst they were here though, I kept up my regular groups and saw them in the afternoon and evening as I felt it was important to keep a sense of normality.
Hopefully these tips can help you hit the ground running, mama. Moving to a new place and raising a newborn are each daunting tasks on their own, but I’m living proof that you can actually handle both!