Singaporean overseas mama Jaspreet Kaur tells us about life in Hamilton, New Zealand where she lives on a small farm with her husband, two kids and a dog.
In our latest Overseas Mama series, Singaporean Jaspreet Kaur talks about the double-edged sword of living a rural lifestyle in New Zealand: the upside is that her kids get to ride dirt bikes and run barefoot, they grow their own veggies and have plenty of space, while the downside is the remoteness. Jaspreet talks about what she appreciates most about living outside of Singapore “that my children are not in robot mode, running around trying to keep up with everyone. They get to be themselves, be present and live their childhood.” Read on for her insights about living abroad on a farm in Hamilton, New Zealand, why her kids find it hard to get on board with learning Punjabi and what she misses from her home country Singapore.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am a Singaporean living in Hamilton, New Zealand. I live on a small farm with my husband, two kids and a dog. I am a Pilates instructor and Reiki healer. I am a free spirit and a hippie at heart. As much as I miss Singapore, I am very grateful for my life here.
What brought you to Hamilton, New Zealand? How long have you been living overseas?
We moved to Hamilton for my husband’s work about three years ago. My husband is from Hamilton but hasn’t been living there for a long time. I moved to Sydney, Australia to be with him 14 years ago. I had lived in Sydney for two years, Auckland, New Zealand for nine years, and now in Hamilton for the last three years.
Favourite aspect about living in Hamilton?
My favourite aspect of living in Hamilton is our rural lifestyle. Our kids ride dirt bikes around the farm. We have plenty of space here and I am able to have my Pilates studio on our property. We have fruit trees and are growing our own vegetables too.
And the worst part?
The worst part is also the rural lifestyle. It’s a double-edged sword. We can’t just duck down the road for a quick bite. We have to drive everywhere, there is no “just walk down to the shops to get milk or bread”.
What are the current restrictions in Hamilton due to Covid-19?
I’m not the best person to answer this as I try to stay as far away from all that. It’s all too confusing and the restrictions are not very clear to be honest. Generally, there are no large gatherings and unless you’re vaccinated, you can’t do anything.
How have you and your family been coping in the midst of Covid-19?
We have been really lucky with the lockdowns. My husband is an essential worker so he keeps working through the lockdowns. I do all my Pilates classes over Zoom. Having some land really helps because we’re not locked in a small space.
How do you think parenting in Hamilton differs from parenting in Singapore? What do you appreciate most about it?
It is hugely different. Education is not only academically-focused but more well-rounded. Sports are big here in New Zealand. It is not as stressful for the kids. Children actually have time to be children here. They are not just running from school to tuition to music lessons. What I appreciate most is that my children are not in robot mode, running around trying to keep up with everyone. They get to be themselves, be present and live their childhood. They have time to climb trees, get muddy, and run barefoot.
Did you give birth to your children in Hamilton? If yes, what was memorable about the experiences?
My children were born in Auckland. The experiences were great and my obstetrician was amazing. What was memorable was that I learnt I myself know my body best. Both times I was told it would take hours before I would give birth and both times my baby came within the hour. I had to trust myself and how I felt, telling the obstetrician I was ready to push.
Can you talk us through your career pre- and post-baby?
Pre-baby, I was a behaviour therapist working with children on the autism spectrum. I chose not to pursue this further after having my own children as I didn’t have enough emotional energy to give to my job and my children. I also chose to be a stay at home mum (SAHM) for the first five years. When my older child started school, I started teaching Pilates because I could choose my own hours and work around my children.
I had been practising Pilates for a few years by then and I absolutely loved it. It all fell into place when a friend of mine asked me to teach her Pilates. I got my certification and here I am, seven years on, still loving the fact that I teach Pilates.
Favourite kid-friendly restaurant in Hamilton?
Camarosa. You can also pick your own strawberries there during the summer and they do a most delicious fresh berry ice cream.
Top five places in or around Hamilton you would recommend to parents travelling with kids.
Waikato river – There are stunning trails up and down the river, some great picnic spots along the way, trees to climb and it’s dog-friendly too.
Is there something that you do to keep your children in touch with their Singaporean roots?
I feed them Singaporean food, tell them about Singapore’s history… we sing the National Anthem and national songs around National Day too.
Best souvenir one could bring back from Hamilton
– for a child:
Anything All Blacks, books on Māori culture or New Zealand culture and history.
– for a mama friend:
New Zealand wine!
What do you find is the hardest part of being a mother living in a foreign country?
No family for support. With my husband away for work regularly, I’m always the one doing everything around the house and for the children.
On raising multilingual children …
It can get quite hard when I am the only one speaking Punjabi to them. They don’t see the importance of learning Punjabi because no one else they know speaks it. As far as they are concerned, it makes no sense to them that they have to learn it so there is no motivation.
What do you always bring back from Singapore for yourself and for your children?
Clothes! There is so much more variety back home and they are cheaper too. We can’t bring food into New Zealand so I don’t bring any food.
Tell us about your go-to recipe for your family.
Most days we eat traditional Punjabi food. I can’t really select one recipe. I have recently started making more Singaporean dishes like char siew rice, char kway teow and chicken rice.
What’s the one thing you would miss about Hamilton if you moved away?
The space we have here. I don’t think we would have the land we have anywhere else if we were to move away.
What is the first thing you do each time you come back to Singapore?
Hit the hawker center!
What do you dread most if you are moving back to Singapore?
My children won’t be able to cope with the education system!
How do you think Singaporeans can benefit from living overseas?
We can all learn to breathe, take a step back and take a break from the rat race, and the constant running around… I also think it would make Singaporeans appreciate our government more.