There comes a time in every blogger’s life when someone posts a mean comment. Somebody’s having a bad day, or is just frustrated (or pathetic) for whatever reason and takes it out on a harmless blogger. In our little corner of the internet, that day was last week, and that blogger was *us*. And while one of us is too busy sheltering from the rain and the leprechauns while drinking tea and gin (don’t knock it til you’ve tried it) to be too bothered by any type of snarkiness, the other one of us – currently holidaying in the land of perfect smiles and eternal optimism – well… Not so much…
In the absence of any texts of note between us (unless: “Hi! Are you sober?” “No. You?” “It’s 7am.” “Oh. Bummer.” counts) we’ve compiled a list of the top ways you know you’re an expat on holidays in your home country. (This is particularly relevant if (a) you’re expatting in Singapore and (b) your home country is in Northern Europe, the United States, or anywhere else where your hair doesn’t frizz up and you don’t start sweating within four minutes of leaving the (air-conditioned) house).
15 Ways You Know You’re an Expat on Summer Holidays “Back Home”…
- You sit in your car at the gas station waiting for an uncle to come and fill up your tank. (And you sit. And sit. And sit.)
- When your kids are kicking off their shoes to go play in the garden, you immediately think of snakes.
- Speaking of shoes: People wear them inside their homes – and nobody says a thing! (WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE? Get those filthy things outside, and into a large pile by the front door, where they belong…)
- You have literally no warm clothes. None. So you spend the first few days wearing several t-shirts and your father’s gardening cardigan, before succumbing and heading to Primark / Target.
- Primark / Target makes you WEEP WITH JOY.
- Grocery shopping takes HOURS because you keep sighing and fondling the produce.
- And while we’re on fondling – you hair (YOUR HAIR!!) is a thing of wondrous beauty.
- You are shocked – SHOCKED – at how truly bad Chinese, Indian and Thai food can be when you’re far from China, India and Thailand. You bore your friends and family by repeatedly pointing this out – but you just can’t help yourself.
- You arrive “home” with two suitcases and leave with fifteen.
- Into those two suitcases you actually packed school books for your children.
- Your children get freaked out by common wildlife. Such as pigeons. And worms.
- You can’t quite figure out how to negotiate being in a place where there is – horror – *CRIME*. You’ve just let your toddler use the public toilet alone, and you routinely leave your car doors unlocked, and yet you’re wearing a wallet-belt 24/7. (Well at least your MRT card is safe, PHEW.)
- You cannot understand how your children make such a mess. Where has all this laundry come from? Why are there toys and shoes and bits of food all over the place? WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?
- You suddenly realise why it’s happening, and make a mental note to build a shrine to your helper when you get back.
- Despite loving being home with every fibre of your being – your family and friends and your gorgeous hair and the incredible produce and the fresh air and all the millions of things you miss every day in Expat-Land – you (whisper it) miss your (whisper it again) *other* home.
By now, eagle-eyed readers will have spotted something of a theme in our recent posts. Yes, they’re all repeat episodes. SORRY. But: (a) we’re thousands of miles away – from Singapore, each other and, most significantly, our helpers*, which means that we just Do. Not. Have. Time. To. Text; and (b) truly, these texts from last year sum up EVERYTHING happening in our lives right now. (Although if pushed to sum our summer holidays up in a few words, we’d choose some variation of “glorious”, “hair”, “domestic” and “drudgery”.) We’ll post something original soon – promise. Just as soon as we’ve stopped checking out our hair in the mirror and folding the laundry. (Often at the same time.)
(*It has dawned on us that all the free time afforded to us in Singapore by having helpers is basically used to text each other. We’re slightly ashamed of that. But only slightly.)
It’s summer holidays, which can only mean one thing: we are in our respective home countries, weeping with the effort of domesticity, salivating over incredible supermarket produce, and unable to find the time to either text, or post said non-existent texts. In times such as these, we do what all great artists do: reproduce earlier work…. This post is from this time last year, but is no less pertinent now than it was then.
This summer, as last, the island essentially empties of expat spouses and children, and becomes a forlorn expat wasteland, populated only by lone expat men roaming in packs, looking for comfort in their time of temporary familial abandonment. Some of these men, we are told, occasionally find themselves, late of an evening, in the environs of a large office/retail complex called Orchard Towers, the first four floors of which comprise bars favoured by prostitutes. This has earned the building the
misogynistic and offensive nickname “The Four Floors of Wh*res”. However you might describe it, it’s generally accepted that if you’re a man in that building after hours, you’re there for one reason only – and it’s not to eat dinner. (No matter *what* you might tell your wife…)
If you happen to find that you are THE LAST expat left in Singapore this summer, the upside (and there may be only one, unless you are really into spending your days gazing at everyone else’s amazing vacation photos on Facebook), is that there are a lot fewer people annoyingly taking up seats at lunchtime. And speaking of lunch, if you’re looking for a good sandwich, we’ve got two suggestions.
(Oh- and we have no ties to these places, aside from eating way too many of their sandwiches, and we receive nothing for saying we like them. We’re no Sandwich Whores, thanks very much.)
If you’re an expat living in Asia, but your whole family still lives on the other side of the world, you have no choice but to board a plane once a year, fly back to the land from whence your passport came, and show your increasingly-wrinkled / sun-kissed face. And if you have kids – 1 kid, 2 kids, 3, 7, it doesn’t matter how many, nor does it matter how old they are (NO ONE gets a pass) – still you go. If your husband has to stay behind to work, which means you’re doing this journey solo, STILL, you steel yourself and you go. And if your husband is able to join you, but is sitting up in Business Class while you sit in back with the kids, still, STILL you go (but you complain. In public whenever possible, FOREVER. True story.).
For all our expat sisters embarking on Homecoming trips this summer, we offer the following list of Things To Pack For A Long Haul Flight With Kids:
- A blanket. Because first of all, airborne hell is cold. And second, your kids will need somewhere to blow their noses, mop up their spilled juices, and dry mommy’s tears of exhaustion.
- Noise cancelling headphones. Because airplanes are noisy. And so are children.
- Snacks. Many, many snacks. In fact a snack trolley of one’s own would be ideal. Because 28 hours, and children.
- Lip balm. Because the entire day in dry, recycled air plays havoc on your kissers, and you don’t want to greet your whole family with a brush of dried corn husks on the cheek. Also, what is the baby going to snack on when you take your eyes off her for two minutes?
- A book. Nothing is better for keeping you occupied for the endless, endless hours than opening your book, reading one line, being distracted by your children demanding something inane, closing the book with an eye-roll and a muttered profanity, and repeating the exercise again in four minutes time, again and again.
- An eye mask. No, not for all the sleep you’ll be getting (obviously, silly). But at some point you might need to disguise yourself, so people don’t associate you with those maniacal children sitting beside you. Eye masks are the bomb for this.
- A sticker saying “Don’t Ask. Just Pour.” Wear this somewhere obvious- such as taped to your forehead, or tucked in to your eye mask at a jaunty angle- because after fifteen hours of pleading with your kids to stop wriggling and stop spilling and *just sleep FFS,* you won’t always have the verbal skills to ask for another shot of gin.
Good luck and godspeed, expat sisters. See you on the other side.
(Ps: some of you might recognise this Textpat exchange from last summer. Apologies for the duplications. In our defence (a) it is as pertinent now as it was then; and (b) after 30 hours’ travel with kids- this is the best you’re going to get from us…)
It’s the time of year when all expats suddenly drop everything they’re doing and flee the Little Red Dot for the summer holidays. Some have their bags packed the moment school lets out and are boarding planes before the rest of us have even emptied the final school backpacks. Others of us hang about a bit longer, enjoying the relative quiet in Tanglin mall, the absence of traffic on Orchard, and the ease of parking in every mall. We all, however, eventually show up at Changi, full of caffeine and dogged determination that we will survive the next 15-48 hours of travel, dragging excited children and more suitcases than seems reasonable under any circumstances.
Having been around this particular block a few times, we suggest 5 things every expat should pack for the summer holidays:
1. Your helper. Well yes- we know she’s not a “thing.” Don’t be pedantic. Our point is, you’re going to miss her (and her cooking, and her child-minding, and the adorable way she folds your clean underwear into triangles- shit you’re going to miss clean underwear, full stop). So if you can bring her, do. And if you can’t, start practicing your undergarment origami.
2. No clothes. Because there are no Seasons here and as a result, you’ve been wearing the same clothes for a year, damnit. Don’t think no one’s noticed. So the minute you walk into your favorite shop back home, you’re going to buy tons of clothes. Save yourself the effort and don’t bother packing any.
3. No gifts. (Should this have been a list of Things Not To Pack? Maybe. Too late now though.) Don’t bring gifts. Because no one in America wants a Tangs elephant and no one in London wants a set of lacquer chopsticks. So don’t bother. Unless you’re Japanese, or going to Japan, in which case, Thing To Pack: LOTS of gifts.
4. Exercise gear. Because 7 weeks of dining out and celebrating and drinking and eating your mother’s cooking will wreck your svelte Singapore physique. So run a lap or two around the block once in a while this summer. That way you won’t have to spend the month of August at boot camp.
5. An empty suitcase – see # 2.