It’s apparently SUPPOSED to be the “cool season” here. If someone could pass on that little piece of info to our sweat glands- and also the sun- that’d be fab. In the meantime, you now know where to find us (well- at least one of us. The other is hiding in a corner somewhere furiously sniffing her own pits).
We all get the Expat Blues from time to time. And we all have our own ways of bouncing back. Some start planning their next exotic vacay. Some throw themselves into a new hobby (like mah jong or jogging or bitter complaining and day drinking). And some seek out amazing new local discoveries…
(PS We have no ties whatsoever to this or any other e-commerce company. If we did, our pools would have so many amazing rafts, they’d look like the salad bar at the American Club.)
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.
It’s easy to fall into a rut no matter where you live, and even more so when you live in a well-insulated and very comfy little Expat Bubble. Pretty soon one finds oneself eating at the same places, talking to the same people, doing the same thing, week after week. So every once in a while, one of us really tries to break free and try something new. Often, it’s wonderful and fascinating and enlightening. And sometimes we end up running back to our Bubble and cowering inside…
It used to be a common complaint amongst expats that there was nowhere to get a decent cup of coffee. This was loudest heard from our antipodean friends who lamented the lack of hipster cafes so common in their homelands. Well lament no longer, Sheilas: the hipster cafe invasion has well and truly taken hold. These days it’s impossible to just get a filter coffe or a cuppa tae. But a hand-pressed deconstructed French flat-white served in a test-tube? Would you like sugar with that?
You’ll often hear expats here saying that Singapore has ‘everything’. And it really does – if by ‘everything’ you mean ‘everything you could ever hope for from a tiny tropical country sitting smack on the Equator’. Just occasionally, tho, it would be nice if ‘everything’ didn’t include ferocious prehistoric beasts who are adverse to day-trippers…