“Every person I know who’s moved to Singapore – be it friends from the UK, France, Sweden or anywhere else, really – told me that the plan was to stay here for two years. Somehow, everyone ends up staying for about 10 years. I’ve been here for eight years.
I’m from Finland, and when I was approaching the adult age of 17, I already knew that the city I grew up in wasn’t enough for me. As a Finn, you have this dream of living somewhere warm, and Singapore – being an English-speaking country – seemed easy to approach.
Even though I hadn’t been to Asia before, I decided to move to Singapore after studying in the UK for two years. When I eventually got here, I immediately knew that it would take some time to get used to a new way of life.
I’ve almost forgotten all of the struggles that I had experienced because I’ve been here for so long, but obviously there was a huge cultural difference that I needed to adjust to. It also took some time to find people whom I could really connect with.
I enjoy music, and through clubbing, I was lucky enough to meet people who became really good friends. The clubbing scene is quite small in Singapore, and after a while, you bump into the same people at the same places.
My focus back then was to make connections and see where they would take me, and I met a French girl who landed me my first job here. Gradually, I made friends with more and more Singaporeans. I’m fortunate because they avoid using the word ‘expat’ when referring to me.
It’s funny. Even after eight years, I still get the occasional taxi uncle asking if I’m here visiting. Obviously, when you look so different and stand out from the crowd, people have some sort of assumption that you’re not from here. It can get quite frustrating.
Do I feel properly integrated? I’ve gathered some really interesting thoughts about that over the years, but I can say there are similarities between Singaporean and Finnish culture. Finns don’t really do small talk, and I feel like Singaporeans are comfortable with silence too.
I’ve also discovered my love for food here. It’s become a passion rather than just a source of energy. I love bak kuh teh, Teo Chew porridge and nasi padang. If I had a bad lunch, I’ll be bummed out the whole day. I guess I’ve become very Singaporean that way.” – Heidi, 30
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