Staying abroad really takes a lot from you. It takes a lot of courage to be isolated and stay among people who even don’t look alike. There are remarkable challenges such as language difference, cultural difference and lifestyle change, and even a changed calendar where there is an unknown list of holidays and festivals to celebrate.
Well, I am sharing a true story with you as I am labeled as a trailing spouse. Yes, the term may hurt some but in my case the story is different. I recollected my identity as a trailing spouse and regained my original being here. To give you a brief, I am an Indian and currently stay in Singapore for the last 2 years with my spouse and child. Like most other women from our society, I also choose family over myself and decided to settle with my husband. Well, in my case I was quite happy to relocate to Singapore. But as soon as I stepped into this new place called home, I started realizing the worth of my native. I was never homesick until I realized that I am away from home.
For the initial days, it was only fun and celebration as we were visiting new places, doing fun things and so on. I really love this place for many reasons and especially because I got to recollect myself here. My daughter was only three when we first came here. She started her schooling at a local school (finding a school for her was quite a task). As my household chores were not overwhelming and my husband is immensely supportive, I could easily takeout time for myself. Surrounded by beautiful people I realized home away from home. Slowly but steadily I became a part of the community here and participated in each event and celebration.
Unlike our regular practice back in India, I learned how to utilize your time in something constructive. To support my statement I will surface some examples which we practice to complement and appreciate each other’s abilities here.
Formal meeting at the clubhouse
At first, we started with a small get together at each other’s house. After a couple of meetings we though we are missing out on the entire group and we must formally invite all over an organized meetup. But there must be some purpose which will facilitate us in some way. With the assistance of amazing people around me, there were interesting games organized, food, fun, true stories, worries, likings and many more were shared amongst us. All of us felt connected. The main motive behind all the activities was to know each other better. Not to discourage or backbite others’ disabilities but appreciating one’s expertise and even respect their hard work. It gave all of us confidence, which is way beyond the label of a trailing spouse.
Celebrating festivals together
As we grew together, we made sure to celebrate different festivals together. Before coming here, I was unaware of the Chinese New Year and other celebrations that are prominent here in Singapore. I love the way Singapore celebrates each festival with the same enthusiasm throughout the year. In the case of our kids, it was difficult for them to know our culture and how we celebrate them. We started organizing events where we would meet during Diwali, Holi, and so on. My daughter was super excited to wear an India attire during Racial Harmony Day, celebrated in her school. And here I am not talking about Indians only. I remember when we celebrated Holi last year, we had friends from Germany and they enjoyed the same way as we did.
Yes! You heard it right. We babysit or take care of each other’s child in case of emergencies, medical issues or even when the mom keeps busy, the other moms come up for help. I take immense joy in inviting kids at my home as they get to play together and I along with my daughter participate in the same. I have also been facilitated many times by my friends as they took care of my child many times. Recently one of a friend delivered her second child. We were worried and assured her of help anytime she needs. Though help was needed much after the childbirth with her first kid.
Learning new things from each other
Some of us are a fabulous cook and others appreciate their talent. We agree not everybody go out and work. Independence and freedom mean to live your dreams which can be baking a cake for your family or going out for work, and that’s completely a personal choice. A few days ago I was chilling with my daughter at the poolside when I saw an acquaintance helping another friend with guidance for her new course she has taken up. I was overwhelmed to see the supportive nature of people here.
The list is more than I could explain, but there are many things which you need to accept with time and only then you could find fulfillment and happiness. It has been more than two springs that I haven’t visited my family back in my country. I was really homesick. I understand that many of us feel so at a certain time. It is indeed true that we can never get everything that we want. Here are a few tips which can make your expat living better and make you feel connected to the place called home.
- Accept the truthBy this I mean we have to accept, that for years we cannot see our parents or cannot visit our home with which we were attached for all these years. Finding happiness in small things becomes crucial at this point.
- Nurture your relationship- What better time you get than this? Be it establishing an eternal bond with your spouse or your child, you have all the time for it (without any intervention).
- Establish valued for your child- Living abroad gives you an open perspective from where you can see a broader picture of the world. Today when we establish our values into our children, it is indeed essential to offer them openness and acceptance which makes them a humble person.
- Find time for self- Go for activities which you dreamt of, but could perform seldom due to responsibilities, barriers, and many other issues. Take up a hobby or do something which you have longed for years or even decades. For me, I took up writing. I used to write personal diary every day and that is something I cherish. In my expat life, I got enough time to nurture my skills and take up writing seriously.
- Participate in every celebration- Make every moment memorable as your stay in that country or place that can be shorter than expected. The time spent abroad can be the golden moments of your life which will never come back. Therefore you must participate and enjoy every celebration and make the most out of it. It also gives you enough opportunities to learn and grow together.
- Make new friends- You will meet various people coming from different countries. With time, friendship will only be maintained through social media.
- Make it a beautiful memory to cherish- Make every moment count with your family and spend time with friends that you have made newly to celebrate the beauty within you and to appreciate the same in others.
Through all these years I realized that home is where your family is and that is true. I try and learn something new every day, try to make people smile around me, extend a helping hand, and of course work towards creating an inseparable bond between my family and that’s what makes my identity something above a trailing spouse.