The first time you are tagged with the label ‘dependent spouse,’ it can be a bit of a shock. Adjusting to being without an income, colleagues, family and friends in a new country can be a challenge. Here are a few things that helped me to embrace living in Singapore and come to terms with being the trailing talent of the family.
1. Be honest
Lots of people love it here from the second they land; others don’t. While it’s good to stay positive, it’s ok to find it difficult and to say so. When I first arrived, so many cheery people told me how easy it is to live here. I found it really difficult. It wasn’t until I met someone who hated it here (and wasn’t afraid to say so) that I realised I needed to stop fake smiling, nodding and agreeing and admit that I didn’t like it. Somehow that helped.
2. Set a weekly entertainment budget
Don’t fall into the mind-set that if you aren’t earning you can’t spend. Your spouse’s salary should compensate somewhat for your loss of earnings, so allocate some money to spend on getting out and keeping busy.
If you do need to watch your pennies, there are plenty of ways to entertain yourself on the cheap:
•Explore hawker eating: The basement of Tanglin Mall is a good place to start if you find the idea a bit daunting.
•Explore the museums: The Singapore National Museum, Asian Civilisations Museum and the Peranakan Museum all have reasonable entry fees.
•Join one of the lower-cost groups in ANZA, such as Casual Coffee, Playgroup or Tennis.
•Explore the malls and window shop: Sounds frivolous but if you need to be out of the house in the middle of the day, they are cheerful, plentiful and air-conditioned.
•Explore the Botanic Gardens, National Parks, reservoirs or walk the Rail Trail.
3. Adjust the rhythm of your day
If you find yourself sitting around at the end of the day waiting for your spouse to arrive home (before pouncing on them for conversation the second you walk through the door), plan something active to do at that time. Plan your outdoor activities for the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the hottest times of the day. It sounds simple, but the day I realised I couldn’t do the grocery shop on foot at lunchtime was a turning point in my relationship with Singapore.
4. Make connections
You will meet some amazing people here and most people are very open to forming new friendships. Even long-term expats need to keep meeting new people to replace their friends that move on. Don’t assume that you will run into people again – exchange contact details with people you would like to meet again. In the absence of a business card it is common to have a personal name card or you can simply exchange telephone numbers.
5. Become a part of the community
In order to be happy living here, you need to create your own community. Engaging in the formal communities that you encounter will make such a difference to how happy you feel about living here. Joining an interest group, attending events and volunteering are great ways to get involved.
ANZA has over 20 interest groups with meetings running almost every day. They are found in the What’s On section of the website. Not every event that you attend will be full of like-minded people, but persevere; each event draws a different crowd and being part of the community will make a huge difference to how you will feel about being here as a dependent spouse. Many events are hosted, so seek out the coordinator if you need someone to chat to.
We have hundreds of volunteers working on supporting our charities, running groups, organising sporting activities and working in the office. ANZA Action provides an opportunity to volunteer with ANZA’s charitable work and can match volunteers to local community organisations. Volunteering and being involved can provide purpose and an identity in the community, which has given me the sense of belonging here.