By James Candappa.
Working for Wadkins Associates for a number of years in London, I helped many people move from London to Asia. This prompted our decision to open an office in Singapore, and in November 2018 I had to move myself!
Singapore was relatively familiar as I had been focused on the APAC region from London for some time and, fortunately, I had the opportunity to travel here for work. But of course, visiting a place and moving to a place are two very different things.
The concept of leaving friends and family behind can be daunting to say the least – but living somewhere international and having the opportunity to travel and be immersed in different cultures has always been something I wanted from life.
Having seen a fair chunk of Asia prior to making the move, I viewed Singapore as a bit of a halfway house – indeed, I had often heard it described as ‘Asia for beginners.’
From the second you get off the plane and go into Singapore’s futuristic airport, there is a strong feeling of East meets West. This is not the sensory overload you can get when travelling elsewhere in Asia. Even on my first trip here, Singapore somehow felt familiar straight away.
It is this blend of the familiar and the new that I felt would ease my move to the region. I also felt that Singapore is well positioned for more culturally immersive short, medium and long trips to the less ‘westernised’ parts of Asia. Now that I’ve been here for almost a year, I can happily say that my hunch was right!
Singapore never felt alien to me and, by and large, it has been a seamless transition and an altogether easy place to live.
I had the benefit of knowing a few people (candidates, clients and one old friend from school), but ultimately, I moved on my own to an office of one (to start with) and no social life here. Yet in a surprisingly short period of time I managed to find my feet, meet some great people and feel very much at home here.
In London I was very settled. I had enough great friends, from school, uni and work. I had my family and I had a job that I was good at in a market that I understood 100%. Moving to Singapore was a leap.
Familiarity can breed complacency and, while I was fairly confident on my social skills, the concept of making a whole new group of friends was pretty daunting. Making friends is a skill set that hasn’t really been tested in my world since day one of university – and that felt like something of a cheat given that everyone is in the same boat and really open to forging new friendships.
I thought that going to a new country in my mid 30’s, hardly knowing anyone, and without that ‘18-year-old confidence’ and youth on my side, I would be doomed to a pretty lonely existence!
However, Singapore makes it easier for you. Perhaps it’s the transient nature of the place, and the personality types of people who will make an international move, that makes it is far easier to make friends than one might assume. The key is having the right mindset yourself.
The Ex-Pat community is open to new faces, and the local community are friendly and easy to get on with. Also, and importantly, both communities (at least to my experience) integrate heavily.
There is a lot to learn and understand. Some things are very different than the UK and good advice is absolutely key. Where to live, where buy groceries, who to bank with, where to go out, what the best networking groups are…the list goes on! But from my experience of being here, people are very welcoming and helpful to new arrivals.
If you’re interested in moving to Singapore, feel free to get in touch with me and I’ll gladly pass on whatever knowledge I have accumulated since moving here.