The installment of parenting abroad is brought to you by Beverly Burgess, a blogger and marketer extraordinaire. Beverly lives in Singapore with her three boys: husband Chris, and sons Hunter (4) and Carter (almost 3). Beverly has also lived in Australia and China, which is where her first son was born.
Giving birth in Shanghai
Both my husband’s and my companies moved us to Shanghai to look after regional operations, which was an unforgettable experience for us. We had a huge culture and language shock, but loved our time there.
My pregnancy was a bit of a surprise, and none of our friends were pregnant or had children, so I really stood out – we still went out clubbing when I was full term! I was out daily and out jogging three times a week until the day I went into labour, much to the shock of the locals – I was told it’s uncommon for local women to venture outside when they’re in their 3rd trimester.
I gave birth in an expat hospital and the care given was superior to any other country. It was absolute luxury, but did cost almost US$20k!
As I gave birth during winter, we had to deal with a newborn in sub-zero celsius weather. We were always bundled up and baby bath time was a real headache. Thankfully, we lived in the middle of the city so everything was within a few mins walk. I could easily pop outside to pick up a few groceries and get my hair washed and blow dried (which cost only about U$8).
Moving from Shanghai to Singapore
My husband’s company transferred us to Singapore when our son Hunter was 4 months old, and I made the decision to quit my job to be a full-time mum. It was the right decision for us – Singapore’s air quality is much better, and we found everything simpler and cleaner.
Pregnancy in Shanghai vs in Singapore
The stark contrast of being pregnant in Singapore was very evident to me when I was pregnant with our second child, Carter. Seeing a pregnant woman in Singapore is fairly common, so no one pays much notice. In China, being pregnant meant having a lot of people (especially the older folk) fawn over you – I felt like I was having a royal baby there!
Childbirth in a Singapore hospital meant having access to one of the world’s greatest health care, but also felt like a production line in comparison to the extremely personal service in Shanghai where there were only 2 to 3 women staying in the maternity ward, and 6 nurses on staff.
Adjusting to life in Singapore
Singapore is easy living, it’s fun for singles and safe and accessible for families. Everyone speaks English and it boasts excellent restaurants, shops and kid-friendly activities. I haven’t heard any parent complain about making the move to Singapore! The expat population is huge and our area is also very multicultural, so our neighbours are Europeans, Australians, Americans, Japanese, etc.
Water play is HUGE in Singapore, thanks to the constant heat and humidity year round. We swim 3-4 times a week, go to water playgrounds, and have lots of pool parties with friends. Singapore also has indoor playgrounds galore, which you can often find us at. And, of course, dining – take your pick of any cuisine you feel like eating, and there’ll be a restaurant serving it near by!
Safe and accessible
Everything is easily accessible, malls and restaurants are almost all very family friendly, and the weather is always warm. It’s also an extremely safe country with low crime rates, something that we really appreciate now that we’re parents.
The school system
The local school system is (in)famous for being notoriously cut throat. Grade One kids come home with homework (and wait til you see the level of knowledge they’re expected to have!), and primary school children are known for going straight from school, to enrichment classes or tuition, to going home to do homework. There is little time for simple things like going to the playground.. and they’re only seven years old!
Raising multicultural eaters
Singapore is so multicultural that we eat the world’s cuisine, as I like to call it. We cook a lot of pastas, roasts, and also rice dishes.
Singapore is also renowned for their hawker centres, where you’ll find delicious food stalls at great prices. Some of the top choices for local food are Hainanese Chicken Rice, Laksa noodles, and Chicken Satay. They’re delicious!
What’s surprising is that, despite being in Asia, a lot of Singaporeans go on holidays in Europe, America, and other countries on the other side of the world! Singaporeans love to travel.
But if we want to stay closer to home (and spare us all a painful long-haul flight), then popping over to places like Bali, Hong Kong or Japan is an excellent choice since there are often cheap deals on flights to these places.
It was very easy to make friends with our neighbours, who are almost all expats and eager to make new friendships. It’s unfortunately much harder to go beyond a casual acquaintance with a local, because many have deep set friendships with people they went to school with and have always hung out with all these years. It can be extremely cliquey and they generally will not invite an ‘outsider’ to hang out with their old school gang!
Kids and discipline
Singaporean children do display better discipline, due to the intensity and expectations of being in a local school. In general, though, Singaporeans are quite a blessed bunch and almost every family has a domestic helper to do all the household chores and cooking, so the children are very fortunate that they are usually not expected to help out at home!
Parenting and societal norms
It’s normal for both parents to work in Singapore, and to work long hours. Because of this, time with their children is precious, so parents are willing to splurge on amusement parks, childrens plays, and dining with their kids. I’ve never seen more families out shopping and eating with very young children (especially late at night) than I have in Singapore!
Because both parents often work, Singaporean kids usually have a late bed time. Toddlers can sleep at 10PM! My kids are actually an anomaly as they have a 7PM bedtime (my husband and I really value our adult-only peace and quiet!).
Beverly Burgess is a social media addict, having worked in the online space for 7 years at Microsoft and eBay. Having blogged for over two decades across Australia, China and now Singapore, Beverly entered an alternate universe at warp speed when she went from career-driven shopaholic and social butterfly … to juggling being a wife and a mother of two kids.
All within three years.
The career is now replaced with the privilege of being a full-time mum, but the urge to shop and socialize still remains (albeit with two obliging children in tow).
And, she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Linking up with Bron and Karin.
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!