Danish Expat Living in Singapore - Expat Interview with Mathilde

Published: 1 May at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Singapore
After years of globe trekking, Mathilde finally found peace in the idyllic Danish family-setting in Copenhagen: good job, nice apartment, happy children in schools and grandparents/close friends just around the corner... But for Mathilde and her boyfriend Thomas, the idyllic life lacked that extra pinch of spice!
A much talked about dream came true in February '14, when they quit their flat, job and safe environment and exchanged it for a new adventure in South-East Asia.
Read here, how the first 6 weeks have been for the family of four in Singapore! Mathilde's expat blog is called Singapaws (see listing here)

Philip and Sienna getting ready for kindergarten - we drive there in our rented car
Philip and Sienna getting ready for kindergarten - we drive there in our rented car

Here's the interview with Mathilde...

Where are you originally from?
Born and bred in Denmark! In the first 15 and past 10 years of my life I've had a steady address in my native country. In between, I've managed to explore the world as much as possible - went to school and university in England, studied in New Zealand and spent a year backpacking in South America and Australia.

In which country and city are you living now?

How long have you lived in Singapore and how long are you planning to stay?
6 weeks - hoping to stay for at least 3 years.

There are many events in Singapore - here we're at Asias largest air-show!
There are many events in Singapore - here we're at Asias largest air-show!
Why did you move to Singapore and what do you do?
My boyfriend Thomas and I have both lived abroad before, but never together and never as a family. Since we met 7 years ago, we've been talking about this adventure, and now with the kids being 2 and 4, we thought it would be a good time to go!
We brought out a map and looked at pros and cons on all the countries that appealed to us. We chose Singapore for its location, its safety and for the opportunities the country could bring work wise.
My boyfriend is an entrepreneur and his 2 colleagues gave their thumbs up for him to push the company product in in Asia. I quit my job as an editor on a primetime tv-programme and now hoping to do freelance work here, writing and producing.

Did you bring family with you?
Yes, Thomas, Philip (4) and Sienna (2).

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
It's early days, but 6 weeks in, I'm finding it surprisingly easy. There's been a lot of to-do's in this start-up phase and you have to work your way around the system which is different to Denmark of course.
However, it's very easy to blend in in Singapore. The country has always been multi-cultural, so you don't feel like a stranger or like it'll be a struggle to 'fit in'. The fact that Singapore has a big expat-community plays a part of course - I'm just one of the many :-)
The climate is very different, but it beats the 8 months of cold and darkness Denmark has to offer!

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
We're lucky that we already had quite a few contacts out here before we arrived. And the people that you hardly knew before, you quickly get to know quite well! All expats have been in your shoes before you, so most seem very open to invite you into their lives. A coffee is always on offer even although you only know the person through a mutual acquaintance or you've met him/her briefly many years ago.
For now, my new 'friends' are mainly Danish, but I'm definitely hoping to get a wider range of nationalities in our social circles in the future.

You'll find that supermarkets prioritize differently here. Not so surprising, rice is available in many shapes and sizes!
You'll find that supermarkets prioritize differently here. Not so surprising, rice is available in many shapes and sizes!
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
In our first 6 weeks we've lived in a serviced apartment just off Bukit Timah Road, not far from Sixth Avenue. Turf Club Road is full of activities for children and adults: football, horse riding and gymnastics - and with some good eats too - "Roundhouse" to mention one. Just across from here are the Botanic Gardens and the small (and free) little paradise of nature for kids: "Jacob Ballas Children's Garden". Here, the kids can explore flowers and plants and run off steam on the playground and water play area.
Our local cuisine is good for greek food, "Blue", English/Indian: "Violet Oon's" and Italian pizza: "Pasta Fresca Da Salvatore" - all on Bukit Timah Road.

What do you enjoy most about living in Singapore?
The weather, the easy access to all-of-asia location, the multi ethnic community and the safety.

How does the cost of living in Singapore compare to home?
Whatever you heard about Singapore and costs, it's true! Denmark is expensive, but it doesn't come anywhere near Singapore... Apart from taxi's, parking and public transport, everything here is more expensive than in Denmark! Accommodation, cars and of course most sadly, wine ( ;-) is very pricy in comparison to most countries in the world.

Jacob Ballas in Singapore Botanic Gardens with our Danish friends - we found turtles underneath the giant waterlillies
Jacob Ballas in Singapore Botanic Gardens with our Danish friends - we found turtles underneath the giant waterlillies
What negatives, if any, are there to living in Singapore?
Cost of living and humidity.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Singapore, what would it be?
The order in which you make the move as a family:
1. Travel out before your move and find the school/kindergarten you want your kids to go to.
2. Move into a serviced apartment.
3. Spend the time you're waiting for your goods to look for your future home.
It's easier that way, because the school might indicate which area to look for a place + you have the time to find a nice future home.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Being a housewife, HA! All my life I've been studying or working, so it's always been a big part of my identity. I've given myself 4 months to settle though and I'd be surprised if my status won't change in my time here in Singapore.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
It seems a long way away having only just embarked on our adventure in Singapore. But I can imagine it'll be hard - the expat lifestyle so far seems very good; the schools a very high standard and the community a lot more exotic than at home. There'll always be pros and cons when living home or out, but the heavy-weight pro-side of home is of course - family and friends through a lifetime!

Almost a trademark of Singapore now - Marina Bay Sands Hotel - in front a selfie of our family :-)
Almost a trademark of Singapore now - Marina Bay Sands Hotel - in front a selfie of our family :-)
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Live the dream.
    If this is your dream, find your way to make it real. The opportunity rarely falls into your lap and your boss or spouse won't necessarily make it happen for you. If you really want it, do the research and take action yourself.
  2. Be brave.
    If you're a 'dependent' - quitting your job and moving to another country will be tough. But see it as an opportunity to open doors you hadn't even glanced at before.
  3. Be patient.
    When you've arrived, stay in the open-phase for longer than what you might be used to. Moving your life to a new country takes time. It's a long process to feel at home, to find friends, a job perhaps, getting your children settled + all the practicalities that comes with entering a new country and system. It means that you have to be patient and take one day at a time.
  4. Be active.
    Whether it's getting involved in your work-place, an organization, a sport, with your children or whatever options might be available, being active is the key word. If you want to feel fulfilled in your new life as an expat, you have to give your life meaning and only you can do that. Find out what could make you happy and work your way there.
  5. Look ahead.
    There will be bumps on the road, but you are the lucky one, living the dream many people would die for! Deal with the obstacles, but move on and look at all the amazing experiences you have ahead of you. Learn, put it behind you and live the dream!
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
Singapaws.dk tell the story of 'one culture meets another', Dane meets Singapore.
I see and write about the often humorous, curious and diverse culture clashes and the challenges they can be for a newcomer! The original 13th Century name for Singapore was "Singapura" - Lion City and also the name of the cat breed. Singapaws.dk is probably less aggressive than the lion, but as curious as a cat to scratch the surface!

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
On Singapaws.dk you can contact me at various social media or via email.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingMathilde is a Danish expat living in Singapore. Blog description: I'm a journalist, mother of 2 and recently moved with my family to Singapore. This blog explores these new grounds and how-do-it when you transport your family 10.000 km away to a new climate and culture and to a major contrast! - Mathilde
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