Many people think that being an expat is like being on vacation: You earn an extravagant salary, have drinks before 5 in the evening, and wow everyone with your fancy accent and fantastic travel adventures. It’s what many would like to think! Fact is, an expat is a hardy survivor who also had to leave the comfort of home, family, friends and familiar routines behind, and make many sacrifices, in order to move abroad. Homesickness can take many forms—it can be a twinge of nostalgia that’s easily remedied by a Skype session or a phone call, or it can be so debilitating that you end up quitting your assignment abroad to move home.
The feeling of homesickness is further exacerbated during the holiday season, as it’s usually the time normally spent with family and friends. Team Expat knows the feeling, having been there and missed so much back home! We also know from experience, that the best coping mechanism for homesick blues is trying something new—developing a new set of routines that can distract you from dwelling on sad thoughts and keep you optimistic about sticking out the rest of your assignment abroad.
For the one who equates food with home
Often, homesickness has a lot to do with missing food, since food is such an essential part of our lives. Besides, eating out in Singapore, especially when it comes to decent Western cuisine, can be costly if you’re doing it everyday, so why not learn how to make your own meals and at the same time, recreate a taste of your home in your home away from home?
You can easily teach yourself the basics of how to cook from cookbooks and the Internet, but if it’s still too difficult for you, check out Expat Kitchen for a wide range of courses available for everyone in Singapore, including foodies, helpers, and kids. Once you’ve learnt most of the basics, you can ask your parents for the recipe to their super secret sauce!
For the one who loves taking photos of his food, his dog, his new shoes
Since you’re already avidly (or addictively) photographing everyone and everything around you to share with your family, friends and online social network, why not turn it into a full-fledged hobby? Indulging in photography will not only help you see the world in a different light, but also discover new places and sights that you otherwise would not pay attention to had you not been in search for that perfect shot.
Consider signing up for some photography classes or read some photography manuals (you can easily find them in bookstores such as Kinokuniya or the National Library). Professional camera brands such as Canon or Nikon provide classes and training sessions to teach respective owners how to make the best use of them, so consider joining those as well. Of course, there is no better teacher than experience, so we put together a list of articles that will help you in your search for inspirational places:
For the fitness addict
If there’s anything that could possibly exacerbate your homesickness, sitting around at home would definitely be it. So why not sign up for some classes or a training programme at your nearby gymnasium or fitness centre? Joining classes is also a good way to meet new people and make friends, AND you to stay healthy and fit in the process. It has also been said that exercise helps keep depression at bay, so what are you waiting for? Our resident health expert, James Forrester, is the current owner of UFIT (Urban Fitness) in Singapore; so if you need personal advice or fitness tips, please don’t hesitate to connect with him here.
If you’re not sure where to start, here is a list of fitness centres worth checking out:
Virgin Active Singapore – part of the Virgin Group founded by Sir Richard Branson
Anytime Fitness – 24 hour gyms
For the movie enthusiast
Watching movies is one of the more common hobbies a person can have, which makes for less awkward moments when meeting new people as you can always ask them if they’ve watched a recent or a currently showing movie. The Movie Club Singapore is a legitimate thing you can join to meet other movie lovers, and they often organise a variety of activities for members that sometimes do not include movie watching, such as karaoke, hiking and games. If your first language is not English, watching movies also helps you stay in contact with your roots, and vice versa; watching local movies so that you can assimilate better to Singapore culture. There will always be a constant stream of movies and television shows, which will keep you occupied for many months to come.
For the linguaphile
If you have time to spare, why not learn or teach yourself a new language? Aside from English, Mandarin is widely spoken in Singapore, and it’s the most spoken language in the world, so being able to converse in Mandarin will let you add a valuable new skill to your CV and assimilate into the local community more easily. When you learn a new language, you basically learn a new culture, because you’ll learn different ways of conveying an expression, experience different mediums such as Mandarin television shows, movies, and music, as well as communicate better with the locals.
Here are a few of the more popular schools among expats that offer Mandarin lessons:
Elite Linguistic Network – You can learn to speak Chinese, Japanese, and Korean here
This doesn’t mean that you HAVE to learn to speak Mandarin—the world’s your oyster and you could pick up any language you like! It is also possible to self-teach if you’re disciplined enough, and if you’d prefer it this way, some useful sources to check out are Duolingo, Pimsleur, and WordReference.
For the creative homebody in you
If you’re more of an indoors person, then you might want to indulge your inner creativity and take up yarncrafting, such as crocheting or knitting. You can easily find tutorials online or sign up for classes, such as Crochet an Amigurumi from SGD 90, or join a crocheting or knitting community, like Yarn Bombing Singapore. There are many health benefits to yarncrafting, which you can read up on here, including reducing anxiety and cure insomnia. Plus, you can get to crochet or knit late Christmas gifts for your family—there’s no better gift than a homemade one, we assure you.
For the gamer in you
If all of the hobbies above seems like huge commitments or gasp! work, playing video games online is a casual and fun way to pass the time, de-stress, and stay connected with your friends, or board games if you want to meet new people. There are many Massive Multiplayer Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) out there, although you would need to invest in a console or a PC, unless you don’t mind spending time at a cybercafé or live near one. For more physical games, The Singapore Boardgames Meetup has monthly meetings that you can join. However, playing games can get very addictive after a while, especially if you’re playing to win, so be careful not to get too sucked in or you can say goodbye to having a life.
We hope this article can help expats in Singapore seize every new day in their adopted home. If you have a cool new hobby to add that will interest our expat readers, feel free to share it below!