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Where in the world: Singapore

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Ever wondered what it would be like to relocate to Singapore? Harriet de Swiet, MD at Brand Learning tells Emily Sexton-Brown about her international career move...

Why did you move to Singapore?

To take on a new professional opportunity for myself and to play a new leadership role and grow Brand Learning’s business. I also wanted to have an adventure with my husband and kids before they grow up and leave home.

How long have you lived in Singapore?

Only a few weeks, although I’ve been commuting here for the last 18 months.

What were the main culture differences did you find?

There is a really different energy here. It’s more forward looking with a real sense of possibility and new horizons.

Do you think this move has enhanced your career, if so, how so?

It’s too early to say! But I figure nothing ventured, nothing gained.

How did you feel about the move?

I was very sad about leaving home, friends and family – but hugely excited about the opportunities ahead. The whole process and scale of the logistics of the move were a great distraction from the emotions!

How has your family coped with the move?

They’ve truly embraced it! Teenagers are a wonderful age as they really go for it, and technology now makes it much easier for them to stay in touch with their friends.

What do you do in your spare time?

As yet, I don’t have much spare time! Church has been a great way to meet people, as have the schools – everyone is super friendly and welcoming. In fact you wind up having dinner with semi-strangers because someone has introduce you by three degrees of separation.

What advice would you give others moving to Singapore?

Everyone says there are three phases – euphoria, misery and acceptance – and it’s much better to assume this will happen than try and fight it. There is a huge amount of online support available so read all the forums and blogs – they are genuinely useful.

I miss … Friends and family that have known me for years rather than ten minutes; The Guardian newspaper (although thank heavens for the app); and wearing boots, thick tights and a winter dress. The kids would also add breakfast cereal to the list.

I don’t miss … The political agenda in the UK.

What is the best... ?

Restaurant? 

Go for the Hawker Stalls – they are all over Singapore and have a huge selection of Indian, Chinese, Malay and Pernakan cuisine. It’s very cheap and can feel noisy and chaotic, but have the courage to jump in – the results are inevitably worth it. Thunder Tea Rice is an easy first step.

Tourist attraction?
 
It’s not a tourist attraction per se, but The Pinnacles is a big favourite of ours – several blocks of flats, connected by a sky-high walkway with a garden on top. The views are stunning and it’s the world’s tallest public housing building.

Activity? 

I’ve always loved swimming and here I can go twice a day – although it does mean having to keep the video off on conference calls back to the UK in the evening!

Place to meet other expatriates? Everywhere! School, condos, online all work. It’s very easy, although expats don’t live in specific expat-designated complexes like they do in some other cities in Asia.

Shopping?

It’s Singapore’s national pastime. The huge malls are essentially like air-conditioned high streets and are used to get out of the heat. But there is often nowhere to sit down, so put on comfy shoes.

Emily  Sexton-Brown

By Emily Sexton-Brown

Emily is the commissioning editor at Changeboard

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