Expat life in Singapore was great but it’s even better being home

After 12 years in Asia we wanted a slower pace of life, so we moved home with our young kids

‘Moving home to Ireland felt like going back to basics. We had to set everything up from scratch again.’

‘Moving home to Ireland felt like going back to basics. We had to set everything up from scratch again.’

 

Our family had a great lifestyle in Singapore, but we always knew we would move home. So last year we did, after 12 years in Asia. I will always love the excitement and buzz of exotic Asian cities, but it was time for us to go.

Like so many of our expat friends, we felt in a constant state of limbo in Singapore, never fully settled. And juggling demanding Asian working hours with twin toddlers was a struggle. After eight years there we wanted a slower pace of life.

As previous teachers, education played a major part in our decision to leave. We didn’t want the twins to go to a local school; despite the high scores they achieve, we didn’t want the strict Chinese schooling philosophy for our little ones, or for the local “Singlish” dialect to creep in.

International schools are extremely expensive, and the standards at some of them are questionable. We also knew once the twins started school, it would be harder to relocate them; they were only three years old but already had a big gang of friends.

I’m a believer in the Chinese saying, “No pain, no gain” and having to change, or challenge yourself throughout life. We saw an opportunity to go home and we went for it, and were back in Ireland just two months later. It was stressful to say the least. Some days, looking out at the bleak winter weather, we wondered what we had done.

Working abroad, you learn to be dynamic and a self-starter. You have to be, otherwise you end up without a network, which is particularly important. But moving home to Ireland felt like going back to basics. We had to set everything up from scratch again; find a house, organise a car, arrange tax numbers, register with doctors, and all the other administrative tasks that take ages after living away for so long.

It hasn’t been a smooth ride, but we made the decision we felt was right and we always knew there would be obstacles. Also, it would have been much harder to do this with older children.

We survived our first Irish winter last year, so I think we are over the worst part. At first our children wouldn’t leave the house and had no clue what was going on. They had been used to playing outside for hours every day, going swimming and to the beach. They have settled now and love spending time with their relatives, and playing in their new home and garden.

Family pop by all the time for a cuppa. Spring and summer has been spent attending weddings and going on trips to rediscover Ireland again, and taking holidays with Nana and Papa.

We’re getting into gardening and aiming for a mint forest; funnily everyone seems to have an opinion on growing mint. The sense of community in Ireland is strong and we love that.

Many of our expat friends in Singapore also want to move home to where they are from. And these people live amazing lives as expats in Asia, with condos, pools, home help, champagne brunches and regular trips to Bali or Bondi.

Some worry about getting work of the same level, having a different outlook to people who have never left, or not being able to fit in again, but nearly all of them have a plan to do it at some stage in the not too distant future.

We look out onto the beauty of the naturally green Irish landscape now and feel refreshed, not worn out. It’s easy to understand why others would want the same.

We’ve no regrets so far. It hasn’t been easy, but no pain, no gain. Ireland is more beautiful than I remembered, and for our family, this is the time to be here.

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