The things they don’t tell you about working overseas

It’s not a bed of roses.

By He Ruiming | March 16, 2017

For many young Singaporeans, working overseas is fashionable. The whole idea of experiencing new cultures and seeing the world while earning a decent pay check can be pretty enticing.

But beneath all the pictures of instagrammable snow-covered streets and the expat-bubble life (i.e. – jetting around to visit exotic places and meeting lots of interesting new people), there are many important lessons from your time abroad that will change how you see Singapore.

You learn what it’s like to be a minority

If you’re a Chinese person in Singapore, this is one of the most important lessons you can learn overseas. Find out first-hand what it’s like to be the only Chinese person hanging out in the pantry. Learn what it’s like to be left out of conversations because you don’t speak the language.

When you come back to Singapore, you’ll understand the struggles of your non-Chinese friends differently.


Image from here

You won’t always earn more

Sorry to burst the bubble. After paying for rent, food and your other fancy expat recreational activities, you’ll find that you might have saved more living with your parents in Singapore eating home cooked food.

You will change your impression of expats once you become one

This is a strange one. When expats come to Singapore, we see them as taking our jobs. But when Singaporeans go overseas, we’re just seizing opportunities for ourselves.

The fact is that you’ll be no different from the ‘foreign talent’ that come to Singapore. People whose skills are in demand are paid a premium to uproot themselves to come over (that’s why you don’t see expats doing data entry).

People seek better work opportunities, and there will always be some underlying tension with locals who think you’re stealing jobs – it’s the same everywhere.

Guess what? You are also foreign talent. image from here

You will learn that Singaporeans have still got plenty to learn

You might think this is obvious, but truth is there are many Singaporeans that think that there’s only one way to do things – and that’s the way they’ve been brought up with.

Singapore gets many things right, but there is still a lot to learn from the rest of the world.

Sure, we have one of the finest airports, a pretty decent public transport system and safe streets. But spend some time abroad and you’ll realise that being a country is more than those.

Are Singaporeans good at expressing their emotions? At being gracious? At accepting the differences between different groups of people? Adopting sustainable practices?

You will be surprised to learn that there’s plenty to learn from your host country – or the foreign talents that come to Singapore.

You learn that your dream cities are not perfect

In some countries, people complain about their high taxes (up to 35% if you earn up to $180,000 a year). They also struggle with massive jams daily (which are way worse than our peak hour expressway jams), and pollution that makes haze look like harmless mist.

In some other countries, you even have to pay protection money so people will stop harassing your business. The only lesson to learn? There will be things you don’t like about every country, it’s just a matter of taking it in your stride. If things really get unbearable, or there are better opportunities elsewhere, there is no shame in leaving.

Or coming back home.

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Unless stated otherwise, all images are from Getty

About He Ruiming

He Ruiming wrote about friskiness in his Yahoo! News column, mishandles the 3rd most overrated website in Singapore and can pronounce “tchotchke”.

Don’t follow him. He’s not Jesus.

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