Top Tips for the Expat Trailing Spouse
Form your core group of friendsA relocation offer to Singapore or elsewhere for one partner can often be the greatest opportunity for them and a giant leap forward in their career, however can also mean a significant trade-off for the other, often known as the ‘trailing spouse’. The term ‘trailing spouse’ seems to imply that you are simply following your partner, without the same sense of purpose or mission in life, when in fact it is more often than not the trailing spouse that has a significant role to play in the relationship and for the family.
Moving abroad to follow your partner for their career can be a significant sacrifice for many. It can mean giving up your current social life and circle of friends, seeing your family every weekend and even your own career, none of which are insignificant, which is why it’s so important that you start making the most of your time abroad as soon as you can.
You and your partner have made the decision to move and now it’s time to start planning to make the most of this opportunity. Singapore truly is the gateway to the rest of the world and provides plenty of opportunities for those willing to take advantage of them. I have put together my top tips for ‘trailing spouses’ looking to move to Singapore, both for those who are about to take the leap and relocate to Singapore, and for those who are already here and looking for ways to connect in the lion city.
Let’s start with planning for the move
1. Research the neighbourhoods and decide where you’d like to live
Singapore is a small island nation where neighbourhoods blend into one another rather easily. With the presence of a strong and incredibly efficient public transportation system, it does not require a lot of time to get from one destination to another. Each neighbourhood boasts a different personality and culture. Below are some of the more common expatriate hubs, which tend to be more popular given several features ranging from; distance to the CBD, public transport systems, bars and cafes in the area, entertainment hubs and so on.
- Robertson Quay
- Holland Village
- Tanjong Pagar
- East Coast
- Orchard / Somerset / Novena
- West Coast
2. Start connecting with other expats on social media
Australian expats in Singapore have one key attribute in common – we’re all experiencing something new by living in Singapore. This feeling of a shared experience means that the majority of Aussie expats will be more than happy to connect and share their experiences with you. The community tends to be very close and it can be quite easy to make new friends as long as you know where to look. For the female trailing spouses, the Facebook groups can be an excellent place to start connecting with like-minded expats in Singapore, and I’ve outlined a few of these below:
For the male trailing spouses, the choice of groups is somewhat scarce, but here is at least one option:
You can also join the Aussies in Singapore Facebook group with the link below:
3. Download the right tools and technology to stay connected
These days it is incredibly easy to stay connected (and in some cases too connected) with your friends and family back home thanks to technology. Ensure that you have all of tools you want to be able to video call your friends and family back home and stay connected via social media. Here are a few you may want to check out if you haven’t already:
4. If you’re planning to work in Singapore, do your research early
If you are planning to find a new role in Singapore when you arrive, it’s important that you do your research early and ensure that you have the right pass in place. For many trailing spouses, you will be on a Dependant Pass, which allows you to work providing you have the appropriate ‘Letter of Consent’ and have taken the necessary steps with the Ministry of Manpower. I would recommend reviewing the rules with the Ministry of Manpower to ensure you’re well informed.
5. Find the right professional networks to explore employment options
If you’re not quite sure what options are available to you in Singapore, and would like to make the move first before exploring opportunities, it can be a valuable option to identify the right networking opportunities to meet the right people. In addition to the Facebook groups highlighted above, there are some excellent networking opportunities through groups such as ANZA, Austcham and Internations has a range of groups and events that you can get involved with.
Let’s explore our top tips for those that are already in Singapore
1. Ensure that you and your family have the right health insurance in place
Health insurance solutions in Singapore for Australian expatriates can be received through work or purchased independently. However, it’s important to recognize that insurance for expatriates can appear rather costly in Singapore, particularly as there is no Medicare Levy that we pay when living in Australia. Luckily, there are global insurance companies that devise packages for expatriates to meet their needs at a much more affordable price. Coverage differs for each company, but it is advisable to obtain one from a reputable, comprehensive and worldwide provider.
BUPA provides international private medical insurance for Australian expatriates. The plans are tailored to ensure that Australian expatriates have peace of mind regarding health insurance. They can cover individuals, families and company employees.
Safe Meridian provides health insurance solutions in partnership with various insurers within the Asia Pacific. Globalis Plans are underwritten by QBE Insurance, one of the world’s largest, most stable insurers. Plans are designed to provide you with sustainable, cost-effective cover for the long-term, and to ensure you have access to the highest level of healthcare facilities.
AXA offers a comprehensive Health insurance plan, known as GlobalCare, which offers optimal worldwide coverage for hospitalisation, outpatient treatments, maternity expenses, vaccinations, dental, optical expenses and beyond.
MSIG offers insurance plans that are tailored for expatriates. It has high cover limits of up to S$3 million to cater to the different lifestyles of individuals.
InterGlobal is an award-winning provider of international private medical insurance (IPMI). They provide tailored medical care cover to thousands of people in many locations around the world. In Singapore, InterGlobal offers the UltraCare insurance plans for expatriates in Singapore. They are specifically designed to accommodate globally mobile clients.
Enjoy one of the world’s most efficient public transport systems
The MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) is a train service that branches across Singapore. Each station is approximately 2 minutes apart. The MRT provides a very efficient transport service and is kept relatively clean to ensure that commuters have a pleasant ride. Trains are readily available and during working hours on weekdays it’s highly unlikely you would have to wait more than 5 minutes for a train. There are also more than 300 bus services in Singapore. These bus services extend into residential areas that are not covered by the MRT services. Residents often use them to connect to MRT stations.
To keep up to date with your transport options, download some of the key apps, such as the following:
- Explore Singapore MRT Map
- Street Directory
- SG NextBus
3. Learn a new skill in Singapore
If you’re a trailing spouse and not looking to work while you’re in Singapore, this could be a great opportunity to learn a new skill or enhance your existing education. Whether it’s completing an online course by distance learning through an Australian university, a short course online or a new skill through a group such as ANZA, there are plenty of opportunities to take advantage of.
4. Use the opportunity to give back and volunteer
Outlined below are just some of the inspiring organisations that you can get involved with and volunteer for as an Aussie expat in Singapore:
- ANZA Action
- Rotary Club of Singapore
- RDA Singapore
- AWARE Singapore
- Expat Giving
- Make A Wish Singapore
Of course, there are many others, but I have simply highlighted some of the popular options amongst Australian expats in Singapore.
5. Singapore is the gateway to the rest of Asia
One of the interesting facets of living in Singapore is that no matter how frequently you travel and see new parts of the world, your bucket list never seems to shrink. Each new expat that you speak to has a new recommendation for something exciting that is a ‘must-see’. Living in Singapore means that you have the unique opportunity to shoot off to Bali if you wish to, fly over to a beachside paradise in Vietnam, duck across to the excellent food and shopping experiences of Bangkok or experience the ‘high-roller’ lifestyle of Asian’s own Vegas in Macau.
6 .Get fit and healthy in Singapore
Singapore has a very active lifestyle and there are many opportunities for you to stay fit and healthy depending on what you enjoy. Whether it’s getting involved in a team sport, playing tennis at one of the many private country clubs, participating in a yoga or Pilates session, or joining a local gym, the options are all there as long as you know where to look. Outlined below are a couple of key options for you to check out:
- Team Sports: ANZA Sports
- Gyms: Virgin Active, Pure Fitness, FitnessFirst
- Yoga: The Yoga School, Cocoon Studio, Core Fitness, Beer Yoga, Focus Pilates
- Martial Arts: Evolve, Vanda Boxing, FaMa Fit
Many expats, particularly trailing spouses will struggle from time to time. Being away from friends, dealing with life in a whole new city can be a daunting experience, and it’s important to recognize that you’re not alone. Start forming your core group of friends early and ensure that you have someone you can pick up the phone to and head out somewhere with to laugh, cry and enjoy all of the moments you’ve experienced so far in your life as an Australian expat in Singapore.
7. Share your journey with your partner
It’s important that you set some time aside each week, or on a regular basis, to sit down and openly discuss your experience with your partner. What challenges are you facing in Singapore? How are you finding making new friends? What new projects or opportunities are you looking to get involved in? What have been your highlights of the week? The experience of a trailing spouse compared to that of the working spouse can be vastly different and it’s important not to assume that they are experiencing what you are.
Travelling the world and opening our minds to new experiences and opportunities can be one of the most rewarding things that life will throw our way. Ensure that you’re making the most of it.
To Your Financial Success!
Jarrad Brown is an Australian-trained and qualified Fee-Based Financial Adviser with Australian Expatriate Group, specialist division of Global Financial Consultants Pte Ltd providing specialist financial advice and portfolio management services to Australian expats in Singapore.
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Jarrad Brown is an Authorised Representative of Global Financial Consultants Pte Ltd - No: 200305462G | MAS License No: FA100035-3
General Information Only: The information on this site is of a general nature only. It does not take into account your individual financial situation, objectives or needs. You should consider your own financial position and requirements before making a decision.
*Please note that Jarrad Brown is not a tax agent or accountant and none of the content outlined here should be taken as personal advice. You should consult your tax agent and financial adviser to review your current personal finances and financial goals to consider whether this strategy is appropriate for you.
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