the expat life: is it worth it?

After a few hours of marinating about 11 kilograms of meat for the Korean bbq we were planning for an unconventional Chinese New Year dinner with my friends, my fingers were getting numb and it was getting pretty late.  Some of the meat was still thawing in bowls, my kitchen counter was a mess (full of marinade) and my hands smelled like frozen meat which wasn’t pleasant. Sometimes, in those rare reflective moments, I wonder, is it worth it? Moving 15,323 miles from NY to a country you’ve never been to with no family, no friends, and no idea what may come. Yet, the decision to move seemed pretty simple to me at the time. Singapore was where I wanted to be and I had just gotten my dream job.

Even though, I was already overseas when I decided to move to Singapore, I can’t really count living in Seoul as getting the full expat experience. I had been to Seoul several times growing up, and I had a lot of extended family plus my younger brother living there as well. During holidays I had family members inviting me their homes, cousins I could meet up with, and the culture was very familiar to me. So moving to Singapore was more of the expat experience in one way, by being completely new to the country and not having the family ties.

Back to marinating loads of thawing meat in my kitchen and feeling a bit anxious about the bbq. Would there be enough food? Would the meat turn out well? Should I taste some of the meat beforehand? How would we keep the meat fresh while being outside for the bbq? Despite all the little questions in my head, I forged ahead and realized that some of the meat I wouldn’t be able to marinate today because it was still rock hard frozen and waiting for it to thaw past midnight did not seem like a logical choice. So I chose to sleep, and would marinate the rest of the remaining meat in the morning.

The next day, I kept seeing loads of people in Singapore uploading Chinese New Year family photos. It was quite a fun phenomenon on my facebook and instagram feed. Everyone with their families, in their new outfits (sometimes matching in red), looking rather cute and loving. I always feel like family photos can tell so much about a family, they way they pose, are dressed, and the expressions they have. I loved seeing a closer glimpse into the lives of my friends here. Later that day, at the Korean bbq dinner, I told my friend Petrina that we need to take our own CNY family photo. And she along with James (our photographer), made it happen. We took quite a few photos, funny, serious, and kind of normal.

As I looked at the photos of our mixed group of friends (expats from literally around the world and Singaporeans), enjoying Korean bbq, and acting silly in group photos, I was reminded of the family I have here. Yeah, we might not be your typical family, and we might keep growing rapidly, but I’ve learned to accept all of them, like real family.

And yes, it’s completely worth it.

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4 thoughts on “the expat life: is it worth it?

  1. elsie says:

    What an interesting life you are leading! I wish I’d thought about doing this when I was younger. The people who surround you do become “family” when there are no blood relations near.

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