Diana: Tale of a Trailing Spouse
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Singapore, etc.
My name is Diana Mahmoud, and I am originally from the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. I spent 20 years working in broadcast and digital media in the United States before my husband whisked me away from it all. We’ve moved around quite a bit in 5 years and lived in Germany, Spain, and as of August 2012, Singapore. Since I have neither a job nor children to occupy my time, I felt the need to justify my existence abroad. In the end I could not, so I decided to blog about expat life instead.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I actually started blogging anonymously years ago before anyone really knew what blogs were. I wanted to write about my thoughts and experiences because, for me, this is therapeutic. I never thought anyone would ever read what I had written. The first time someone commented on my blog, I almost deleted the entire thing. After about a year hiatus, I decided to blog again under my real name and started Tale of a Trailing Spouse. I am an expat who blogs, but I do not write an expat blog per se. You will never see me write a story about the black and white houses of Singapore, for example. Other expats write about these sorts of topics and do a marvelous job. I write short, personal narratives that I hope enlighten or entertain, rather than educate people about a new country.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
The ones I really like never seem to garner the same amount of comments and attention as other posts, so what do I know? But if I had to choose, my favorites are:
Tell us about the ways your new life in Singapore differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Out of all the places I’ve lived, Singapore is the most like the United States. It’s a high tech place where apps exist for almost everything. I can locate many of my favorite products from back home (at a price) in the local grocer. Rather than fumble in an unfamiliar tongue. English is the official language. For all these reasons, I found settling in to be a breeze. I didn’t really experience culture shock with this assignment, but then again it is my third so I am a little desensitized.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Singapore? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I always research a new country, but try not to have too many expectations. I felt reasonably prepared for this assignment. The only thing I would have changed would be that I would have visited my pets while they were in the 10-day quarantine because, despite what I had read, mine were not taken well care of.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I don't have a natural capacity for learning foreign languages and, to be honest, I don't always try as hard as I should. But something happened when I lived in Barcelona that caused me to work a little harder at improving my Spanish vocabulary.
I was walking my dog Charlie around the neighborhood right before a major rain storm hit. The clouds looked ominous, lightening flashed vigorously, and loud thunder rumbled. Like many dogs, Charlie is frightened of storms and I wanted to make sure his tiny bladder was empty before heading back to the apartment. As usual, he wasn't having any part of my plan. While we battled each other –me leading Charlie to the nearest tree and Charlie leading me back to the front door—a neighbor walked up to pet the dog.
By way of explanation, I tried to tell my neighbor that Charlie was afraid of thunder.
To do this in Spanish, I needed to say that Charlie had a fear of thunder or "Charlie tiene miedo de trueno".
Instead, I mistakenly said the following:
"Charlie tiene mierda de trueno."
What's two little letters, right?
My neighbor got a funny look on his face and, at the same time, quickly removed his hand from the dog. I had the feeling that I said something incorrectly, but didn't have time to figure out where I went wrong. Sheets of rain began falling from the sky, so I made a quick goodbye and dashed back to the house. Later in the evening, however, I remembered my neighbor's strange look and decided to double check what I had said. To my great embarrassment, I had literally told my neighbor that "Charlie had sh**t of thunder."
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Singapore?
- Be prepared for serious sticker shock as prices are generally exorbitant.
- If you’re from a country where driving is normal, get ready to spend lots of time either hailing taxis or languishing on public transportation
- There is a great, built-in expat social scene in Singapore, but don’t always feel pressured to conform to it.
How is the expat community in Singapore? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I’ve met some wonderful, down-to-earth, people in Singapore, but it took some time to find my groove. This is not because of a lack of opportunity. Singapore’s expat community makes socializing easy because of all the clubs and organizations to choose from. But sometimes large group settings with lots of transients doesn’t mean you are going to click with people automatically. I stopped participating in organized, group activities because for me friendships can’t be forced and have to form organically. And since, I’ve been so much more successful finding a sense of community here.
How would you summarize your expat life in Singapore in a single, catchy sentence?
Granola girl is just trying to keep up in a Crunch Berry World.