It’s been 3 months since I moved with my husband and our two children to Singapore.
It all began with Funderbeam, a platform I founded, which deals with the funding and trading of private companies. As the company moves in a business sector that’s heavily regulated, our team decided to scale globally and thus applied for a licence in Singapore.
“Why Singapore,” you may ask. The reason is simple: Singapore provides trust and understanding for the modern business model of trading securities, which Funderbeam spearheads. Once we submitted our licence application, it became evident that one of Funderbeam’s leading figures needed to relocate to the Asia-Pacific region to secure business and scale our operations in the region.
At first, I didn’t like the idea at all. Estonia is my home and all of Funderbeam’s company-related routines happen in Tallinn. Personally, the move was also a significant investment; as both my children (aged 8 and 11) went to school in Estonia, my social network is there, and my family had a beautiful home. But then my husband, who has lived a third of his life abroad—and even my children—convinced me we needed to move. I had been travelling to Singapore regularly for the last 12 months, so I had an idea about what we were heading to.
But how could we handle a full relocation? Believe me—business matters were the easiest task on my list as Funderbeam already had an entity, an office and a staff member in place. But then things got trickier when it came to my family; it’s not easy to pack our lives and routines into a suitcase and start over in a new country. But when we started looking at it as an adventure, it all suddenly seemed doable.
So here are my five tips for relocating with a family:
That is what it all starts with. You must find a good school for your children and then find a home that’s close to it. So, it should be school first and home second; not vice versa. That was the first advice given to me by multiple expat friends in Singapore and it’s worth following.
I then prepared a list of over 10 international schools in Singapore as recommended by locals, expats and Expat Living magazine (the source of all secrets in Singapore!). Combining that with browsing school websites online gave me an idea: to pick the school that was not necessarily the best-ranking one, but one that would be the best fit for our two boys. So, we ended up doing entrance tests to Nexus International School, an institution that uses computers only for teaching. Such a format may seem strange to parents who are used to textbooks, but in all honesty, that was one of the main criteria that got us interested in them. Our kids were accepted, they love it and we’ve been very happy with our decision so far.
Hire a good real estate agent
By asking them to prepare a list of available properties based on your criteria, you will end up saving so much time (and in the end, money). In Singapore, agents organize the visits for you on your preferred dates, arrange the schedule (you should see their files), drive you around (we viewed 13 apartments in two days) and, once you’ve made your decision, help to negotiate taking over the apartment. Our agent noticed every nitty-gritty detail, such as scratches on the doors, which I couldn’t see or wouldn’t even consider as damage.
Connect with the expat community ASAP
Singapore’s expat community is the source of all the advice you’ll ever need, such as how and where to shop; where’s the best butcher in town; where to get household help; where are the doctors; which are the best places to visit; where not to go; and, most importantly, how to find someone selling their furniture when they are relocating. In Singapore, there is even an expat group on Facebook and you can’t believe how many good pieces of furniture I’ve bought through that channel.
So, it’s vital that you start networking with the expat and even the local community as soon as possible. At the end of the day and anywhere around the world (either in Tallinn or Singapore), your social network is your strongest capital.
Don’t think twice
If you ever have the chance to relocate, even for just a few years, do it. It is an eye-opening life experience that’s filled with adventure, new people, cultures, food and emotions. There is so much to discover.
You may have started a successful business in a small country, like super-tech savvy Estonia, but the global business world is a different and bigger playing field. You only fully understand it once you have relocated and see the grand scheme of things.
Never underestimate your children
They are your source of life, confidence and comfort. And you can always rely on them during hard times.
Once the question of which school to put our children in was solved, Hendrick and Teodor have been enjoying their time in Singapore. And once you start seeing progress on this end, everything else will fall into place, like making our Internet connection work (which is surprisingly slow in Singapore), setting up the gas (which takes weeks), going over handling costs that are a burden to our cash flow (like SIM card fees as well as deposits to the gas and electricity company), and realizing that when it rains, it pours.
Nevertheless, Singapore is one of those countries where you are welcomed just the way you are, and things get going easily afterward. I have to say that getting my Employment Pass (EP) was one of the best service experiences I’ve ever had in my life.
At the end of the day, make sure you embrace the journey and learn as much as you can. I promise you that it will be a great experience for you and your entire family.
Writer: Kaidi Ruusalepp