Milla is a mother to two — a 10-year old boy and an 8-year old girl. Originally from Finland, she moved to Singapore one and a half years ago when she decided to support her husband in his new job. Nowadays, she is a homemaker and an avid blogger.
Exploring Singapore, Family life, Travelling, Photographing.
Hi Milla, could yo please say a few things about yourself?
I’m from Finland. I’m married, and my husband is also from Finland. We have two children — a 10-year old boy and an 8-year old girl. Before jumping into the expat life three years ago, I was working at PriceWaterhouseCoopers in Finland. For the moment I’m a homemaker and blogger.
Why did you choose to expatriate to Singapore?
We moved to Singapore due to my husband’s work. We came to Singapore from Shanghai, China where we lived for two years.
What procedures did you have to follow?
There are no special procedures to follow when you move from Finland to Singapore. Most people come here with a tourist visa as we did. Within a few days from our arrival, we applied for a work visa for my husband and the dependant visas for me and the kids.
How long have you been in the country?
We have been here here since August 2015.
What has surprised you the most about Singapore?
Most surprising is that despite being such a small country, there is much to see and to do, especially with the family. I keep finding new places to visit for my blog all the time. Also, I was a bit surprised by the weather even though I knew it’s very warm all year around. An equatorial climate means two seasons — hot and rainy, and hotter and rainier. I love the weather, and I definitely don’t need my jeans or sweaters here. Singapore is also one of the greenest cities in the world — it’s amazing how many parks and nature reserves it has, and Singaporeans truly love nature and green spaces.
Also, what surprised me (especially after Shanghai) is the impeccable cleanliness. Have you heard of the saying: “Singapore is a fine country”? Well, that’s true, and it means that you'll get a fine for about everything — like feeding pigeons and monkeys. Even failure to flush a public toilet after use may result to a fine of 150 SGD. Chewing gum is nowadays okay, but selling it is still forbidden. Spitting in public or littering may are fined. And the weirdest of all, walking around your house naked is illegal. If you break this law, you may face pornography charges which can even lead to imprisonment.
Wherever you go in Singapore there are lots of warning signs in display. Initially, it may look awkward but that’s how Singapore is kept organised and clean.
Was it difficult to find accommodation in Singapore?
It is not difficult to find accommodation in Singapore, and there are many apartments available. Singapore has a variety of neighbourhoods with different characters and price ranges that often depend on proximity to the city. Once you know the area you want to live in and you have a budget then it is pretty fast forward to find a place.
Much of the housing in Singapore is in high-rise condos or apartments. There are also landed houses, but mostly in the suburbs. We live in a landed house while most expats live in condos. Rent in Singapore is very expensive because land and space are in such high demand.
What are the local labourr market's features?
The labour market is extremely competitive in Singapore, and may pose a challenge even for accomplished professionals. The combination of highly educated local Singaporeans and highly proficient expats means that job openings fill quickly.
Is it easy for an expat to be hired in Singapore?
Finding a job in Singapore is said to be easy, but getting a job that you want and with a good salary might be really tough. Singaporeans and permanent residents prioritised by companies. In many cases, a foreigner is hired only if the company can’t find a Singaporean or a permanent resident to match that role. You can apply for a Letter of Consent to work in Singapore, if you are a Dependant's Pass holder, married to a Singaporean or a permanent resident.
How do you find the Singaporean lifestyle?
This island country is a melting pot of multiculturalism, and it is far easier to adapt to life in Singapore compared to many other countries around the world. Singapore is a blend of Western modernity and Asian culture. Although it is an expensive country, there's definitely something for everyone, even for lower budgets. Singaporean lifestyle is based on education and work, and the culture is based on 'work hard, play hard'. Despite the stress of studying and working to me Singapore looks like a happy country, and Singaporeans are really proud about their nation.
Have you been able to adapt yourself to the society?
Yes I have. Singapore is a multicultural metropolis where English is the first language. I think the most important thing when moving to another country is to adapt to it and its culture as soon as possible. From my experience, Singaporeans are friendly and welcoming. There are people who think the opposite, and I have heard stories of racist Singaporeans but my experience is only a good one.
What does your everyday life in Singapore look like?
Even though I’m not working, my life is still busy but with things I enjoy. In the morning I do sports. We have a filipino helper living with us, so I don’t need to worry about household work and that gives me time to do sports, meet with friends, and blog. In the evening, I help my kids with their homework, and spend time with them.
What is your opinion on the cost of living in Singapore?
Singapore is a very expensive place to live. Education, housing, food, and healthcare are expensive. You get used to it and find places and things that can save you money.
Is it easy for an expat to live there?
It is very easy to live here as an expat, as everyone speaks English. Singaporean accent is at first difficult to understand but you get used to it, and before you know it you speak Singlish — an English-based language spoken in Singapore. The expat community is very large in Singapore, and to top it off, it is a very safe country.
How do you spend your leisure time?
On weekends we tend to do family activities like waterparks, walking in the parks, go to movies, or just spend some time at home. We really enjoy exploring Singapore. As I go around Singapore for my blog on weekdays, on weekends I want to take my family to the places I’ve visited.
Your favorite local dishes?
Laksa is a traditional local dish but I’ve never tried it. I like to eat salads, so I have not really tasted too many local dishes.
What do you like the most about Singapore?
The all year around summer. I like how well Singapore is organised, and how safe it is. I like its multicultural feeling — different cultures and religions live side by side, and everybody is treated with respect. Popular vacation spots are just a short plane ride away, and are very affordable. Whenever we can, we travel around Asia. Our next holiday destination will be Cambodia.
What do you miss the most about your home country?
I sometimes miss the four seasons, but that feeling goes away fast. I also miss my beautiful house, family, and friends. However, nowadays it’s easy to stay connected. I try not to put too much energy on missing things, as I want to make the most of this wonderful experience.
What has motivated you to write your blog "Singapore Lily"?
I started blogging when I moved to Shanghai (my blog back then was called Shanghai Lily and it was only in Finnish). By blogging, I can share my experiences in Singapore and help people who are moving to or visiting Singapore. When we moved here, I decided to blog in English as well.
Blogging is also a way of keeping in touch with my family and friends. Through blogging I found a new passion — photography. I take my camera with me wherever I go. I’m a more visual person, so my blogging style is a short text with lots of pictures.
Blogging also motivates me to go out and see things. Without blogging, I wouldn’t perhaps see as much of Singapore as I see now. It can become addictive, but I try not to work on my blog in the evening or on weekends. My family is very supportive though, and my husband knows how much I enjoy doing this.
Would you like to give any advice to soon-to-be expatriates in Singapore?
Moving to a new country can be an overwhelming experience. Try to find a permanent home as soon as possible. Once housing and schooling for kids are sorted it’s easier to get into day to day life and enjoy this beautiful country. If you are planning to stay here for more than a few years, you may consider applying for Permanent Residency. The process will take around one year, so start it as soon as possible.
Most importantly, try to make the most of this wonderful opportunity. If you are not working, you can also consider taking a class of your interest (in my case it was a photography course), volunteering, or blogging about your life.
What are your plans for the future?
We'll be living in Singapore for now. Someday, we will return back to Finland, and I hope to get back to work. When that day comes, I’m sure I’m going to miss Singapore and this lifestyle.