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Debra De Reeper

Debra De Reeper expat stories

Expat Stories!

Tell us about yourself

My name is Debra, a mother of 2 new adults, wife to a workaholic husband and dog mother to a neurotic but adorable Maltese ShihTzu.

Where do you live now and how long have you been there?

We relocated to Singapore from Sydney 18 months ago and settled on the East Coast to be near the beaches and my husband’s office.  On the weekends we ride our bikes along the beach and refresh at the many bars and cafes along the coast.  Socialising on the East Coast is what life over here is all about, so many local food venues mixed with western, with bars and cafes dotted everywhere in between.  So far we have barely made a dent in visiting them all, but I have made it our mission to do just that.

What do you love about where you live now?

For an Australian, life in Singapore is both incredibly easy and at the same time a little confounding.  For example, English is the country’s choice of language. However, most vendors in Singapore, from restaurants, trades to supermarkets, speak Chinese.  Add to this the lifelong Singaporeans who speak a mixture of both and also have to translate Singlish!  Add to the mix our island’s neighbours who make up the bulk of the workers, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines and each one of us approaches an interaction hoping to be understood!

How is it different from your home country?

I have also learnt something about my own behaviour.  For the first few months in our new country, it seemed as though I was the only one who had somewhere important to be as I dodged slow and erratic walkers.  At popular food venues, locals happily join queues in their precious lunch hour, cafes in the afternoon are full of workers and students sitting for hours.  It became apparent that maybe I was the one in a hurry.  I am learning to slow down, my goal is to enjoy the journey as much as the reward.

Singapore PR

The CoronaVirus

How has the CoronaVirus affected you?

Living in Singapore during Covid-19 should have put the fear of God into us and make us feel we needed to flee home to Australia to be with our loved ones.  The Ministry of Health put protection measures in place immediately after learning about virus, and these have morphed as fast as the virus itself has, so we felt as safe as we could be in uncertain times.  Singaporeans naturally trust their government, and the government trust them.  Singaporeans are also obedient (you could argue that corporal punishment being the first level of penance for lawbreakers is good enough reason).  If expats are caught breaching a Stay At Home order, the punishment for visa holders like us is severe, our visa will be cancelled and we will be expelled.  There is no recourse.  Whatever your reasoning, it’s a system that although not perfect, works.

Where are you now and where is the rest of your family?

I’m one of the lucky expats, my new ‘adults in training’ moved here with us.  I couldn’t imagine my children living in another country as the world shuts down its travel.  Our families and friends seem so much farther away, and like the rest of the world, we have renewed our love of face to face video calls.  It’s calming to see their faces, share our fears and hopes and with the promise to call more frequently.

Are you in self-isolation, lockdown or are you social distancing and what rules do you need to follow?

We have an amazing expat community here in Singapore, and together we made the decision to start self-isolating to stay safe and keep others safe early on.  The consensus amongst expats is that we feel truly blessed to live here, we want to be seen as giving back to the city that opened its arms to us, show gratification.  So as isolation slowly becomes the new norm I feel I’ve already trialled it and have it nailed.  As my daughter’s job winds down, my son’s college hours reduce and my husband has joined me in working from home, it feels like one long weekend.  We are lucky to have two office spaces as we both use video conference calls to communicate with our work colleagues.  And having lunch together is rare and a nice bonus.

What do you find the hardest about your situation right now?

What makes it difficult is not knowing how much longer it will go on for,  how long will we have to stay in our homes instead of enjoying the amazing social life Singapore has to offer?  When will I be able to fly back to Australia to see family and friends?

Isolation tips

Do you have any tips for anyone in lockdown or self-isolation?

As hygiene, especially handwashing, was always on my mind, I feel like the takeaway from Covid-19 for me will be how we behave when we are sick.  I hate being home and bed-bound, even whilst I am ill.  But I now realise it isn’t about how I feel, its what I may be carrying and how that can affect someone else not as healthy as I am.  And that person could be a family member!  So I will continue to stay in my family bubble and do my part to keep everyone safe and get our world back to normal with everyone else.

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