What is life like as an expat child in Singapore?

Maximus Tan is Singaporean and grew up in Singapore, among his family and far from the children of expats, “little pale beings”. Knowing how xenophobic his fellow citizens can be – “this feeling is probably the most widespread and fuels tensions between locals and foreigners since multinationals concocted their expatriation programs” –, he thought that foreign children were poorly received. For Singaporean online media rice, he therefore interviewed two expats who spent their childhood there to find out more about their experience. According to the National Youth Council, only 17% of young Singaporeans believe that locals and foreigners get along well. Expats are often accused of living in a “bubble” separated from the rest of the population. Added to this are adaptation problems linked to cultural differences and material issues, since the cost of living is considerably higher for foreigners, even well-paid ones, than for non-permanent residents and Singaporean citizens.

However, Elliot, educated in an international school, enjoyed growing up in Singapore, where he particularly appreciated the security. “Elliot and his friends were treated well by locals when they had the opportunity to interact. They became friends through football when playing for local clubs. Elliot has made many friends in the local schools.”

Julian (not his real name) came from the United States when he was 10 years old. Unlike Elliot, he attended a local school. His arrival was a shock, not for cultural reasons, but because the courses “were much more difficult than what he was used to”. He easily made Singaporean friends. For him, the very international dimension of Singapore allows small expats to adapt more easily:

“I remember in primary school there were Indonesians, Chinese, a girl from Israel… And that was just in my class of 30 people. I think all of that has made it very easy to come here as someone with an international profile.”

Ultimately, it was returning to the United States for his university studies that caused Julian the most problems, as he realized that Americans were ultimately less welcoming than Singaporeans.

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