Yes, it’s the post that answers the questions that I’m most frequently asked – who have you met? Have you found it easy to make friends? Are expats dreadful?

What are they like indeed? The worst was the Dutch man who, less than 48 hours after spending a joint family day together hiking, said ‘sorry, do I know you?

Oh we have met some revolting people but also some fabulous people we will know all our lives.

Last year, the artist Grayson Perry wrote a BAFTA winning documentary about the class system in the UK. What was particularly interesting was his idea that you can break class down into ‘tribes’. And each tribe likes to stay within its perimeters. The upper middle class is based upon intellectual snobbery, unhinged financial values and a desire for social superiority against your neighbour.

A lot like the expats then.

Here are my worst and best.

The most common excuse I have heard to justify rude behaviour is from the long term expats. They seem to think that you get emotionally bruised by making friends and having them constantly leave you to go home. Apparently it makes you very wary of ‘giving’ yourself to new people.

#1 The Lifer

Lifer “How long have you been in Singapore?
Me “About 2 months or so.
Lifer (laughing) “Oh God, I just can’t handhold somebody else that is new in town.
Me “I’m 44 and really don’t need you to hold my hand.
Lifer (now talking to her equally manicured friend) “Don’t you just wish people would have a sign telling you how long they’ve been here?”.
Me “Do you go to the school coffee mornings?”
Lifer “Yes, are you going to go? It’s a great way for you to listen to us talk and find out about Singapore.
Me “No”.

#2 L’Oreal – because I’m totally worth it.

On being introduced L’Oreal (fully decked out in tennis gear and diamonds) she turned to me and said,

L’Oreal “Do you belong to the British Association and do you play tennis?”
Me “I don’t play tennis and am not sure yet about joining the other.”
L’Oreal didn’t reply, she just turned on her (very white) tennis shoe heel and walked away. To her back I called out “I think I’m pretty decided now”

#3 The Do-Gooders

Do-Gooder “I’m collecting pencils to take to an orphanage charity in India I’m going to visit”
Me” Oh ok, do the orphanage need just pencils or are you collecting other things for them?”
Do-Gooder (ignoring me) “Me and Yan are going to take Hansel and Gretel there so they can see their little faces light up when we give them the pencils?”
Me (slightly persistant) “But do they need 3000 pencils? Have you TALKED to them?”

I was dismissed at this point, probably quite rightly as I think I was getting a bit punchy. I did have to laugh into my hand though when they reappeared after the holidays and marched into the school fully resplendent in all their new indian floating silks….

Nice aren’t they? But for every person you meet that makes you want to start walking and not stop you meet the people that you hold very dear.

#1 The Holiday Romance

We met Sharon and Eric waiting for a minibus to take us to the jetty in Malaysia to visit an island for a few days. Sharon is Singaporean, educated in the UK and now lives in the middle of the US. She has the poshest English accent I have ever heard! She and Eric are full of humour, wit and fun. We propped up the beach bar while the kids played wildly with the lovely staff at Rimba and I don’t think any of us stopped laughing.

beachcombers rimba

#2 Kids!

We walked passed Adam and Dimity on our way to our hotel room in Penang last Christmas. Millie took one look at their daughter and a friendship was born that was so immediate, and so fluid it still makes me well up. For the four days we were in Penang with them, Millie and Darcy were inseparable and so we got to know Adam and Dee and had one of the best holidays. We kept in touch and saw them again this Christmas in Singapore for a fabulous 2 days. Millie and Darcy needed no introduction.

The Real Deal #3

When you are finding your way in a new country when you make a real friend it is an unbelievably good feeling. Liz and Paul were our surrogate family over Christmas and we have had (sans kids) sunk many a frozen margherita with them. Liz also told me the most important fact about living in Singapore. She told me that when you buy a chicken here they still have their heads and feet attached. They cleverly fold them in – designed to give you a heart attack every time.

Kim and Bill have lived in Singapore for a long time. Kim is as happy floating elegantly around the malls on Orchard Road as she is wandering around the supermarket with me. When we met on a sort-of-husbands-work-social we got halfway through our 2nd drink when Kim announced she was taking her heels off and putting her flip flops back on. Our last afternoon out involved going to a park by the canal and a massive monsoon drain. It was empty as not many kids seem to go the park (a different post!) and nearly every bench was taken up with construction workers sleeping. The kids had a ball with Kim, her daughter and the fat dog and we both took a picnic. Out of Kim’s basket she pulled a chilled bottle of wine – enough said!

Kim and Liz, I couldn’t do this without you.

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