It all sounds so romantic – you meet overseas, fall madly in love, get married and bring your new spouse back home to Singapore. The next part of this fairy tale is usually “happy ever after” isn’t it? Unfortunately, when you marry abroad and your spouse moves to Singapore to be with you, you are very likely to find that the difficulty of adjusting will put a huge strain on how happy your spouse may be with your marriage and with life in Singapore.
There are however, quite a few things which you can do to make adjusting to a new life in Singapore easier for your spouse. Doing this will firstly, help your spouse to take those first important steps in acclimatizing to Singapore, and secondly, it will let your spouse know that you recognise what a big step and sacrifice it is for them to move to your home country and that you are doing everything you can to be supportive.
Help Them to Keep in Touch with Their Family and Culture
The first sense of loss which your spouse will feel will have to do with having to move away from their family, friends and the culture they grew up in. This separation however need not be so absolute. Make an effort to help your spouse keep in touch with home. After all, in this age of the internet, VoIP and many other devices, home could just be a call away.
Set Up Those Communication Lines
There’s no excuse for it, connect all your devices and sign up for free international voice calls, a webcam and teach everyone how to use them. Set up a regular communication schedule and work out days and times with different family members. Look into setting up a family blog and instant messaging groups. You may even find that you might be communicating more than you had before.
Subscribe to News, Magazines and other Media from Their Home
Get your spouse’s favourite newspapers and magazines delivered to your home or subscribe to the internet versions of these. If you can, subscribe to their home TV channels or other media so that they still get to watch some shows in their own language and enjoy the cultural programmes, humour and insights which are unique to their home.
Join a Cultural Support Group
There is likely to be a local association of people from your spouse’s homeland which can help to introduce your spouse to other people in the same situation. Join one together if you can.
Try to Visit Your Spouse’s Home Regularly
You might have to save up for this, but it is well worth it. Be it once a year, or once every 5 or 10 years; make a commitment to your spouse that you will visit their home country together on a regular basis. Knowing that you are committed to this and knowing also that there is a return home date will make the frustration and home sickness easier to bear.
Help Them to Learn about Singapore
You cannot begin to love a country if you don’t know anything about it. Your spouse has moved to Singapore out of a love for you, now you need to make that move worth it for reasons that go beyond yourself.
Take Tours of Singapore Together
Even though you may have grown up in Singapore and think you know every corner of your homeland, take the time to go on tours together. Seeing the same places with your spouse will give you new insights too.
Show Them What Makes Singapore Special to You
Help your spouse to know Singapore in the same way you do. Bring them to all the places which have been special to you in your life. Visit your primary school together, go to your favourite coffee shops and take a walk through your favourite parks. Your spouse will relate these places to you and loving you will begin to encompass loving these places too.
Help Them to Achieve Independence
Moving to Singapore might mean that your spouse is temporarily unable to do many things independently. This is of particular issue if there is a language barrier involved. If your spouse feels that they have lost the ability to be independent, it will have an impact on their self-esteem and to the overall happiness within your marriage. Helping your spouse to become independent is a big part of helping to adjust to life in Singapore.
Learn the Language
If your spouse doesn’t speak English, encourage them to attend lessons. Being able to read, write and speak fluently are the first steps towards being able to manage independently. Practice common phrases and responses with them at home and they will be able to learn faster.
Figure Out the Transport System
Nothing is more demoralizing than being cooped up at home all day. Luckily, Singapore has an excellent transport system, so get your hands on the bus and train guides, or install a navigation map. The sooner your spouse feels able to go anywhere on their own, the closer they are to independence.
Understand Singapore’s Policies
Figure out how Singapore’s policies for healthcare, insurance, work and education apply to your spouse. This lays out of the parameters for your spouse to make decisions within each of these areas.
If your spouse is interested and able to work, then make finding a job a priority. Not only does earning an income help to boost confidence and a sense of independence, but having colleagues and work outside the home give your spouse an opportunity to make friends independently and experience life in Singapore on their own terms and merits.
Create a Support System for Your Spouse
In addition to the support of their own family back home, you should try to help your spouse build a new support system of family and friends here in Singapore. When you achieve this, then you know that your spouse has made the transition from being a “visitor” to making Singapore their home.
Introduce Your Spouse to Your Own Support Network
You naturally have your own support network in Singapore. Not just your immediate family, but friends that you’ve grown up with. Introduce your spouse to your friends, make an effort to let them get to know each other and to include your spouse in this network.
Make New Friends Together
Reach out to other couples like yourself, or friends you make through new activities which you are both interested in. Enlarge your mutual support network beyond the friends you both knew before you married each other.
Pursue Interests and Activities
Don’t forget to continue to take an interest in your activities, passions and hobbies. Encourage your spouse to find time to do the things they‘ve always enjoyed. If cooking was a hobby back home, sign up for some cooking classes in Singapore. By continuing to take part in such activities your spouse will not only be able to pursue a passion, but may also have a chance to make friends with other people in Singapore who have similar interests.
Your spouse may need to make many adjustments after moving to Singapore. Helping your spouse through this initial phase is important as it serves to strengthen and grow your relationship.
Start by ensuring that they are able to stay in touch with their families and culture.
Help them to become mobile and independent.
Introduce them to your friends and make new friends together.