When we started a family, one of the major decisions that we had to make is whether to raise our future children overseas. There are plenty of concerns, and one of them was that “it takes a village to raise a child.” However, we are in one country while our families are in another. Expat kids may have a distinct advantage in life.
After having my daughter in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, there were many more benefits than we initially realized.
Here are some of them:
Expat Kids: Appreciating Cultural Differences
Although Singapore and Malaysia are neighboring countries, cultural differences are pretty obvious. In Singapore, English is the primary language while in Malaysia, Malay is the national language.
While I am still struggling to pick up the language, my daughter has learned to say a few common Malay words from her playmates. She seems to be comfortable switching from English to Mandarin to Malay easily.
A third language is something she probably would not pick up at such a young age if she was growing up in Singapore.
Expat Kids: Less Stressful Environment
In Singapore, it is common to have both parents work full time while their child goes to daycare from 7 am to 7 pm. Here, we are fortunate to afford to be able to stay at home to homeschool my daughter.
This arrangement is something we wouldn’t be able to afford if we were back in Singapore, as the cost of living is so much higher than living in the capital city of Malaysia.
Expat Kids: Less Interference
As much as I love to have an extra pair of hands to help take care of my daughter now and then so I can take some “me” time, I truly enjoy bonding with her every moment. I choose to customize my parenting methods to suit the personality of my daughter.
Also, one of the big reasons I homeschool is this: in Chinese culture, light physical punishments are commonly used to discipline children. I don’t subscribe to that.
With well-meaning family members far away, I can truly apply parenting methods we believed in without interference.
Expat Kids: Exposure to Other Expats
A big plus for both me and my daughter is that we are exposed to many languages and cultures, moving around in the expatriate social circles.
One of her best friends is German. She has playmates from Sweden, France, Hong Kong, Dubai, and Syria.
My daughter gets to mingle with people from different backgrounds who speak different languages. In Singapore, I would not mix with expatriates since I wouldn’t be one.
Expat Kids: I Can Be a Stay-At-Home Mom
Instead of rushing from work back home to pick my child up and eat takeout food every weekday, I can stay at home, spend precious preschool years with her and cook healthy meals for the family. I enjoy planning her daily lessons. I get to blend in Montessori, right brain development, and many other methods tailored to complement my daughter’s learning style.
We will go to parks when the weather is good or do arts and crafts when it is raining. My daughter and I will explore new places together, meet new people every week, and create fresh memories every day.
Expat Kids: Closer as a Family Unit
Besides being able to spend quality time with my daughter, I can spend quality time with my husband as well.
We don’t have mandatory family or friends’ social obligations like attending weddings, baby showers, birthday celebrations. With a much smaller social circle here, our weekends are spent either exploring different towns in Malaysia or at home playing with our daughter.
As my husband travels a lot for work, it makes sense to keep my schedule open to fit into his schedule, and that is something I couldn’t do if I was working back in Singapore. As a result, our bonds are much tighter.
Tip: If you or your partner is on a company expatriate package, you may reap some benefits like education and health coverage for your kids. Check with your HR or comb through your contract.
For us, living abroad has brought our family an immerse load of benefits. Of course, every family’s situation is different but don’t be quick to dismiss the exposure to different cultures and languages that a foreign country will bring to your children.
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by: Kally Tay