By Finder blogger: Andrea McKenna
Loneliness happens, even when you’re surrounded by millions of people in a major global city. I’ve certainly felt out of the loop here in Singapore and it’s something to pay attention to.
Research shows that loneliness is an epidemic and should not be taken lightly. It can cause health problems in the long run, such as heart disease and clinical depression, as it puts stress on the body’s systems. What we all may know from experience is that loneliness just feels bad mentally.
Sure, many expats know it can be challenging when home is thousands of miles away and you have to make your way in a new living situation, in a new culture and without the social safety net of people you used to interact with on a daily basis. But there are ways you can minimize these feelings of being a lone woman on an island.
While some may say, “Get over it,” or “You have a great opportunity here so don’t waste it.” It doesn’t diminish the fact that loneliness can set in, especially if your partner travels for work and you no longer have the immediate support system of friends and family. The time zones alone can make keeping in touch harder. And travel, well, that makes connecting with your partner not only difficult when he or she is away, but also when they return and they need downtime to get back to normal.
Even with domestic help, we all need social contact outside the home.
So what can you do?
Make it a point to get out there and meet people! Experts say even saying hello to new people, like neighbors, counts towards reducing loneliness. One thing I noticed that I have to work hard at here is not only saying hello and meeting people, but following up with them and reaching out now and then to catch up. Oh so many times I’ve given out a name card only to never hear from people again. My experience is you just have to keep trying. Don’t get discouraged.
I landed in Singapura four years ago at three months pregnant. Knowing that I needed a social support system (I had a rugby team that was very socially active in Chicago), I signed up for the American Women’s Association before I even got on the flight.
image: AWA’s Facebook page
Associations like AWA, who accept women of other nationalities for membership, provide myriad options for social contact, including sports and leisure activities and even language practice.
You also can become part of the organization itself, which plans lovely social events all year, including a fashion show and a welcome-back fair after summer break. AWA also runs a regular coffee meeting for newbies.
I started with the AWA International Choir, the writers’ group and the golf group, and I still talk to those ladies today! Nowadays, I can be seen with the fearless walking group, so I keep connected that way.
The British Association is active here as well, with groups that play golf and Mahjong. It also offers an art sketching group and one that goes to the cinema together to catch the latest flick, an activity that comes in handy when hubby is on the road.
Other nationalities, such as the Irish, Italian and French, and ANZA for the Aussie and Kiwi folks, also have groups that socialize and do activities for homey holidays. I recently read an article that the Dutch expats, for example, were celebrating King’s Day with a rockin’ party on Club Street.
The ever-reliable Google search can help you find your people! While you may say you want to immerse yourself in local culture, it still feels good to speak to people from home. Don’t deny yourself support there!
Another way to make use of your time and meet new people, as well as staying involved in Singapore culture, is to become a docent, or tour guide, at one of many Singapore museums.
I’ve not had time to do this but I have friends that have worked with Friends of the Museums, the organization where you can sign up for docent training.
Even the Singapore Zoo has a program! You have to study hard but hey, you get to learn about local cultures (or animals) and then get to meet tons of people! Developing public speaking skills is a bonus that will no doubt come in handy for other socializing situations.
Moms in particular historically have trouble with isolation, as child care keeps them in the home and often alone in their tasks. Even though helpers make it a bit easier to get out and about, moms are moms and sometimes you need some adult conversation. At the very least, I made friends with other moms in my condo.
But outside of condo life, I think Singapore has some great options for combating Momma loneliness with organized play groups through the Meet Up website. I’ve even seen a stroller walking group hitting the paths at Botanic Garden. I’ve done my fair share of these groups and made at least one lasting friend from each.
Child/parent enrichment is popular here, so you can always find a Mommy and Me music class, like Musical Monkeys, as well as toddler gym classes at The Little Gym. If you like sports, boys and girls also can start learning touch rugby from age three and up through the Titans rugby club at UWC and the Centaurs at Turf City. I can tell you from my experience that rugby social groups are superb for making fast friends and you’ll enjoy yourself on the sidelines!
Don’t let feeling alone put a damper on your time here in Singapore. According to experts, the most important thing for people to do is to reach out and try new things and new ways to meet people.
It takes effort, especially if you are feeling bad about being lonely. But there’s no need for shame – you have lots of social options here!
Trust me, you are not alone. We’ve all been there. We are all in this together and we are out there waiting to meet you!
About Andrea McKenna
Andrea McKenna Brankin is journalist and author from the United States who lives a full life with bipolar disorder. Her book, Bipolar Phoenix, is awaiting a publishing contract. She is also currently a volunteer at the DaySpring Residential Treatment Centre for teen girls in Singapore, providing befriending-family support, therapeutic writing and rugby coaching.