You arrive in a country as an expat with a treasure chest full of knowledge based on home. If you’ve travelled extensively then some of the everyday comforts won’t be as much a surprise to you when you walk in the local store and are confronted with 10 brands of toothpaste but not 1 of them is THE 1 you’ve used since, well since the age of dinosaurs. Sure, they have Colgate, a few other brands you recognize, but um, where’s the Crest? Quickly you acclimate to the diverse landscape of the store and simply pick one. I just need clean teeth and fresh breath. Why is this so darn hard!

A good friend of mine once explained “culture shock” as that just above. When you have to truly learn the idiosyncrasies of the everyday, in a new place.

Almost a year ago we moved from Australia to Singapore. I’m an expat for the 2nd time; albeit I never really thought of myself as an expat in Australia, but truth is, I was. One would think I’ve got this expat thing in the bag, but still certain things catch me off guard.

Such as buying rice wine vinegar, which is a key ingredient to my Asian inspired salad dressing I created while living in Australia. I felt fairly confident, and a little smug, as I placed my rice wine vinegar in my cart at The Giant (a local store in Singapore which is akin to a Walmart). Meanwhile an older gentleman who worked at the store looked sideways at me and tried to explain what it was I was buying “not regular vinegar” he stated. I nodded my self righteous head, “Oh, I know what this is. I use it all the time in Australia!” All I can say is I hang my head low and wear my humility on my sleeve to this gentleman. Because what I took home was not what i use in Australia. It was wine vinegar, and it’s actually not good in my salad dressing! At all!!! And not good for children!

As time progresses those comforts of home grow less and less of a concern. Except maple syrup, no matter where I am in this world I will covet thy neighbours maple syrup!! I still stock up on Crest toothpaste when back in Canada and was so excited when the local grocery store in Australia started to sell Tide laundry detergent – so much so that when it obviously wasn’t selling at their astronomical price, I bought the remaining 6 units when it went of sale! Score!!

There are other funny things I find living here in Singapore. We have many of the same stores; Esprit, American Eagle, Zara, H&M. A major difference though is in the sizing. It’s ALL size 0-4. You ask a store clerk for a size larger than that and they shake their head as if you’ve asked for a bar of gold! My takeaway here, if you need a larger size than what they stock, you probably shouldn’t be wearing the outfit!

I recently went bra shopping, quite by accident, and 1 word of advice, don’t! The lady was lovely and seemed eager to help me. She did the usual, “do you know what style bra you are looking for?” “do you know your size? You look small, may l?” And without warning she is flat palming my chest and saying quite clearly that i am flat up top, “not like me, see i am very full up top”. Yes, i can clearly see that and yes, I could have told her myself I am not full chested like her! Oh i love the honesty here. If I hadn’t heard these things before I could possibly walk away feeling quite dejected and embarrassed. Instead, I buy the nice lace padded pushup bra in hopes i can trick her into feeling my lady lumps overflowing. Ha, trick is on her!!!

All these moments are part of the experience. The excitement of being somewhere new. Some make you laugh, others bring about a sense of being overwhelmed, shocked, uncertain, others help you see the world in a new way, to appreciate life outside Your little treasure box you brought from home.

I’ve been so fortunate to meet some very amazing people on this Singapore journey. I left behind close friends and family, never forgotten, but I add new friendships to my life. I love this life, I love how I get to learn new things, new ways of being and try new things. Life is a journey worth travelling so venture away!